KANSAS CITY, MO (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — George Wein, the jazz visionary behind numerous festivals in Newport, R.I., New Orleans and elsewhere, is reportedly looking to start a major, multi-day event in Kansas City, Missouri, as soon as next spring.
The 80-year-old Wein launched the legendary Newport Jazz Festival in 1954. His company, Festival Productions, now produces major jazz and general music events in more than a dozen cities from Los Angeles to Paris to Warsaw.
When asked by the Kansas City Star why he chose the Midwest locale, Wein was extremely straightforward.
“I’ll sum it up in two words,” Wein told the paper. “Jo Jones.”
Jones played drums at Wein’s 1950s jazz club in Boston, Storyville, during his long stint on the skins for Count Basie’s Orchestra.
“Jo Jones used to play drums with me at my club,” Wein said, “and every night that I hung out with him he used to talk about Kansas City. Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come.”
Later, Wein got to know and promote the likes of Jay McShann, Charlie Parker, Mary Lou Williams and the Basie band – all names that helped to spread the sound of Kansas City jazz.
“These are my people,” Wein said.
City Manager Wayne Cauthen, who has been in talks with Wein for more than a year, said he is enthusiastic about Wein’s ability to put Kansas City on the map as a global jazz destination, but that there are some hurdles including landing sponsorships and working around some homegrown events usually held around the same time.
“We’re in discussion,” Cauthen told the Star. “We’re looking at the possibility. George has been in town. People have met with him. He’s talking to corporate sponsors.”
Wein hopes to have all details worked out by the end of October, so that the Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival could launch as early as 2007. Working with AEG Live, he plans to hold a multi-stage, multi-location outdoor production that will appeal to all kinds of music fans.
“It would feature country music, hip-hop, gospel, funk, some rock, folk, and of course, emphasis on the jazz heritage of Kansas City,” he told the paper. “The festival would become an annual event and, hopefully, like New Orleans, draw tens of thousands of people who would like to make a trip to spend a weekend in Kansas City.” –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers