[JPL] Elevating the Instrumental Artist

Lazaro Vega wblv.wblu.fm at gmail.com
Tue Apr 4 00:57:04 EDT 2006

Jae wrote: "it's not so much about who you play but the concept of
what's being presented."

That's right on. Programming from the perspective of ideas, or even
moods, can be engaging. The only drawback is going too far into "more
of the same" which is something I can do too easily with historical
jazz. We try to limit it to 20 minutes an hour, the rest of the time
new records. But Fats Navarro records, for instance, or Tadd Dameron,
and "more of the same" becomes the m.o.

It would be hard to call Navarro and Dameron "marquee" names, though.
They were just great musicians. But Bird and Diz and Miles, Bud Powel,
Monk, Getz -- there's a long line of names most people would call
before Fats.

Anyway, interviews....with new software I'm tempted to make
"interviews" into hour long program features, which is what I did with
Bill Charlap recently. Montage.  But that revolved around a local
concert, too. Unfortunately we don't have ISDN or anything that sounds
better than a phoner, so I've really cut back on them. When I wrote
for The Grand Rapids Press getting a phoner for a newspaper story was
a must, so I did 15 years worth of interviews and taped them all for

Blue Lake tries to be music oriented. The thing about interviews is
they have to have some limits, or be broken up. A general rule to keep
in mind as regards radio interviews is "how far can you drive in 5
minutes?" I'm serious. If someone gets in their car, turns on what is
supposed to be a jazz program and hears talking for 15 minutes I feel
they have a right to feel gypt.

With a program such as "Listen Here," which we air Sunday night at 6
p.m., the listener is expecting, basically, a talk show about jazz,
and the interviews are great in that context.

In any case, the idea of a program flow can be so varied. Taking the
listener from the past to the present as you described Jae is a great
thread to run with. And it helps to present more of this great new
music in a current context.

On March 24th we featured bassist Matt Brewer in a live studio
performance for an hour. He was in Grand Rapids to buy a 100 year old
Czech bass from a local musician. The performance in our studio was
his first with the "new" instrument. Matt's story, too, is great and
we talked about it on air. He put up some of the radio performance on
his web site, a solo bass version of "Nardis." In the interview
segment before "Nardis" he mentioned transcribing Scott Lafaro's
version of that Miles Davis composition from a Bill Evans trio
recording. Is Scott LaFaro a marquee name? He certainly was a great
bassist, but in the contemporary world how many people really hear his
sound in their head? So tonight we're featuring Scott LaFaro (his
birthday is April 3rd). And yes, we've played Matt's version again
tonight. By the way his web site is www.mattbrewerbass.com  The clip
of "Nardis" is in his "Listen" section.

Another aspect of the discussion, Jae, are today's bandleaders, or
their absence, and that cuts across all music. There are good bands
today, no doubt, but "the farm system" in jazz is very different than
what it once was, or at least that's the impression. School music
programs are the primary farm club today when in the distant past it
was a combination of schools and the road, of rhythm and blues and
blues bands with horns helping a player develop to a level where
musically bebop was possible. And long before that, the big band era
where sidemen were sidemen and star soloists were a cut above. It's
more difficult to discern such levels of musical development today. In
the past it was easier for the cream to rise, I guess, whereas today
there's mud, sediment to work through.

By the way Wynton or Dave Brubeck or Dianna Krall sell out Devos Hall
in Grand Rapids, the home of the Grand Rapids Symphony, which seats, I
don't know, 5,000 or more. Branford's last big concert in Grand
Rapids, outdoors at Meijer Gardens, drew about 1,100. He just played a
600 seat theater in Grand Rapids last month for black tie fundraiser
with tickets between $150 and $250 and it sold out a month in advance.
Dude's got juice.

Lazaro Vega
Blue Lake Public Radio

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