The Bumble Bee's View of the Garden:
Opinions on Jazz and other topics
‘Jazz radio,' an endangered species?
Recently NPR announced a reorganization of its cultural programming staff and a change in their focus. This necessitates, apparently, the laying off or reassigning of several of its staff who had been known for the quality of their jazz programs as well as the elimination of several of these programs. Those of you who regularly listen to and view public broadcasting stations have no doubt noted the shift from music programming to "talk" on the radio. Also the presence of baldly commercial music acts like the Moody Blues, added to the roster of musical presentations on the television side. All this is part of an ongoing debate on the mission of public broadcasting, and its struggle to flourish, a debate that is too complex to present properly in the space I have here.
Naturally, we jazz partisans feel threatened whenever anything rocks our fragile little boat more than usual, and there has been a certain amount of protest over this. Yours truly has taken part, of course, and you can read more about that by going to my Web-site and reading the various articles and messages I have collected on this topic. Yellowdog.com, which serves as a Web based meeting place for jazz radio programmers, record people and, to a certain extent, musicians, is trying to help everyone readjust and find ways to widen and deepen the audience for the music. But even here there is not a clear course of action to be taken, as the intensity of debate among the participants shows.
Still, we find jazz on the TV being used to sell all sorts of products, and the festival scene is going very strong, with jazz festivals of all sizes. People respond very favorably when they hear the music in a live setting. Recently the merchants of downtown Nashua celebrated Main Street to the accompaniment of jazz. Why cannot the music do better in the marketplace? I suppose I am as perplexed as anyone else. Like my bothers and sisters, all I can do is to keep playing and take my comfort in the smiles and compliments that I get from people on their way out of which ever restaurant I am playing in. I also take comfort in the fact that these restaurants keep hiring me.
If jazz radio is indeed an endangered species, I urge you to tune into it, because just like the pixie Tinkerbell in the story of Peter Pan, it will die if people do not believe in it. The biggest jazz radio station in the immediate area is WGBH-FM, 89.7 mghz., which has jazz programming from 7 PM to midnight every night Sunday through Thursday. They also have jazz from midnight or 1 AM to 5 AM everyday. If you live closer to Worcester, WICN, 90.5 mghz., presents jazz throughout the day and supports live concerts in that city, especially in the summer. Various college stations have jazz programs. The two strongest of these, in commitment to the music at least, are WHRB, 95.3 mghz, which has the music on a pretty regular basis from 6:00 AM to noon or 1 PM, Monday through Friday, and WERS, 88.9 mghz., with its daily "Jazz Oasis" from 11 AM to 2 PM. To the north the stations of Maine Public Broadcasting and Vermont Public Radio have regular jazz programs. Give one or two of them a button on your radio, and give the a call from time to time to let them know you are listening.