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George Wein: A Life in Music

By Published: March 28, 2006
AAJ: Right. So, you know, you were talking about swing and so on. I know that over the years, some of the things that I've enjoyed most at the New York (JVC) Jazz Festival were the big jam sessions that you used to have. There don't seem to be too many of those anymore.

GW: Well, that's because the musicians don't think the same way. The young ones, you could have a session, yeah. But, you wouldn't have Gerry Mulligan playing with Clark Terry, and back then, they were great names, they used to give up their own groups to play in the jams.

AAJ: Yeah, I remember especially a couple of years when you had those late night jam sessions at Radio City...

GW: You remember those?

AAJ: Oh, yeah, I will never forget those, they were fabulous.

GW: We shook up New York a little bit.

AAJ: I remember [bassist] Charles Mingus was on one of those midnight Radio City jams.

GW: Yeah, I played with him; I played with Mingus that night. And we played "Sunny Side of the Street, but I was improvising. And he played it perfectly and then, he said "what is the song that you just played?

AAJ: Is that the kind of song you'll be playing and singing at Feinstein's?

GW: The songs I'm going to be singing are nearly as old as I am. They are all Tin Pan Alley—I am not singing Gershwin or Porter, I'm singing Tin Pan Alley songs from the 30's, songs that—some of them haven't been heard in years you know.

AAJ: Ones that are not considered standard you mean?

GW: They are not jazz standards, but people might remember the songs.

AAJ: Like for instance?

GW: Well, "I'm Stepping Out With A Memory Tonight, "Darkness on the Delta, which Cassandra Wilson has recorded, but hadn't been recorded in years. But, I've been singing it for fifteen years, one of my favorite songs and a lot of songs like that, you know.

AAJ: About the festival this year, do you have any special plans for New York?

GW: I would like to say we've some special plans, I'm not sure. It's very, very difficult you know. I mean there are very few attractions that can sell Carnegie Hall; you've to cross over into different forms of music every so often. And there are only a few jazz players that can fill the big halls. It's very difficult and so, I really don't know what we are going to finally end up with. But the Newport Festival will be mostly pure jazz and we live and die with it up there.

AAJ: And what about New Orleans? Are you planning anything for New Orleans this year?

GW: We're working very hard on it. This year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will be the first major tourist event to bring people back to New Orleans. It will let people know that New Orleans lives. The difference in the festival will be that there will be an amazing list of talent, who are part of the energy out there that really wants to bring New Orleans back.

Selected Discography:

George Wein, George Wein's Newport All-Stars (Atlantic/Collectibles, 1969
George Wein, Wein, Women& Song (Atlantic/Collectibles, 1955

Related Articles:
George Wein: Dinosaur Walks the Earth (Interview, 2004)
A Fireside Chat with George Wein (Interview, 2003)

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Festival Productions, Inc.

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