I first met George Wein in 1949, when he was a pianist working with the renowned Edmond Hall at the Savoy Café, Boston’s “Home of Hot Rhythm.” In 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts designated Wein a Jazz Master (Jazz Advocate Division) “for dedication to the advancement (and perpetuation) of jazz,” adding that “Wein has had a mighty hand in shaping the course of jazz both on and off the bandstand.”
The citation omitted a most valuable achievement by this impresario: He has provided more jazz musicians with jobs than anyone so far in the history of the music. In addition to running far-flung festivals in this country and abroad, Wein began the “jazz festival era” in 1954 in Newport-the first jazz festival in the United States. At George’s request, I wrote what turned out to be a wooden history of the music for, as I remember, Stan Kenton to deliver to start off that event. Fortunately, it was immediately submerged in the exhilaration of the music. On recordings and in memories, the following Newport years included the regeneration of the careers of Miles Davis and Duke Ellington amid an actual living history of the music.