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Final Chorus: He Made Festivals Happen

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.

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Originally Published
Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Over more than 60 years, Nat Hentoff (1925-2017) wrote about music, politics, and many other subjects for a variety of publications, including DownBeat (which he edited from 1953 to 1957), the Village Voice (where he was a weekly columnist from 1958 to 2009), the Wall Street Journal, and JazzTimes, to which he regularly contributed the Final Chorus column from 1998 to 2012. Of the 32 books that he wrote, co-wrote, or edited, 10 focus on jazz. In 2004, Hentoff became the first recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters award for jazz advocacy.