George Wein to produce Newport jazz & folk fests

George Wein will celebrate the 55th anniversary of the historic Newport Jazz Festival and the 50th anniversary of his equally renown Newport Folk Festival by producing both a jazz fest and a folk fest in that Rhode Island resort town next August, according to a press release issued on March 3 by publicist Carolyn McClair — but perhaps without his sponsor of 25 years and independent of the company he helped establish just two years ago.

Wein, age 83, a pianist and memoirist as well as impresario, has put on jazz and folk fests in Newport, and an array of other jazz fests across the U.S. and in Europe, with sponsorship of JVC U.S.A., a division of the audio and video gear manufacturer owned by Victor Company of Japan for 25 years (prior to that the fests had other corporate sponsors). But the press release makes no mention of JVC or of the Festival Network, LLC, the company that resulted from Wein’s merger of his Festival Productions with Shoreline Media in 2007, now reported to be in deep financial distress.

Last year Festival Network produced the JVC Jazz Festival New York, the JVC Jazz Festival Newport, the Newport Folk Festival and 18 other such multi-day music gatherings, but it currently has no news on its website — only the legend “amazing music, remarkable destinations” plus a handsome slide show and a flag that promises “new site coming soon!” Unverifiable rumors have been rampant throughout the jazz community in recent weeks that no JVC Jazz Festival is being planned for New York or Newport in summer 2009.
When Wein merged Festival Productions, which he’d founded in 1969 and run ever since, with Shoreline Media the deal was described as a “sale” and thought to pave the way for his eventual retirement. Wein himself and several FP officers remained with the new firm but according to a January 11, 2009 article by Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen in Ticketnews, FN’s San Francisco office has been closed and its events in Martha’s Vineyard, Miami, Jackson Hole, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, British Columbia, Paris, and Mali are “not on its schedule.”
This reporter has queries in to press offices at Festival Network and JVC U.S.A. as well as Ms. McClair, but can’t pass up the opportunity to break this story, which would signal a significant shift in the touring plans of top echelon jazz musicians and jazz-loving audiences in the season to come. Watch this space for further info as soon as it becomes available.
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  1. Jane Martinet says

    I have been attending the Newport Jazz
    Festival for years. I am so glad that it will
    be coming again to Newport; however, I am a
    contemporary jazz fan, and am SO disappointed
    that someone like Diana Krall or some big
    names like Boney James won’t be included.
    How about Pat Metheny or The Rippingtons,
    for instance? Chris Botti was great last
    year, and I am just disappointed in the line
    up this year.
    Just want to know why, as Tony Bennett
    and Etta James are nice, but rather passe.
    Thank you.