[Dixielandjazz] George Wein and The Newport Festivals
Stephen G Barbone
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 4 07:30:43 PST 2009
Who would have thought the Newport Jazz Festivals might die?
Especially the JVC form in New York City during the last 2 weeks of
June? (see next to last paragraph)
I hope George Wein, at 83, still has"it" and will be able to
March 4, 2009 - NY TIMES - by Ben Ratliff
Wein Seeks to Regain Control of Newport Festivals
Amid rumors of an uncertain future for the Newport jazz and folk
festivals, the veteran jazz concert producer George Wein — who founded
them in the 1950s but ceded control over them two years ago — Tuesday
gained permission to negotiate to regain them.
He said he intended to hold the festivals at Fort Adams State Park,
their usual site in Newport, R.I., but the names of the festivals, the
corporate name that Mr. Wein might use and a corporate sponsor are
Mr. Wein is returning as a festival producer in altered circumstances.
After pioneering the outdoor jazz-festival business and serving as
boss for dozens of international festivals, he has in recent years
seemed content to assume a back-seat position. In 2007 the Festival
Network LLC, a new business under the leadership of the entrepreneur
Chris Shields, bought the assets of Mr. Wein’s company, including the
trademarks of the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, for a figure in the
low millions, while giving him a salaried producer-emeritus position
within the company. Mr. Wein said he had not been paid since Nov. 15.
Since 2007 the Festival Network aggressively pursued the concept of
mixed-genre destination festivals, in vacation spots like Jackson
Hole, Wyo.; Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., and Whistler, British Columbia.
But The Providence Journal-Bulletin and The Boston Globe have reported
recently that the company lost millions of dollars last year and at
least until January was in debt to the Rhode Island Department of
Environmental Management for last year’s use of Fort Adams State Park.
Mr. Shields was not available for comment. John Phillips, who has
helped produce the festivals for 30 years under Mr. Wein and Mr.
Shields, said the Festival Network had recently paid off its debts;
this was confirmed by Larry Mouradjian, the associate director of
natural resources for the department.
However, according Mr. Mouradjian, the department declared the
Festival Network’s license agreement for running the festivals in Fort
Adams Park null and void because of the late payment. This, according
to Mr. Mouradjian, “opened the door for us to be able to look for an
alternative” producer to hold jazz and folk festivals at the park.
Talks began with Mr. Wein, and on Tuesday, at a meeting of the Rhode
Island State Properties Committee in Providence, Mr. Wein received
approval to negotiate a new music-festival license agreement for the
use of Fort Adams State Park with the state.
Mr. Wein said that he would like to put on his Newport festivals with
or without a sponsor, even though he knows he would lose money without
It remains to be seen whether the annual end-of-June jazz festival in
New York — produced for years by Mr. Wein’s company and then by the
Festival Network — will be presented at all, or in reduced form.
At the moment, Mr. Wein, 83, said, his ambitions were limited. “The
easiest thing for me would be to run away, but I got a few more years
to live,” he said, adding that he’s going to go back in business
primarily to save Newport. “In my mind, it’s just a matter of
preserving my legacy.”
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