George Wein, Author, Nate Chenin, Author, Nate Chinen, With with Nate Chinen, intro. by Bill Cosby. Da Capo $27.50 (512p) ISBN 978-0-306-81114-2

Seventy-eight-year-old pianist, vocalist and jazz impresario Wein is one of the key figures responsible for polishing jazz's image, as he charted new directions and gained respect for the music by creating such vibrant venues as the Newport Jazz Festival. While doing so, Wein, who is white, also confronted and helped change the face of racist America. Wein and Chinen present the story of a 50-year career with smooth transitions, mellow flow and continuity. From his Boston beginnings as a teenage professional pianist and his WWII experiences, Wein segues into his postwar nightly gigs and college graduation. In 1950, he opened a Boston jazz club, Storyville, and soon launched a record label. But why jazz amid Newport's bygone Gilded Age architecture? It began with wealthy Elaine Lorillard's 1953 comment to Wein, "Oh, it's terribly boring in the summer. There's just nothing to do." Wein recalls, "I didn't even know what a jazz festival would consist of.... I had no rule book to go by." He juxtaposes his memories of early Newport triumphs, conflicts, disasters and riots with source material. These recollections bring the central core of the book to a crescendo, along with backward glances at other festivals, including New Orleans's JazzFest, where the "long-lost career" of Professor Longhair, a forgotten founding father of Big Easy R&B, skyrocketed after Wein brought him back from total obscurity in 1971. Wein's experiences with musicians, from Miles to Mingus, make this an important, valuable addition to the jazz history shelf. It's a fact-filled, melodic memoir, swinging with emotion and energy. Photos not seen by PW. (June)

FYI: The book's launch coincides with Wein's appearance in recent re-airings of Jazz, Ken Burns's PBS documentary, and this year's JVC Jazz Festival, which Wein brought to New York City more than three decades ago.

Reviewed on: 05/19/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 576 pages - 978-0-306-81352-8
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