NYC Jazz Festival Gets a Revival

Festival could be bigger, better than years pas

A new sponsor has emerged from the wings to revive New York's flagship jazz festival for next summer and help support some of the country's largest and oldest jazz events, organizers said Tuesday.

It's CareFusion Corp, a medical techonology company that is being spun off from Cardinal Health.

This year the curtain fell on the JVC Jazz Festival New York after the Japanese electronics company said it would not be sponsoring any jazz events in 2009.

But jazz impresario George Wein, who arranged the original JVC sponsonship deal in 1984, said plans are now under way to produce a major jazz festival at Carnegie Hall and other venues during the last two weeks of June 2010 thanks to a new sponsorship deal.

"It means that we will have a major festival here like we've had in other years ...and I think it will be bigger," Wein said in a telephone interview before a news conference to announce the sponsorship arrangement.

"We never solicited them. ... I think it's a very healthy sign that people are still sponsoring music events like that ... and it's indicative that American enterprise hasn't given up even in the face of recessions. ... It proves that jazz has a life of its own that cannot be killed and won't be killed."

The 83-year-old Wein sold his company, Festival Productions -- whose lineup included the JVC-sponsored festivals in New York and Newport, R.I. -- to the Festival Network, which retained him in an advisory capacity. Wein has since severed his ties with Festival Network.

After Festival Network ran into financial difficulties, Wein put up his own money and obtained a license from Rhode Island authorities to put on the folk and jazz festivals in Newport this summer. He also produced three concerts with Diana Krall and Jamie Cullum at Carnegie Hall last month instead of a full-fledged festival.

Wein said CareFusion would also sponsor this year's Aug. 7-9 jazz festival in Newport which will feature Tony Bennett, Branford Marsalis, Dave Brubeck and Etta James, among others.

Wein said the sponsorship means that Newport "will not lose money this year" and puts the festival on more solid financial footing for next year.

San Diego-based CareFusion said it would also help sponsor jazz festivals this year in Chicago; Monterey, Calif.; Paris, and Manly, Australia.

"We're happy to support jazz, it's an important art form ...and has a very rich history," said Jim Mazzola, CareFusion's senior vice president of marketing and communication. ``We saw an opportunity with this jazz festival series to launch our brand in an interesting way to reach our customers who have a high interest in the arts and music."

"There really is a nice connection between jazz and medicine.... Research has shown that music in general reduces pain, lowers blood pressure and even improves heart health and post-surgical responses .. and we also found evidence of jazz being used to teach listening skills to medical students."

Mazzola said the festival sponsorship would also help raise funds and build awareness of his company's Rhythm of Care safety campaign to create a coalition of medical providers, hospitals and non-profit organizatons to promote practices to reduce medication errors and hospital-acquired infections.

Wein and Mazzola said plans were under consideration to broadcast festival performances to hospitals.

Mazzola would not give a dollar figure for the sponsorship deal. Wein would say only that the deal was roughly offsets the amount lost when JVC pulled out of Newport and New York.

CareFusion has made an initial one-year deal to sponsor the jazz festival series and then plans to evaluate whether to make a longer-term commitment, Mazzola said.

Wein founded the county's first jazz festival in Newport in 1954. He launched a major jazz festival in New York in 1972, a year after a riot by gate-crashers temporarily forced the cancellation of the Newport festival. JVC became the New York festival's main sponsor in 1984.

"I'll produce these two festivals _ New York and Newport _ as long as I can," Wein said."I had no choice. I either could let everything I worked for all my life die or I could fight to keep it alive as long as I'm alive. Fortunately my general health is pretty good and my head is pretty good."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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