Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ninety birthday candles – and an extended season of birthday wishes

George Wein
 When you are turning 90, the celebration begins early. So jazz festival producer George Wein certainly can have a 90th birthday event this Friday, October 2, even though he was born on October 3, 1925.  

Wein will spend Friday evening at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in Manhattan performing with an array of talents, most of whom have been regulars in his Newport All-Stars bands. Those special guests are guitarist Howard Alden, trumpeter Randy Brecker, drummer Lewis Nash and bassist Jay Leonhart, with Frank Kimbrough sharing piano duties with Wein. It shapes up as quite a musical party.

The birthday tributes actually began earlier this year, including the audience singing “Happy Birthday” to Wein on July 31 at the opening night concert at the Newport Jazz Festival. Wein has made this a special year for himself with a 38-day vacation, which concluded last weekend. It included a fine wine and culinary tour of France, Spain, Belgium and Holland, wrapped by transatlantic passage on the “Queen Mary II.”

In his most recent Notes from the Wein Machine, penned during that European adventure, the Newport Jazz Festival’s founding producer was still basking in the 2015 festival successes.

While he and his senior staff already are making plans for the 2016 edition, scheduled next July 29-31, here’s what he said about the 2015 weekend: “…this past summer, with the perfect weather, there occurred a jazz festival that equaled or topped anything we have had the enjoyment of creating. All of you who were there made the success possible and proved that jazz - in a sea of pop, rock, country and funk - is still communicating to those whose musical tastes are directed toward the musicians, for whom playing jazz is their breath of life.”

Wein spent a great deal of his vacation visiting with several of his European jazz festival counterparts. But he said they weren’t talking shop this time around. “It was food and wine. So much so that I will have to go on a diet [of jazz] when we get home.”

So come Friday night or Saturday – or both – raise your glass and toast the man who has done so much for jazz and its makers for more than 60 years.

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