Tuning In To The New & Old
My demanding deadline of the 10th of the month before (note to all jazz venues) has coincided it seems with the launch of a new national jazz radio ‘station’, so thus an excuse for a theme.
New radio often marked a new wave (length) in music: Radio Caroline bobbed offshore for a few years from 1964 before Radio One subsumed all things Poptastic. Pirate radio has since buccaneered from inner-city rooftops to keep musical roots and diversity alive. The 1980s Brit-jazz revival, plus radio regulator rules, prompted the launch of Jazz FM in 1990. This London-turned-national station’s iconic chameleon reflected the mix of Blue Note, Jump Jive, World Music and Soul-Jazz that filled clubs and your Walkman; that is, before it got road-killed and flattened by Smooth FM and its drivetime-friendly Kenny G and Fourplay (gawd, remember them?).
So, returning to the ‘return of’ BBC Music Jazz online; coming twenty-six years after Jazz FM’s attempt this re(launch) of national jazz radio is equivalent to the jazz timespan from Bird’s ‘Koko’ in 1945 to Weather Report’s 1971 fusion. However the BBC’s homepage greets us gushingly with: ‘Hey cats, check out Friday’s schedule of cool music that blows hot!’ Not something the dignified Duke Ellington depicted on their page might say. But, hey, you can’t keep those good jazz clichés down!
BBC Music Jazz is a commendable initiative. Episode 1 (seemingly more destined for box-set than live broadcast) kicked off on November 10th with a tribute to old-timer Chris Barber presented by, err, old-timer Jools Holland. But ignore my cynicism as you’ll also find Monk on Monday, Fats on Friday, and Snarky Puppy on Sunday. There’s much to explore on the online website, whether you’re drawn to jazz history or celebrity presenters, while ‘absolute beginners’ are guided by the venerable Alyn Shipton through a Louis-to-Wynton (via Keith Jarrett and Carla Bley) chronology. And there’s a ‘How to Listen’ page that looks like it’s encouraging you to remove your Pop or Easy-Listening ears, for full appreciation. But, no; rather, we find it clarifying that in fact BBC Music Jazz is (was) but a four-day ‘pop up’ service in November. So we await its longevity.
Maybe jazz’s alternative or anarchic surprise, leaping out from mainstream radio or TV shows is still the best ear-opener – it’s always going to be a Marmite thing. Meanwhile, to hear online jazz new and old Stateside find KCSM.org, streaming from San Francisco’s Bay Area – a long-serving community station since, yes, 1964.