Wein Eyes K.C. Jazz Fest

Legendary promoter George Wein is looking to create a new annual music event in Kansas City, Mo., with AEG Live.

The Newport Jazz Festival founder produces major events in a dozen cities around the world and has been in discussions with Kansas City officials for more than a year.

Wein, 80, said a weekend-long, multistage festival could attract the same crowds that flock to New Orleans for events like the Jazz & Heritage Festival.

“It would feature country music, hip-hop, gospel, funk, some rock, folk and, of course, emphasis on the jazz heritage of Kansas City,” Wein said.

Wein said his interest in Kansas City stems back to the 1950s, when he ran the Storyville jazz club in Boston and would often play piano with Count Basie drummer Jo Jones.

Jones was a Kansas City native and introduced Wein to the city’s rich jazz culture. The promoter said K.C.’s size means there’s less competition for attention than in places like Los Angeles and New York City.

“It’s big enough,” Wein said, “and it’s also small enough. You don’t get lost in New Orleans. You don’t get lost in a place like Kansas City.”

If Wein and AEG can strike a deal with the city, the inaugural Kansas City Jazz & Heritage Festival could take place as soon as next spring.

City manager Wayne Cauthen expressed excitement about the project but said potential hurdles include securing sponsorship and ensuring that existing local events are not negatively impacted.

“We’re in discussion,” Cauthen said. “We’re looking at the possibility. George has been in town. People have met with him. He’s talking to corporate sponsors.”