The Life and Success of George Wein: an appreciation

Burt Jagolinzer, who has attended the Newport Jazz concerts for 67 years writes: George was my friend and my association with him was very important to me, each year… I would always congratulate him, after each Newport performance.

George Wein discovered jazz, as one of his most important loves of his life.  (The other love was for his late wife Joyce.) While attending Boston University, he redirected his piano-playing talent to eventually open his own jazz club (Storyville), in downtown Boston. He brought in local talent and many others to perform, and built a reputation for great music and entertainment.

Meanwhile, Lorraine Lorillard, herself a jazz singer and pianist was frustrated. She wanting to hear the talented jazz performers, who were only available in smoke-filled restaurants or lounges, where is was always noisy and very uncomfortable.

She pleaded with her husband, Pierre Lorillard of the Lorillard tobacco family, to bring jazz to their summer home city of Newport. She wanted to put a variety of special musicians on a festival stage, where their full talents would be displayed to an audience.

Pierre put up the money for the first two festivals.The Lorillards chose George Wein to produce both those shows.  George picked the performers and negotiated the entire programs.

The shows were excellent, but the Lorillards lost plenty of money, and decided to give it up.

George picked up the pieces, found sponsors and ran with it. He kept it running for several more years, still losing money (much of his own), until he finally found the generous sponsors he needed to begin making a profit.

What most of us didn’t realize about the Jazz Festival was that the musicians enjoyed it, got paid and found and discovered new ideas from each other. The festival even gave the chance for new groups to form. But , most of all, performing on The Newport Stage exposed these great musicians to the media and to the world. The festival helped them to thrive and sell their records, albums and later CDs.

Many musicians would say, “I knew I’ve made-it, when I performed at Newport.”