While there’s no evidence to suggest that George Wein knew the impact the first iteration of the Newport Jazz Festival would have on the development of the festival scene when he co-created it back in 1954 with Elaine and Louis Lorillard, what is true is that none of this would be possible without him. And what would “this” be, exactly? Sixty years as one of the world’s biggest, best and most influential celebrations of jazz music.
The brainchild of New York socialite Elaine Lorillard, the Jazz Festival was conceptualized as a means to “liven up the boring summer months” in Newport. A mutual acquaintance introduced Lorillard to Wein, an up and coming jazz club owner in Boston, in the hopes that he’d be able to help her realize her vision. As the story goes, the Lorillard’s were not well versed in jazz as an art form and Wein was unsure about how to produce such an undertaking, but Wein took on the challenge laid down by his enthusiastic new business colleagues and the rest is jazz festival history. With the classical music themed Tanglewood Festival serving as a major influence, Wein shifted his thinking from creating a seasonal jazz club in Newport to creating “America’s First Jazz Festival.”
This weekend, the Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Global Asset Management will kick-off its sixtieth anniversary celebration with performances by artists such as Jon Batiste, Dave Holland, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miguel Zenon, the SFJazz Collective, Ron Carter, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Snarky Puppy, Trombone Shorty, Robert Glasper, Gregory Porter, Bobby McFerrin, Gary Burton, Ravi Coltrane, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Lee Konitz at the Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island (Konitz holds the distinction of being the only surviving headliner from the 1954 festival line-up). You don't want to miss it.
For ticket information or for more information about this weekend’s line up go to http://www.newportjazzfest.org
Also, check out http://www.providencejournal.com/features/lifestyle/time-lapse/20140729-midweek-time-lapse-journal-reports-the-first-newport-jazz-festival-1954.ece to review an article and photos from the inaugural festival.