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Identifier: IJS-0038

Newport Jazz Festival records



  • 1954-1995

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the manuscript material in this collection covers the years 1954-1959. There are no extant administrative records of the Newport Jazz Festival after 1959. The collection contains a full run of official programs and schedules of the festival with some gaps.

The papers document the early years of the Newport Jazz Festival from its inception particularly through George Wein's files. Wein's multiple business dealings, not only as NJF director but as an enterprising club owner, are inextricably interspersed throughout the collection. Indeed, the first four series are George Wein's administrative papers. Whenever possible, his personal/professional dealings have been separated from that of his work at NJF. However, in many instances individual letters may contain information on his organization of the festival as well as the administration of Storyville--to be sure, many artists played the Newport Jazz Festival as well as his Boston club and various other Wein productions. But, the promotion of jazz and American music in general from 1954 to 1959 is well-documented by Wein's correspondence with artists, agents, jazz critics, entrepreneurs, and the television and record industries.

The records also document a civil lawsuit involving Elaine Lorillard versus the Newport Jazz Festival in 1959-1960 and includes transcripts of depositions from which a great deal of NJF history can be gleaned. It is entirely possible that this is how the collection was preserved--since the materials end in 1959-1960.


2 Linear Feet (8 boxes and one bound volume)

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The records of the Newport Jazz Festival were donated to the Institute of Jazz Studies by Edith Lorillard Cowley and Robert Cowley in three installments from June to August 1994. Because of the identity of the donor, this may explain the gap in the historical record. The collection was probably originally part of the legal proceedings of 1959-1960 in which Elaine Lorillard filed a civil suit against the Newport Jazz Festival. The programs were not included in the Lorillard gift but had been added to the collection for sake of continuity and will continue to be added to the collection as long as the festival continues.

Language of Materials



The Newport Jazz Festival records (1954-1995) consist of two linear feet of historic materials, including minutes, correspondance, notes, legal documents and publications housed in two document boxes and four clamshell boxes. The bulk of the manuscript material covers the years 1954-1959, indeed there are no extant administrative records of the Newport Jazz Festival after 1959. The collection contains, however, a full run of official programs and schedules of the festival with some gaps.

Biographical / Historical

One of the oldest annual jazz festivals, the Newport Jazz Festival (NJF) was organized in Newport, Rhode Island by wealthy Newport socialites and jazz fans Louis and Elaine Lorillard. They engaged George Wein, then owner of Storyville night club in Boston, as director. The first Festival was held in the summer of 1954. Although almost exclusively jazz-oriented, from 1958 Newport Jazz Festival included a sampling of diverse genres of music including folk, gospel, rock 'n' roll, and rhythm and blues. Despite, or perhaps as a result of its steady rise in popularity and acclaim, the festival was temporarily canceled in 1961 because of the city's allegations that it attracted unruly crowds. NJF resumed in 1962. By this point, the Newport Jazz Festival had become a profit-making venture, a departure from its early years as a nonprofit organization. George Wein's activities kept in pace with the success of the festival -- he organized a jazz component of the World's Fair in Brussels with the U.S. Department of State in 1958 and organized other festivals and shows in Boston, Buffalo, Toronto, Cape Cod, and French Lick, IN. Wein also organized a Newport Jazz Festival tour of Europe in 1962 and during the 1960s managed the Newport All-Stars.

A riot in 1971 ended the festival's residency in Rhode Island. The next year saw the festival at its new home, New York City, as the Newport Jazz Festival/New York. Because of financial backing from Kool cigarettes in 1980, NJF/NY became the Kool Newport Jazz Festival and then the Kool Jazz Festival in 1981. The festival's name changed yet again to the JVC Jazz Festival/New York in 1986 when JVC (Japanese Victor Corporation) became its principal sponsor.


The Guide to the Newport Jazz Festival records, 1954-1992, consists of two linear feet of historic materials including minutes, correspondence, notes, legal documents, and publications housed in two document boxes and four clamshell boxes. It is divided into ten series:

Series I. Festival Administration, 1954-1992 Series II. International Youth Band, 1957-1958 Series III. World's Fair (Brussels), 1957-1958 Series IV. Other Festivals/Tours, 1958-1959 Series V. American Jazz Hall of Fame, 1982-1985 Series VI. Minutes, 1954-1956, 1959 Series VII. Legal Documents, 1958-1960 Series VIII. Clippings Series IX. Programs, 1954-1995 Series X. Additional Papers

Erika Gorder, Tad Hershorn, Robert Nahory, and Caryn Radick
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Part of the Institute of Jazz Studies Repository

185 University Avenue
John Cotton Dana Library
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Newark New Jersey 07102 United States