[JPL] Jazz RADIO

Jim Wilke jwilke123 at comcast.net
Tue Mar 6 15:13:32 EST 2007


Several things occurred to me when reading the following messages.   
Having now been in jazz radio more or less continuously for 50 years  
(!) I have noted a number of changes along the way.

There were not many "jazz stations" then, but there were more "jazz  
shows" on various stations, including many late night/ all night show  
on major market full power AM stations. You could hear at least one or  
two of them no matter where you lived in the US and Canada.  The first  
jazz shows I did were not on jazz stations but on stations that had a  
jazz program or two along with other kinds of programs.  I also think  
listeners paid more attention to music they heard on radio... it wasn't  
just background or lifestyle (ugh!).

I also recall that the major thrust of jazz radio shows was to  
entertain the audience, not to make hit records.  We did ride one when  
the audience asked for a title frequently but we didn't feel it was our  
principal duty to make hits. We were even a little nervous about  
playing anything too frequently because of the payola scandal in pop  
music.   Kind of Blue was a hit out of the gate, we loved the record  
and so did our listeners.  Everybody who played jazz on the radio  
played Kind of Blue frequently.   Coltrane's Atlantic albums got played  
often too, but as tracks got longer and more "challenging" on the later  
impulse albums, he became more controversial and those albums did not  
get played as frequently or even at all on some stations.   In general,  
solos were shorter and more concise before Coltrane than after. You can  
decide if that's a good thing or bad, but I hear a lot of solos (live  
and recorded) that I think would have been better if they had taken  
fewer choruses.  Bird used to say "if you take more than two choruses,  
you're just practicing" and I do get that sense sometimes.

There were far, far fewer records to deal with then, and I think in  
general the quality was higher. Perhaps a 40 minute LP contained more  
carefully chosen music than a 70 minute CD.  Yes, we repeated tunes  
more often, in part because we had fewer tunes to play.  Cannonball,  
Monk, MJQ, Horace Silver, Blakey, Getz, Mulligan, Carmen, Sarah, Dizzy,  
Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith.... all these  
people were recording & touring, often playing clubs for a week at a  
time.  I was doing live broadcasts from a club every week with these  
and others in addition to record shows.

It was a friendlier business, we had more interaction with audiences  
and didn't rely on anonymous research.  But those days are gone and so  
are most of the musicians from the above list.  Our playlists then were  
not filled with late musicians, but with vital, living souls who were  
putting out new albums and playing at a club downtown next week!   We  
should do the same today if want jazz to survive beyond an historical  
artifact.

PS - I don't think "hits" are necessarily based on repetition, although  
it helps.  I've gotten calls on tunes on the very first play - but it  
was a really appealing record!    You didn't have to think twice, do a  
market analysis or call in a focus group to recognize the worth of Kind  
of Blue, Mercy Mercy Mercy, or Waltz for Debbie the first time you  
played them and the phone rang.

I know, we did it all wrong by today's standards, but jazz record sales  
were actually better then than now.  That's kind of interesting, isn't  
it?

Jim Wilke
Jazz After Hours, PRI
www.jazzafterhours.org



On Tuesday, March 6, 2007, at 10:34  AM, eflash17 at comcast.net wrote:

> Since you bring up Coltrane, was his music played extensively on the  
> radio in his day ??  I guess I always thought that people were exposed  
> through word of mouth about a particular recording or perhaps live  
> shows if they lived in a city.
>
> Being a relative youngster and not around back then, I don't really  
> know.  I mean, did Kind of Blue gain exposure on the radio ?  Were  
> there lots of jazz stations / programs in the 1950's & 1960's ??
>
> -------------- Original message --------------
> From: OntheBeach at aol.com
>
>> This Week's JPL Sponsor: SUMMIT RECORDS
>>
>>
>>
>> this is worth another read:
>> _ed.trefzger at jazzweek.com_ (mailto:ed.trefzger at jazzweek.com) WROTE
>> I'm as much a champion of anybody for jazz radio, but jazz radio by  
>> and
>> large has failed jazz in a big way. A top 50 chart makes it very plain
>> that we provide little exposure for the music. The top CD on the chart
>> each week ends up averaging fewer than four spins per week per station
>> -- really more like three -- and the No. 50 CD, less than one.  
>>
>> Chances are that the average jazz radio listener, listening 5-7 hours
>> per week, is not going to hear most CDs.
>>
>> I used to be very optimistic that this was changing. Sadly, it's not.
>> If we continue down this path, jazz radio will go from being a small
>> part of exposing new music to completely irrelevant.
>>
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 
>> --------
>> ---------------------------------------------
>> ED makes some excellent points, it took guts to come out and say what  
>> he
>> said:
>> Re-Read That Last Sentence....now ask yourselves honestly IF " it  
>> will..."
>> or it has...?
>>
>> is a measure of jazz radio's relevancy reflected in the pausity of  
>> weekly
>> underwriting for this board? the weekly sponsorship is well within  
>> the reach of
>> just about any entity.
>>
>> I too consider myself as much a champion of jazz radio as most (or at  
>> least i
>> did for many many years--including my five on the air). THINK about  
>> what ed
>> has stated here:
>> ---> A # 1 Jazz record averages 3 spins per station per week. Is it  
>> any
>> wonder we dont have Jazz Hit Records and new Jazz stars? [yes, there  
>> are always
>> new bright talents, i love
>> jason moran but is he a star? does anyone really get to hear his  
>> music via
>> the radio?]
>>
>> Jazz hits equate to jazz stars. They can tour as legitimate  
>> attractions.
>> They keep the scene vibrant. It was always GOOD for the business. 3  
>> spins per
>> week for a Number 1 record! do the math. how many in your audience  
>> can hear 2
>> or 3 tracks by this artist more than once or twice? if a listener  
>> tunes in
>> for 5 to 7 hours per week, they might go weeks without ever hearing a  
>> track you
>> play 3 times per week.
>>
>> its a free country, everyone can make choices. jazz radio has  
>> unfortunately
>> chosen to run away from the record business on a certain level. and  
>> this is
>> not just about supporting the major labels [my favorite record of  
>> 2006 was the
>> Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri on ArtistShare].
>>
>> back in the day when jazz radio's impact was clearer, hits developed  
>> based on
>> enthusiasm
>> for something that stood out. the DJs at a station talked amongst
>> themselves, comparing notes on what they dug, what was ringing the  
>> phones etc.
>> those
>> now and again great ones got played on every shift. so a track or two  
>> got 5 to
>> six spins per day--sometimes more.
>> do you ever get calls every HOUR to play a certain tune? [it used to  
>> happen]
>>
>> and lo and behold there were sales and on occasion a record company  
>> tried to
>> crossover a jazz record to other formats. some jazz albums contained  
>> multiple
>> hits and stayed in rotation for 6 months. wouldn't you want to milk a  
>> great
>> record?
>>
>> in every generation there are the great ones. i wonder why some of  
>> the great
>> ones now are not household names? hmmm, kenny garrett? i can  
>> appreciate
>> trying to give deserving talent a shot--but 1 spin a week isnt giving  
>> anyone a
>> shot.
>>
>> maybe im beating a dead horse. i've spoken about this for many many  
>> years.
>> broadcasters are communicators. how many stations organize meetings  
>> in their
>> city to facilitate communication among record stores, clubs,  
>> promoters,
>> journalists interested in moving the music forward? how many stations
>> communicate
>> with other jazz stations in their area, state or region to try and  
>> coordinate
>> events, tours, sponsorships ?
>>
>>
>> you can hire an independent promotion person for the same amount as  
>> you could
>> 25 years ago !...problem is the best among them cant deliver a  
>> fraction of
>> what they once could--because there is no such thing as heavy  
>> rotation. today
>> more than ever before, people are bombarded with information---heavy  
>> rotation
>> is what cuts through!
>>
>> consider that record you give one spin per week to: if you had more  
>> hours in
>> the day, would you give it more spins?, give the next thing down its  
>> first
>> spin, or lean into a great record?
>>
>> could john coltrane make it today as a new artist?
>>
>> cooperation, communication and commitment.
>>
>> there are many committed people--and still some great stations--
>>
>> "PASSION, POSSIBILITIES, POSITIVITY and bold ACTION go hand-n-hand"
>>
>> cooperate.
>>
>> Ricky Schultz
>>
>>



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