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The Photography of George Wein

Behind the scenes, behind the lens

John Coltrane, Newport, circa 1966 (photo: George Wein)
John Coltrane, Newport, circa 1966 (photo: George Wein)
George Wein
Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Newport 1966
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard, Newport, circa 1969
Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, Europe, early '70s
Cannonball and Nat Adderley, on tour in Mexico
Count Basie on tour in Asia
Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck and Brubeck's wife Iola, Mexico 1967
Olympia Brass Band, New Orleans 1970
Jaki Byard
Jaki Byard (photo: George Wein)
Miles Davis, circa 1965
Performance by George Wein at 2010 Monterey Jazz Festival

I’m not a photographer,” says George Wein. “I got some good shots but I was just a tourist.”

Some tourist. As the founder and, still today, producer of the Newport Jazz Festival, Wein has had unprecedented access to virtually all of the jazz greats of the past half-century. Although he never photographed his own festivals—”I had other people who did that”—Wein often traveled with the musicians and spent time with them away from the stage, clicking away.

“I have thousands of photos on my computer and I spend all of my time looking at them and thinking about all of the places I’ve traveled over the years,” he says. “I have photos of Miles and Coltrane, Cannonball in Mexico with Dave Brubeck and Mulligan. I’ve got some shots of Max Roach in Japan with Abbey [Lincoln], getting off a plane, and some wonderful shots of Red Norvo and Joe Venuti, and Monk and Blakey on a bus. Miles’ shots were at a party, with his wife and Gil Evans and his wife and their children. The ones of Coltrane are very good. In those days, you had to know the ASA’s and you had to focus. Now you just point a camera and shoot.”

Wein, 86, no longer takes photos because of health issues with his legs. “I use a cane so I can’t use a camera at the same time,” he says. “That’s not easy to do.”

He says he’s been asked for copies of some of his photos, but he has no plans to gather them into a book or exhibit them. “It was just a hobby,” he says. “But I wish I’d done more.”

Interview by Jeff Tamarkin. All accompanying photos by George Wein except photos of Wein, taken by John Abbott

Originally Published

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.