[JPL] Get Out'Tha Ghetto!

Lazaro Vega wblv.wblu.fm at gmail.com
Mon Aug 11 13:18:18 EDT 2008

Well, I hope Eric's comment about jazz not being exciting has the same
effect on the jazz programmers as the French taunt to the American 400
freestyle relay team.

A new Sonny Rollins, Ahmad Jamal, Ornette Coleman or Cecil Taylor
recording is always an excuse for a party in this house.

The ghetto idea is right as it plagues radio in general, yet I don't
agree with leaving jazz to "fix" it but to increase radio's reflection
of jazz with a "totalist" format. If a programmer starts by regarding
the history and evolution of jazz as "bigger" than radio, then you can
start to build a picture of the music for the audience, acknowledging
you'll never succeed in completing the picture so the listener is
challenged to continue the job for themselves by going to concerts,
listening to music and reading books.

And it challenges programmers to look within jazz for how it is
expanding the repertoire for improvisation, not only instrumentally
(the Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer in terms of color these days or the
"exacting" musical methodologies of school bred improvisers who've
developed improvisational "systems") but also compositionly, as in
Jamie Davis singing "If You Want Me To Stay," or Diane Reeves singing
"Just My Imagination" or George Kahn's "Use Me" in the CD "Cover Up."
The time was right for Herbie to win the Grammy because Chicagoans
have been crossing musical genre borders forever, as has the best in
jazz. The challenge is to engage the audience in jazz as much as it is
to engage the audience in the radio station. Most musicians have a
wider repertoire in their sets than radio stations do in their play
lists and it is up to us to, again, try to pay more attention to the
artist's choices and support rather than second guess them. Just as
not all musicians can be Duke Ellington not all radio programmers can
be Norman Grantz or Billy Taylor.

So, do you play Glenn Miller along with Basie and Ellington? You will
have a bigger audience for the radio station if you do, but will you
have achieved a bigger audience for jazz? I'd so no because instead of
playing Erskine Hawkins you, or I or whoever, had Miller take their
place and Ellington and Basie are huge musical stars who don't need
any help getting over. (P.S. the best performance by a drunk Ellington
band is the Great Paris Concert, especially that version of "Harlem,"
which is looser and more of a piece than earlier versions).  And I
disagree that playing Hawkins instead of Miller was programmed for an
imagined elite -- it would be just the opposite.

That's a hypothetical: you can plug in musicians from many eras and
various levels of popularity to make the point.

I agree with Randy Weston who said in an interview the more people are
exposed to good music, good art, drama, poetry, literature the more
they like it, understand it and crave it. That's the nature of

Lazaro Vega
Blue Lake Public Radio

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