June, jazz and New York City: keen observers know that the three have long been synonymous. It's true this year especially, with three different festival events adding to the heightened goings-on of the world's biggest jazz community. And a lot of it has to do with the youthful renewal of a slow-moving, diminutive 84-year-old man — who happens to be the world's biggest jazz promoter.
Faced with a recession, a lost sponsor and a cancelled festival in 2009, George Wein could have packed it up and called it a career. Instead, he's given his summer event a thorough makeover: the CareFusion Jazz Festival New York started on Thursday and continues through Saturday, Jun. 26. At 84, he went back to the clubs to find out where the new music was happening in the city. He found a lot of it:
At one time, bebop was a school; swing was a school — you were into the modal playing of Coltrane. Some went into the avant garde. There is no school now. These musicians have drawn from all of these schools, and they're looking to establish their own individuality. One group may sound nothing like another group. And yet they're all contemporary and all new and experimental, and it's fascinating to hear them.
Wein recently spoke with Scott Simon of NPR about his new-look event: that conversation airs this morning. As someone who showed Wein into the NPR studio and sat in, and I can tell you, it's very much worth a listen. [Weekend Edition: George Wein Reinvents His Jazz Festival At 84]