Jul 09, 2009 at 08:48 PM
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All that Jazz... Sponsors Sing a New Note

Yesterday, TD Bank announced that it would take over presenting sponsorship (from GM) of the 2010 Montreal Jazz Festival, the largest jazz festival in the world with nearly 2.5 million visitors.

Not to be outdone, Jazz' chief promoter on the same day announced an ambitious plan to revive jazz festivals in Newport and New York... this time on his own, just like he did for the first time in 1954 in front of 11,000 people in Newport, Rhode Island.

George Wein at 83 years of age has been hailed as "the most famous jazz impresario" and "the most important non-player... in jazz history." Wein was the founder of the most well-known jazz festival in the U.S., Newport Jazz Festival, and the owner for many years of New York Jazz Fest, until his company was sold to Festival Network two years ago. Amid a difficult selling environment, the company's financial difficulties and the loss of JVC as title sponsor (which he negotiated in 1984), Festival Network cancelled New York Jazz Festival for the first time in 37 years this year.

Now, with the help of Cardinal Health spin-off CareFusion, Wein plans to bring the jazz back to New York in 2010 - this time separate of the Festival Network. CareFusion will also title George Wein's Jazz Festival 55 in Newport, RI in August of this year.

Wein has a long history, having pioneered the idea of corporate sponsorship in jazz with the "Schlitz Salute to Jazz" and "Kool Jazz Festival" in the 1970's.

“The magic is still with us," said Wein. “Over the decades, sponsors have always found us, as is the case with CareFusion."

In addition to Newport and New York, San Diego-based CareFusion said it would also help sponsor jazz festivals this year in Chicago; Monterey, Calif.; Paris, and Australia.

"We saw how jazz was being used to teach listening skills in medical schools like Baylor, and that a significant number of clinicians and administrators are also professional-level jazz musicians," said Ronda Thomas Farrell, CEO of CareFusion's consulting firm, The Exordium Group.

She also said that among their target demographic, arts and music was listed second only to travel in interest.

Wein predicts that New York Jazz Festival next year will be even bigger than in previous years.

"I think it's a very healthy sign that people are still sponsoring music events like that," he said in a press conference yesterday. "It proves that jazz has a life of its own that cannot be killed and won't be killed."