Miles Davis was not yet a household name in jazz in 1955 when he first appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. In fact he wasn’t even scheduled to play. But history has now told of the incredible influence and wide reach of his trumpet playing and musical experimentation that led into all the different folds of jazz. This year’s program celebrates the 60th anniversary of the late jazz legend’s historic debut. But who put the jazz onto this stage and made it the internationally renowned music venue it is today? The name is George Wein, the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival.
Without George Wein there would not have been the Newport Jazz Festival or a launching point for many jazz musicians, with an opportunity to feature their talents to a wider audience. He was not only passionate about jazz, playing professionally in his early career in Boston, but he loved the musicians and the “beautiful sound” they made in the variations of their instruments. His belief and love of this form of genuinely American music, during the 1950’s particularly, when jazz was still waiting to come-out to a larger audience, helped create a central venue for hosting what is now a 63 year tradition in Newport, Rhode Island.