George Wein was the man who is arguably the father of the jazz festivals movement. Though he is known first and foremost for his long career as a jazz producer and impresario, George Wein is also a jazz musician. Though his far-flung activities have not afforded him a full-fledged career as a performer and recording artist, he has long been an active pianist in a swing/proto-bebop mode, making tours with his own all star bands. But it is as festival pioneer, producer, and all-around impresario that George Wein has made his principle mark. His company, Festival Productions Inc., has produced jazz festivals and concerts around the globe.
Wein first studied music with the noted Margaret Chaloff in Boston, later falling under the tutelage of Teddy Wilson at Julliard. Besides prepping as a pianist, George Wein had other ideas. He opened his first jazz club, Storyville, in Boston in 1950. One night he was approached by some wealthy residents of the resort town of Newport, R.I., who had eyes to fill what they saw as a cultural void during the summer months in their adopted community. Wein was keenly interested in the possibilities and was engaged as the producer of the first Newport Jazz Festival, established in 1954. The idea of staging a major jazz event with multiple acts on consecutive days had never quite coalesced the way the Newport Jazz Festival did it, and Wein was off and running.