The “Celebrating George Wein” concert, which will take place Nov. 20 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (as part of this year’s TD James Moody Jazz Festival), was originally planned as a mere tribute, but became a memorial tribute when Wein, the renowned jazz festival producer and pianist, died in September at the age of 95.
It will be an evening of jazz by a group of all-stars whose lives have all been touched by Wein. Performers will include saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen, bassists Christian McBride and Peter Washington, pianist Kenny Barron, drummer Johnathan Blake, trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist and flutist Lew Tabackin, and the vocal trio Duchess.
McBride, who lives in Montclair and serves as NJPAC’s Jazz Advisor, considered Wein to be a mentor, and also had an unusually strong connection to him. In 2016, Wein hired him to be the artistic director of the Newport Jazz Festival, which Wein had been in charge of since the creation of the festival in 1954. They ran the Rhode Island fest together for a couple of years before McBride took over (though he continued to reach out to Wein often, for advice).
“George Wein has really been a mentor to almost everyone,” said McBride. “I mean, he literally has created a universe. Anyone who is behind the scenes in jazz, doing any level of producing or curating … there’s a big chance that they came under the tutelage of George Wein. And that counts (NJPAC president and CEO) John Schreiber, as well. That’s how I met John Scheiber.”
When McBride first played at the Newport Jazz Festival, Schreiber was working on it.
Also, says McBride, “I met John before that. One of the many festivals that George produced during Newport’s days was the old Mellon Jazz Festival (in Pittsburgh). I would go to the Mellon Jazz Festival every summer and do my best to sneak backstage, and meet all the musicians.
“It was there I met John. It was at a press conference, actually. Dizzy Gillespie was being named the featured artist for the festival that year, and John and George were with Dizzy. I was 15. And for whatever reason, John, and George as well, said, ‘We like that kid on the bass. We need to keep an eye on him.’ ”
“Celebrating George Wein” takes place Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Victoria Theater at NJPAC in Newark. Visit ticketmaster.com.
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