Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wein's Newport return clears final hurdle

George Wein's Newport return this summer to produce jazz and folk festivals in the city where his festival legacy began has cleared its final hurdle.

The Newport City Council gave Wein permission in a 5-0 vote last Thursday evening to produce his two events after the apparent demise of Festival Network LLC, the upstart company that bought his Festival Productions Inc. two years ago then ran its expanded enterprise into the ground. At least that's how it appears, with word the company lost millions last year and still has vendors waiting for funds they are owed.

Wein's new firm, which is having nothing to do with FN, is called New Festival Productions, LLC. Tickets go on sale this Thursday for the 55th anniversary event of the jazz festival and on May 6 for the 50th anniversary edition of the folk festival. Each festival will include two full days of music on three stages at Fort Adams State Park and a Friday evening concert at Newport Casino, home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Confirmed artists for "George Wein's JAZZ FESTIVAL 55" August 7 to 9 include Tony Bennett, Branford Marsalis, Etta James, Esperanza Spalding, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Vijay Iyer Trio, Cedar Walton with Lew Tabackin and Curtis Fuller, the Christian McBride Group, Roy Haynes Quintet, Joshua Redman Double Trio, Hiromi, The Bad Plus joined by Wendy Lewis, Michel Camilo, Joe Lovano, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miguel Zenon, Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, and the Rodriguez Brothers.

Confirmed artists for "George Wein's FOLK FESTIVAL 50" July 31 to August 2 includes festival co-founder Pete Seeger, The Decemberists, Arlo Guthrie, Fleet Foxes, Joan Baez, Neko Case, Judy Collins, Campbell Brothers, The Avett Brothers, Josh Ritter, Gillian Welch, Del McCoury, Iron & Wine, Tao Rodriguez Seeger, Balfa Toujours, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Tim Eriksen and the Shape Note Singers, Langhorne Slim, Ben Kweller and Low Anthem.

The complete festival programs will be announced later this month.

Ticket detail is available at and

In its heyday, Wein's former operation produced dozens and dozens of festivals all over the world. When he sold his company to Festival Network, he also sold the rights to the names Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival. Hence the new event names this year.

Also gone are the festivals produced elsewhere, for the most part. There is no grand festival event in New York this June. But three other events formerly produced by Wein and his team live on.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was run separately and never fell under the Festival Network umbrella. Festival Network's contractual affiliation to produce the Playboy Jazz Festival and Freihofer's Jazz Festival in Saratoga, N.Y. expired last year.

Longtime Festival Productions senior producer Dan Melnick is the producing partner and artistic director of the Freihofer's event at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on June 27 and 28 through his own company, Absolutely Live Entertainment LLC.

Wein's longtime West Coast affiliate Darlene Chan now produces the Playboy Jazz Festival event at the Hollywood Bowl independently.

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