Over the past forty years, I’ve spent many rewarding hours in front of the radio, listening to jazz. My mother loved WPAT, a New Jersey easy listening station where the programmers had good taste and a real affection for Bobby Hackett. Later, John S. Wilson played an hour of jazz once a week on WQXR. Then, WRVR, with Ed Beach, Max Cole, and other luminaries; WBGO (thankfully still going strong with their jazz programming and “Jazz From the Archives,” often hosted by Dan Morgenstern). There’s WKCR — with Phil Schaap, of course, but also Sid Gribetz, Ben Young, and others. Rich Conaty, of “The Big Broadcast” on WFUV and Jonathan Schwartz on WNYC still offer up the good noise. Once in a while, I could even hear Humphrey Lyttelton on BBC shortwave. And I am sure I have left someone out.
Thanks to Dave Weiner at Hofstra, who hosted his own “Swing Years,” I took my own leap into college radio, circa 1982. I invented an hour-long show, “Rarities,” where I could play Thirties blue-label Deccas; consider the career of Lou McGarity, and amuse myself for a splendidly small audience.
Perhaps ten years ago, tuning around the bottom end of the FM dial, where the non-commercial radio stations huddle together for shelter, I heard an assortment of jazz records being played — no announcements, no explanation, and apparently no order. I would turn to this station when I was ready to go to sleep, but (in that state of fuzzy half-awareness, so oddly precious) I noticed that some of their randomness seemed planned. They would be offering the same groupings of music at the same time each night — for instance, an Arbors CD featuring Dan Barrett and Becky Kilgore. Then the light bulb — admittedly one of low wattage — went on. They had organized everything alphabetically by title: “I Thought About You,” “I Wished On The Moon,” “It’s Funny to Everyone But Me.” Now, whenever I turn to the “Songs” listing on my iPod, I think of that anonymous radio station.
However, jazz on the radio is hardly proliferating now. But some people have discovered that they can get around the costly necessities of a “real” radio station by means of the internet. The OKOM people were perhaps the first to do this.
Now, I’ve learned that “PURE JAZZ RADIO” is coming on January 1, 2009. Rich Keith, who also lives on this island, has let me know that his project will be to play jazz classics 24/7 with time for Frank Sinatra on Sundays. Visit his site http://www.purejazzradio.com for more information.
Some days I look at the pile of CDs next to the computer that have to be listened to so that I can review them, and those I’ve just bought, and think the heretical thought, “Is it possible you have too much music here?” But even in those moments, a new jazz radio station devoted to jazz (!) is an enterprise worth investigating. Good luck, Rich!