Intelligent, passionate, artistic.
These are just some of the words that came to John Strong’s mind when he thought of Paul Pines.
Pines, a Brooklyn native who lived in Glens Falls and developed roots and a festival in Lake George, passed away on Wednesday, June 27. Pines leaves a legacy in the North Country in the form of a jazz festival and his poetry and by bolstering the greater Glens Falls community.
Pines and Strong worked together for 35 years to set up and grow the Jazz at the Lake festival at Lake George. Throughout the years, Strong learned how special Pines’ talents were as a poet, writer, professor and psychotherapist.
Pines, 77, wrote several novels, a memoir and 13 poetry collections throughout his career and traveled all over. He was a merchant seaman in the mid-1960s near Vietnam, traveled to Mexico and Central America and loved the southern Adirondacks.
While at Lake George in 1984, he joined Strong in setting up the fall festival. Strong said the area had nothing going on at the time between the summer and winter seasons.
“We were one of the first groups to really acknowledge what a nice time of the year it is,” Strong said.
It was also during that inaugural year that Pines met his future wife, Carol. Strong said at the time Pines was back-and-forth between New York City and Lake George. He initially didn’t have plans to stay.
“It wasn’t me that kept him (at Lake George),” Strong joked.
Pines created strong roots in the area as he became a professor at SUNY Adirondack, hosted collaboration works at Glens Falls’ Charles R. Wood Theater and became a pivotal part of constructing a fall jazz festival that many mark down on their calendars.
Jazz at the Lake
Strong emphasized Pines’ ability to communicate with the artists he recruited for the Lake George jazz event. The duo would call each band or musician to help them set expectations of Lake George and create a bond with each of them.
The work was divided well by the two. Strong handled production, while Pines’ personality thrived in connecting with musicians and audiences. Pines would take the microphone for the Jazz at the Lake events and give a toss to the bands. Strong said Pines had a knack for setting up the mood for a band.
Pines would continually find new and old voices to put on another successful event, with Strong doing the background work.
“Many of these artists were either just below the radar or just coming out, and maybe a number of them are bona fide stars in the jazz world,” Strong said.
After year after year of setting up the festival, the two would find out that their traits complemented each other.
“Paul and I were really bonded over the years. We were a real team,” Strong said. “… He had the artistic vision to mold this into his take on jazz, which was very broad.”
Though Pines has passed, the 2018 Jazz at the Lake will continue. Strong does not know the longevity beyond this year’s event, however.
“We just haven’t had time to get together,” he said. “(Though) this year, we have the lineup all set and Paul has done that. Seven bands are coming September 15th and 16th. It’s hard to replace a guy who’s so passionate about the genre of jazz.”
Pines had a diverse background and was able to see the world. He matched that with his artistic looks.
Long hair, a blazer with a Panama hat and sunglasses and a strong, joyful grin, Pines did not stick with the status quo of a button-down and tie.
“He was a bohemian man,” Strong said. “He was a flat out bohemian. … He was a very cool cat.”
Strong complemented Pines in his intelligence, believing that many of his traits stemmed from it.
“He was a tremendously warm person. He had a superior intellect,” Strong explained. “His family was very well educated. Often, he had an eye out for people who affected him and might need some help. He was a professional counselor, among some of the other things he has done. He was very funny and very warm and witty.”
Strong wanted to thank the village and town of Lake George for their support of the Jazz at the Lake festival, where the duo grew from strangers to friends. To find out more about Pines, go to paulpines.com, a website that includes many of his writings, information on his books and other related info.
The Jazz at the Lake festival this fall will be at Shepard Park starting at 1 p.m. Sept. 15 and 16.
“But the impact he has made,” Strong said then paused, “it’s going to be challenging to live up to that. Just to have Paul’s insightfulness and how he conveys that to the audience, that’s going to be hard to replace.”
Funeral arrangements for Paul Pines will be handled by Singleton Sullivan Potter Funeral Home, 407 Bay Road, Queensbury. The Post-Star will publish a complete obituary at a later time.
Andrew David Kuczkowski is the education reporter. Andrew can be reached at 518-742-3354. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @ByKuczkowski.