Bob Koester and George Wein
Some of the people we lost this year were on a mission to bring jazz and blues to the public. Robin Lloyd remembers Chicago’s blues expert Bob Koester and American concert producer George Wein.
Founder of two Chicago institutions, Bob Koester opened a store called the Jazz Record Mart in the late 1950s and started a record label called Delmark. He died May 12 at age 88.
The store nurtured blues and jazz fans, in Koester's own opinionated way. You walked in and he’d size you up, and then hand you a record and say, “You need to listen to this.” Most often, he was right; he’d chosen something for you that would change your life.
Many of the store’s staff went on to become music writers or founders of their own record labels. Earwig, Flying Fish, Blind Pig and Alligator Records were all started by people who worked at the Jazz Record Mart.
Koester's Delmark record label showcased multiple voices of the blues, from veteran players of the 1920s and '30s to the new generation of Chicago artists such as Magic Sam, Junior Wells and Luther Allison.
Delmark released what is now regarded as a classic of Chicago blues: Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues in 1965.
In 1996, Koester was elected to the Blues Hall of Fame, a rare honor for a non-musician.
Music festival producer George Wein was a tireless advocate for musicians. He died Sept. 13.
Wein co-founded the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 and the Newport Folk Festival in 1959.
Newport Jazz was the first and largest event of its kind in the U.S., setting the standard for all outdoor music festivals to come.
Wein was a musician, a child prodigy. In his teens, he played jazz piano professionally around Boston. When he grew up, he managed one of the city's most famous clubs, Storyville.
The popularity of the Newport festivals led Wein to start a production company. He took his expertise to New Orleans, where he boosted the city's Jazz and Heritage Festival, and eventually exported his festival concept around the world.
Wein set up a nonprofit foundation to the protect Newport's future, commenting, "The only chance we have of keeping the festival alive after I'm gone is to have a foundation and people that want to keep to it alive."
Wein found one such person in bassist Christian McBride, who served as the festival’s artistic director this year. Excellent choice.