[JPL] World Famous Lessons in Jazz
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Wed Aug 16 08:30:41 EDT 2006
© 2006 Port Folio Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
World Famous Lessons in Jazz
At Hampton University's WHOV-FM, three young radio hosts are exploring the
full legacy of America¹s greatest art form
By Jerome Langston
Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2006
Vinyl is everywhere...I observed this immediately upon entering the modest,
three bedroom Hampton home of Kevin Anderson, a home that this enterprising
twenty-something shares with two other guys: Montez Martin, who was out of
town on this particular hump day, and Marcel Canady, who warmly greeted me
after I stepped through the small foyer. I had arrived there safely, glad to
have avoided any heinous mid-day traffic, to discuss the radio show that
these gentlemen have created a show that celebrates, spotlights, and
promotes the sometimes uneasy marriage between hip-hop and jazz.
But back to the vinyl for a moment. Their record collection is the large
focal point of the room. Housed in a humongous bookcase that takes up the
full expanse of a den wall, it practically double dares you to look away.
Some records are arranged on the oversized shelves, while others are placed
in neat piles. I discovered that their records are in order, alphabetized by
artist. Since they appear to number in the thousands, alphabetizing them was
no small feat.
Yet it¹s not surprising that these young cats would pay such attention to
detail where it pertains to their music. At least not when you consider what
they¹ve accomplished via the success of the World Famous Lessons in Jazz
Series, which airs Sundays through Thursdays on Hampton University¹s radio
station, WHOV- FM (88.1).
According to station manager Rob Dixon, the show gives them "a legitimate
program that we have a lot of folks listening to, who appreciate the work
and time that these guys put into the program." Regarding the musical
expertise of the three hosts, Kevin "The Moose" Anderson, Marcel "Big Cel"
Canady and Montez "The Whiz" Martin, Dixon explains that "they help to
legitimize that young folks do know jazz music, and realize the correlation
between jazz and hip-hop."
In the five years that WHOV has broadcasted the show, it has provided the
12th ranked college radio station in the country a medium to secure
interviews with some of the top names in both jazz and jazz-informed
hip-hop. Artists ranging from jazz icons Ahmad Jamal and Branford Marsalis,
to legendary hip-hoppers Guru and Pete Rock, have happily granted interviews
to these young hosts.
World Famous Lessons in Jazz even sponsored a well-received symposium this
past June, which kicked off this year¹s Hampton Jazz Festival, featuring
jazz & soul legends like Wayne Henderson, vibraphonist Roy Ayers, and an
impeccable Lonnie "Liston" Smith, who was a primary sideman for Miles Davis,
during his often controversial, yet brilliant fusion era.
When reached by phone at his home in Richmond, Smith heaped much praise upon
the hosts¹ efforts.
"What they¹re doing there now in Hampton reminds me of what was happening at
WHUR, Howard University¹s radio station, back in the ¹70s," he said. "I hope
they can keep building on that."
The "Moose" seems quite aware of the tradition that he and his fellow hosts
are building upon. He was educated in the ways of black radio jocks in the
¹50s and ¹60s, by a cultural archivist at Indiana University. "We
established a link to early black radio jocks in the way we relayed
educational information in a subtle way," he was told.
Every song played during their three-hour show is accompanied with a mention
of the artist, CD, song title and other information. Though it¹s called the
World Famous Lessons in Jazz Series, the music that is spun covers a wide
breath of music genres, all nevertheless connected by some tangible level of
jazz influence. As Marcel succinctly put it, "You¹re learning how all of
these different types of music relate to jazz."
But don¹t expect country jams. Most of the show¹s grooves fall comfortably
into black-rooted, jazz-tinged categories like soul jazz, funk, acid jazz,
hip-hop, and rare groove. Artists who receive regular love on the show
include Soul Live, the Roots, Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Roy Ayers, Quincy
Jones, and even Prince. The focus, however, is angled more towards the sound
and moods of the music, more than towards the support of any particular
Before I left the residence, Kevin handed me a couple of CDs, Lessons In
Jazz Vol. 17 & Lessons In Jazz Vol. 36, both with MD Illegal Rap Radio
neatly scrolled on them. (Illegal Rap Radio is the banner under which they
produce World Famous Lessons in Jazz.) I popped in Vol. 17, and one of my
favorites, featuring Frankie Beverly, filled my ride. It was followed by a
jazzy record by the Roots, which I¹d never heard before.
As the music pressed on, I got a clearer sense of what Kevin and Marcel had
just explained regarding the show¹s history, and how even now, they reach
audiences beyond the traditional airwaves.
"Yo, Yo, Yo...MD 266 Illegal Rap Radio, it just flowed," Moose had repeated
earlier in our conversation, mimicking Big Cel¹s impromptu delivery of their
Moose met Kevin while working at a local music store in the late ¹90s.
Kevin had discovered an immensely popular pirate radio station during a
music conference in Miami that he¹d attended in March of 1997.
"I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world," he said.
So after making his way back to Virginia, he informed Cel and his roommate
Doug that he wanted to create something comparable here. The difference,
however, was that the dude in Miami had an antenna that he paid the
neighborhood kids to keep an eye on. "Our tapes were our airwaves," Marcel
acknowledged, chuckling at the memory.
And so, to an extent, it has remained. Under the banner of MD Illegal Rap
Radio, the hosts distribute on CD volumes of their popular radio show, which
got its name from a black history trivia program that they¹d produced years
Anderson longs to syndicate the show, "on the level of Tom Joyner and Doug
Banks" with WHOV serving as the flagship station. Till then, the crew is
working on season 5 of World Famous Lessons in Jazz and preparing for a
symposium next year.
I wonder aloud if their show¹s aesthetic could work on commercial radio.
"The concept of having a formatted radio station was called narrow casting,"
Kevin would later tell me, while I flipped through The Holy Book of Hip-Hop,
which was conveniently perched beside me. "People are getting tired of this
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