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Chuck Nessa

WBEZ Chicago

120 posts in this topic

For what it's worth, NUR (nicely) refused to play our disc due to it being too "traditional", so there's two sides to every story. Are they alone adequately representing the "wide range of aesthetic traditions which fall under the "jazz" umbrella"? No. They focus on the outside stuff. That's fine with me, but shouldn't one be lambasting them as well for not upholding "it's mission as a *public* radio station, meaning to present what is actually going on in the community and in the world" since their focus is every bit as "narrow" as WBEZ's was?

In case I'm not making myself clear, I agree that it should not be a problem for a station like WBEZ to present a diverse picture of jazz, rather than focusing on "safe" material but I think it's silly to rag on them for it while holding up NUR as some bastion of freedom when they are doing the same thing, just on the other side of the spectrum.

The first hit on a Google of "Lawrence Olds" :

Richmond.com / Music / Calendar of EventsJuly 21 - July 21 Lawrence Olds brings jazz vocals and smooth grooves to the Upper East Side Bar . 7 pm $5 . For information , call ( 804 ) 467 - 6182 . ...

richmond.com/music/calendar.aspx?StartDate=7/21/05 - 113k - Supplemental Result -

So what?

Are these the top 20 picks of the DJs, or the top 20 in terms of playtime on the air?

The DJs, afaik.

A station in Michigan that seems to do it right is WEMU. They have news Morning Edition in the morning (when most people are driving to work), relatively safe jazz & blues during the day, broken up by Fresh Air at noon, and then come evening some progressively more "unsafe" stuff with Michael G. Nastos (although still pretty much straightahead). But then then have programs like "The Outside Within" during the night, where I've heard some great stuff. It doesn't seem like that would be a hard model to follow for a station like WBEZ.

:)

Edited by Jim Alfredson

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For what it's worth, NUR (nicely) refused to play our disc due to it being too "traditional", so there's two sides to every story. Are they alone adequately representing the "wide range of aesthetic traditions which fall under the "jazz" umbrella"? No. They focus on the outside stuff. That's fine with me, but shouldn't one be lambasting them as well for not upholding "it's mission as a *public* radio station, meaning to present what is actually going on in the community and in the world" since their focus is every bit as "narrow" as WBEZ's was?

I guess I don't really consider NUR as a public station in that way, other than they have a slice of public airwaves. They are a university station, and part of the requirement for the DJs retaining their cred is to focus on the avante garde. This works pretty well when there are "mainstream jazz" outlets on the radio for them to separate themselves from, not so well when they have all collapsed in Chicago. I haven't heard the station out of DuPage, but most of the jazz you can hear on Chicago stations is smooth jazz. I am really disappointed in WBEZ's direction, which seems to be a real betrayal of their audience (like we really need talk radio 24 hours a day) and I guarantee I won't pledge them again unless they put jazz back on.

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The first hit on a Google of "Lawrence Olds" :

Richmond.com / Music / Calendar of EventsJuly 21 - July 21 Lawrence Olds brings jazz vocals and smooth grooves to the Upper East Side Bar . 7 pm $5 . For information , call ( 804 ) 467 - 6182 . ...

richmond.com/music/calendar.aspx?StartDate=7/21/05 - 113k - Supplemental Result -

So what?

:)

First post by a new member is in THIS thread? No flags? It was a flag for me and I was curious. I might be paranoid about the Heimster and all the crap foisted on the listeners, employees, artists, interested parties, etc over the years BUT this is no random post by a "member" without a mission.

Jim, your experience was good but you should understand there is a long history (20+ years) of other folks.

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For what it's worth, NUR (nicely) refused to play our disc due to it being too "traditional", so there's two sides to every story.

No - it means that NUR is doing exactly what it is supposed to do, "to provide a forum for underrepresented music and ideas" and to promote music "often overlooked by major media outlets." Unfortunately, in present-day Chicago, what BEZ plays defines what is "represented" in terms of jazz on major media outlets.

The fact that BEZ played/plays your stuff is therefore a significant factor that goes into the decision on what discs to add to a library that has limited physical space.

That said, any DJ at WNUR can play virtually anything they want (within FCC limits) -- they are not restricted to what is in the NUR library.

Are they alone adequately representing the "wide range of aesthetic traditions which fall under the "jazz" umbrella"? No. They focus on the outside stuff.

Untrue. Take a look at the playlists and you'll find lots and lots of "non-outside" stuff. In fact, the range of aesthetic traditions within jazz - which can't be reduced to specious "inside"/"outside" labels - is much better represented on NUR (though the composite blend changes somewhat as the DJs vary from one academic quarter to the next).

Despite its much more comprehensive scope, WNUR's mission is to be supplemental, not definitive. This is appropriate, given the disparity in broadcasting signals between BEZ and NUR, along with the fact that BEZ is "Chicago Public Radio" with a large budget and paid staff, whereas NUR is a much smaller, all-volunteer, student-run station. Therefore, whether BEZ likes it or not, their definition of "jazz" effectively becomes the public's definition of the music in the current time period. For them to ignore entire traditions that have developed within the music of the last 50 years has been a severe disservice to its listeners.

That's fine with me, but shouldn't one be lambasting them as well for not upholding "it's mission as a *public* radio station, meaning to present what is actually going on in the community and in the world" since their focus is every bit as "narrow" as WBEZ's was?

see above

And if you want to further understand the problem with BEZ's jazz programming, try this: Take a look at a few weeks' worth of the Chicago Reader's music section (or a few months' worth of coverage in the Chicago Tribune or Down Beat). Note the names mentioned in the jazz performance listings (or in the critical reviews). Compare these names and their aesthetic traditions to those played on WBEZ, and see whether BEZ is fulfilling its mission to be reflective of "the distinctive and diverse Chicago area."

Edited by jasonguthartz

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The first hit on a Google of "Lawrence Olds" :

Richmond.com / Music / Calendar of EventsJuly 21 - July 21 Lawrence Olds brings jazz vocals and smooth grooves to the Upper East Side Bar . 7 pm $5 . For information , call ( 804 ) 467 - 6182 . ...

richmond.com/music/calendar.aspx?StartDate=7/21/05 - 113k - Supplemental Result -

So what?

:)

First post by a new member is in THIS thread? No flags? It was a flag for me and I was curious. I might be paranoid about the Heimster and all the crap foisted on the listeners, employees, artists, interested parties, etc over the years BUT this is no random post by a "member" without a mission.

Jim, your experience was good but you should understand there is a long history (20+ years) of other folks.

What happened to free speech? I have simply posted a few excerpts from WBEZ's website in an effort to support Mr Guthartz's assertion that WBEZ plays only cocktail music. What's the problem. By the way, the Deep Blue Organ trio (on the 2004 list of WBEZ's most played discs) does play every Tuesday at the "Green Mill Cocktail Lounge". So I guess it is cocktail music.

And who is this Lawrence Olds guy from Richmond? I was stealing my false name from someone else who used one! Surprised no jazz organ fans have figured it out yet... Perhaps you could ask Thornel Schwatrz or Bill Leslie.

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Jim, your experience was good but you should understand there is a long history (20+ years) of other folks.

I understand that and I realize I don't know the full story. Like I said, all I know is that the station was very supportive of us and that support helped tremendously. I got many, many emails saying "I bought your CD after hearing you on WBEZ!"

I've been in these situations before, refering to Greg's questioning what I should do with this information. It reminds me of when I first got into the Lansing blues scene. I'd get advice from people saying, "Don't talk to so-and-so. He's an asshole." And yet that "asshole" was always nice to me. Maybe it's my boyish charm!

Not trying to step on any toes and again, I'm the outsider here, but sometimes "history" can get in the way, if you know what I mean.

And if you want to further understand the problem with BEZ's jazz programming, try this: Take a look at a few weeks' worth of the Chicago Reader's music section (or a few months' worth of coverage in the Chicago Tribune or Down Beat). Note the names mentioned in the jazz performance listings (or in the critical reviews). Compare these names and their aesthetic traditions to those played on WBEZ, and see whether BEZ is fulfilling its mission to be reflective of "the distinctive and diverse Chicago area."

I agree with you. But frankly, if WBEZ is indeed "Chicago's Public Radio", then they are probably doing exactly what they are supposed to do. That is, follow the public will. Considering the general public doesn't give a rat's ass about jazz, why should WBEZ play it? If the public wants talk radio, that's what they should get, right?

:D

Untrue. Take a look at the playlists and you'll find lots and lots of "non-outside" stuff. In fact, the range of aesthetic traditions within jazz - which can't be reduced to specious "inside"/"outside" labels - is much better represented on NUR (though the composite blend changes somewhat as the DJs vary from one academic quarter to the next).

I never claimed that jazz can be split into inside/outside, but you have to admit that the majority of what NUR plays would be considered "outside". I don't have time to look through their playlists with any regularity (which are horribly archived, btw) but they bill themselves as "Chicago's Sound Experiment". Again, nothing wrong with this, but I don't believe they are representing the jazz idiom as a whole, either (which again, is fine. I don't think one station has to do that to be viable.)

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What happened to free speech? I have simply posted a few excerpts from WBEZ's website in an effort to support Mr Guthartz's assertion that WBEZ plays only cocktail music. What's the problem. By the way, the Deep Blue Organ trio (on the 2004 list of WBEZ's most played discs) does play every Tuesday at the "Green Mill Cocktail Lounge". So I guess it is cocktail music.

And who is this Lawrence Olds guy from Richmond? I was stealing my false name from someone else who used one! Surprised no jazz organ fans have figured it out yet... Perhaps you could ask Thornel Schwatrz or Bill Leslie.

Nothing happened to free speech here, so why the fake name? Free subterfuge gets equal footing? You picked the name, you take the consequences. OK?

I believe most radio play lists are generated to please constituencies, not reflect reality. I believe the DBOT was aired frequently but since it was a "fourth quarter" release, don't believe it should have made the cut for 2004 most played list. I do believe the Deep Blue disc is fine and look forward to the new one.

Thanks, it's been a pressure. :P

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I don't think those WBEZ lists posted represent "most played" but rather DJ picks.

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I don't think those WBEZ lists posted represent "most played" but rather DJ picks.

I don't think for a minute they weren't edited by management. Music directors do this all the time and a control freak wouldn't pass this up. Not saying they were false, just "tweaked".

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I don't think those WBEZ lists posted represent "most played" but rather DJ picks.

I don't think for a minute they weren't edited by management. Music directors do this all the time and a control freak wouldn't pass this up. Not saying they were false, just "tweaked".

Between the Deep Blue disc and Von Freeman's "The Great Divide", also from 2004 list, those 2 discs have recieved more airplay on WBEZ than just about anything on (or not on) either of those best of lists over the past year and a half.

I don't know how often either disc was played on WNUR, if at all, but certainly far less Chicagoans actaully would have heard them on WNUR, as their audience during their morning jazz programming is, statistically speaking at least, almost non-existent. Almost always literally a 0.0 share according to the Arbitrons. (though WNUR's hip hop and world shows actually show up a little bit sometimes)

The great thing about stations run by large universities like Northwestern that charge astronomical tuitions, there's no responsibility on the part of the students or community volunteers running the station to actually draw any kind of sizable audience. Which is why their djs have the freedom they do. If they want to do a great, creative show, they can. If they want to throw random sets together with train wreck segues and no connective threads between the music, they can do that too.

How about WDCB, they're kind of in the middle, a mix of paid and some really good volunteer djs. Anyone there playing Fred Anderson or the gamut of AACM folks?

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But frankly, if WBEZ is indeed "Chicago's Public Radio", then they are probably doing exactly what they are supposed to do. That is, follow the public will. Considering the general public doesn't give a rat's ass about jazz, why should WBEZ play it? If the public wants talk radio, that's what they should get, right? :D

I don't know whether the smiley-face indicates facetiousness, but just in case anyone takes you seriously:

Serving the public is not the same as responding to what is most popular. Otherwise, what difference would there be between commercial and (nominally) non-commercial radio? Non-commercial public media - in this time period as in no other - has the responsibility of providing information systematically ignored by the commercial media. (This can lead to a much larger discussion about culture, political economy and citizenship, about art and entertainment, etc. etc., but suffice it to say that we need *some* forum where commercial and entertainment values are not the exclusive criteria by which decisions are made regarding what information and experiences may be useful to us as individuals-in-communities.)

Yes, almost everything WBEZ *does* play is not played anywhere else. My point is that (due to their unique position in Chicago-area broadcasting) BEZ could and should have used its substantial resources (incl. 40+ hours of weekly "jazz" airtime) to present a broader spectrum of what is excluded from commercial outlets (i.e., jazz). (Indeed, it could be argued that BEZ should have cut back "jazz" programming to better represent other neglected auditory arts, but we're talking about what BEZ has (not) done within the context of its jazz programming.)

Again, nothing wrong with this, but I don't believe [WNUR is] representing the jazz idiom as a whole, either (which again, is fine. I don't think one station has to do that to be viable.)

Again, my argument is that BEZ has a unique responsibility to be more expansive in the context of its "jazz" programming given the resources at its disposal and its uniquely powerful position in the Chicago broadcasting arena.

This isn't an abstract, philosophical argument - I'm talking about Chicago broadcasting as it exists. Of course in an ideal world, 1000 radio stations would bloom with every type of music made available to everyone everywhere (a day perhaps not too far off as technology progresses). But the unfortunate reality at the moment in Chicago is that there are *no* commercial FM stations that play jazz (other than WNUA's laxative-jazz) and there is *one* public radio station. This reality places a burden on Chicago Public Radio to be as comprehensive as possible in order to give the listening public an opportunity to be aware of the broad spectrum of musics neglected by commercial media. An incredibly difficult burden to be sure (impossible, really).

But instead of doing as much as reasonably possible given its resources, WBEZ Jazz under Heim never began to try, never gave any indication it cared. Heim's legacy to Chicago culture has been the notion of "jazz" as a music unrelated to contemporary society except in its capacity to provide easily-digestible entertainment; she did little to reflect the tradition of "jazz" as a living artform.

(No aspersions on Organissimo intended.)

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But instead of doing as much as reasonably possible given its resources, WBEZ Jazz under Heim never began to try, never gave any indication it cared. Heim's legacy to Chicago culture has been the notion of "jazz" as a music unrelated to contemporary society except in its capacity to provide easily-digestible entertainment; she did little to reflect the tradition of "jazz" as a living artform.

(No aspersions on Organissimo intended.)

Honestly, your ideas are very noble. And I agree with them. But, just to play devil's advocate, I don't know how plausable they are. I guess we'll never know because WBEZ dumped jazz altogether. That leaves WNUR and WDCB to pick up the pieces.

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Re: Airplay and Playlists:

Most stations these days are being monitored by Media Guide so there is less hanky panky by program directors, and that's good for the artists and the stations.

The JazzWeek chart combines both since not all markets have a "listening monitor" in their area, but a vast majority of the "playlists" are generated by Media Guide.

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I don't know how often either disc was played on WNUR, if at all, but certainly far less Chicagoans actaully would have heard them on WNUR, as their audience during their morning jazz programming is, statistically speaking at least, almost non-existent. Almost always literally a 0.0 share according to the Arbitrons.

Deep Blue & Vonsky have most definitely been played on WNUR - I can't say how often (too much Vonsky? impossible!) but the DJs would honor a listener request to play them.

re: Arbitrons -- So what? What's the point of referring to statistics used for commercial marketing purposes when talking about a noncommercial station?

The great thing about stations run by large universities like Northwestern that charge astronomical tuitions, there's no responsibility on the part of the students or community volunteers running the station to actually draw any kind of sizable audience. Which is why their djs have the freedom they do. If they want to do a great, creative show, they can. If they want to throw random sets together with train wreck segues and no connective threads between the music, they can do that too.

WNUR is run by students, not the university. Most of the station's operating budget comes from its listeners, not the university; this budget is sufficient to carry out its mission.

In any case, I don't know what this has to do with the discussion about WBEZ.

No one was asking for BEZ to transform into NUR. Those of us critical of BEZ's programming policies had asked for what amounted to fairly modest changes - basically to use their 40+ hours per week to present a range of music similar to that covered by mainstream jazz journalism outlets such as the Chicago Tribune or Down Beat (not known for privileging outside/avant-garde/radical/progressive/hot/bebop/fusion/new-thing/experimental/anti-jazz/fire music).

Honestly, your ideas are very noble. And I agree with them. But, just to play devil's advocate, I don't know how plausable they are. I guess we'll never know because WBEZ dumped jazz altogether. That leaves WNUR and WDCB to pick up the pieces.

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater was certainly unfortunate.

But I guess the news from the last few days put me in a more hopeful mood about the possibilities for positive change. Silly, I know. :unsure:

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How about WDCB, they're kind of in the middle, a mix of paid and some really good volunteer djs. Anyone there playing Fred Anderson or the gamut of AACM folks?

I know at least one dj plays Fred on occasion...

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Tonight Blue Lake is featuring Ira Sullivan (happy birthday a day late Ira) and he called my house today from Chicago where he's just wrapped up a week at the Jazz Showcase. Ira sounded in good spirits but was relieved to hear we didn't have to do an interview as he's crazy busy and didn't have the time. His daughter, Sunny, is hearing the program tonight in Florida.

Been playing the new Leo Smith/Adam Rudolph duo album, and the station recently recorded the David Rempis Percussion Quartet live in Kalamazoo if that counts. We're all over the map, really, in a free form mix. It gets us in trouble with the record labels who use Media Guide and wonder why their new releases aren't showing up on the playlist 20 times in a month, but it's because we try, sometimes not successfully, but try to stay focused on the music more than the commerce.

www.bluelake.org

p.s. the Spring Membership drive just ended and we raised $150,000, which is tremendous for us. Our budget this year is around $800,000 with about $320,000 needed from listeners. We're off to a good start. If you see those numbers against what BEZ was raising with their jazz programming, well, they raised enough to run two Blue Lakes. It's all a matter of scale (and how many middle managers you have to support, a-hem). :o

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re: Arbitrons -- So what? What's the point of referring to statistics used for commercial marketing purposes when talking about a noncommercial station?

Well, Mr Guthartz, maybe Arbitorns matter because they are the only objective way radio stations (commercial or not) can measure in any way the size of their audience.

While signal coverage has an important bearing on the audience potential for any station, a station's audience size is also directly related to its programming. If WBEZ's jazz programming's only purpose was to gain the largest possible audience, it would sound like WNUA, which has a gigantic audience. WBEZ does not sound anything remotely like WNUA, though you and many other critics of the station have sought to perpetuate that idea in print and on the web for years.

Von Freeman, Gene Ammons, Judy Roberts, Jodie Christian, Johnny Hartman, Jodie Christian, Kurt Elling, Bobby Broom, Eddie Harris, Henry Johnson, Dinah Washington, Patricia Barber, Johnny Griffin, John Wright, Ari Brown, Dan Cray, Kahil El Zabar, Willie Pickens and...(this list could go on for pages) aren't getting any exposure on WNUA, and with WNUR's small audience, little there either, but they've gotten lots of exposure to a fairly large audience on WBEZ.

Whether or not WBEZ's proposed second station - which was originally rumored to have been a 24/7 jazz, blues, and world music station - would have been able to expand its musical breatdh into some of the more challenging areas beyond the more mainstream forms of jazz it already plays, we'll probably never know. The station's president, and its board of directors, has decided to go in a talk/public affairs-based direction with the second station and nothing will likely change that. When news and music are in conflict on public radio station formats, news always eventually wins. News is seen as an audience growth area with plenty of future potential, music in almost any form is not. It's an old familiar story at public stations around the country, and if you somehow think that WBEZ's jazz programs might have succeeded wildly in surviving the decision making power of people for whom music (specifically jazz in any form) is not highly valued, then you are really living in some kind of dream world.

And really, do WNUR's listener donations pay the light bill, and the transmitter upkeep, and the rent at your facilities in Evanston, or does Northwestern maybe cover a little of that, or maybe all of it. You must know that colleges around the country have been selling off stations at a rapid pace. Enjoy playing whatever you want to on WNUR while you can. That sort of freedom in radio is becoming rarer by the minute. Despite WNUR's signal strength and the fact that its non-commerical, that frequency is probably worth a few million, should Northwestern ever decide it needs a few extra bucks. And you better believe there are any number of religious broadcasting conglomerates probably lined up and ready to buy it (not to mention non-commercial stations in Chicago that might want to increase coverage in northern suburbs).

So, I don't know what any of this has to do with WBEZ, but like anything in this world, everything in broadcasting is interconnected in the end.

Go ahead and keep attacking the former Music Director of WBEZ if it makes you feel good. It ain't me. Keep pushing in your admittedly uniformed way ("I honestly didn't listen often") to change something that has already been given a death sentence. But just because you and a dozen other stridently vocal self-appointed spokepeople for the "jazz community" didn't listen to WBEZ's jazz programs doesn't mean over 100,000 Chicago jazz listeners will miss it when it is gone in 2007.

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100,000 listeners....Which is why it's stunning to have "numbers" and growth being the primary reasons for the change away from jazz. What other radio station can boast a jazz audience so large?

How did WBEZ's night time listenership compare in percentage of audience to WBGO or the student station at Columbia University? I would imagine favorably. Yes, there are many proven marketing techniques available to radio to increase audience size, but running them like a manual will leave the community feeling left out, which is what this backlash is really about. I bet that streamlining the station's sound and on-air personality presentation, taking character out of the station's sound, drew more listeners who use radio as a lifestyle tool, as much as an educational one. In any case there was something missing in Chris Heim's mix that angered the former regular audience of the station. It's not that the music was mainstream, it's that it may have favored Ron Carter over Vic Sproles. Who knows.

Her mix may have also lacked the flint Chicago music sparks from. I mean, the daring of the city, and it's political, racial, labor and literary voice is not so polite, but ever listenable.

To establish a format that forgoes or downplays Chicago as the epicenter for jazz experimentation, especially in the decades of the 1920's, 60's and 1990's, which is the city's jazz story, where it contributed strongest and most deeply influenced the course of the art form, is to make people who care about such historical truths feeling pimped. But WBEZ wasn't going to segue from Bud Freeman to Anthony Braxton anymore. It used to. The station had some real daring programming in the past, but it wasn't ever reckless.

For some radio professionals the parceling out of various styles of music to one frequency or another (this one's trad, this one's smooth, this one's avant-garde, this one's mainstream, etc), covers the scene. But when a station as powerful and journalistically rich as WBEZ set it's sights on jazz, as it did in the 1980's, the result was an explosion of community and historical awareness. I think the program director's name at that time was Hodges, and they were aces in presenting the Chicago Jazz Festival. That station was an invaluable means of connecting with the essence of jazz and the highest level of radio professionalism as well as radio journalism for me and I'll feel ever indebted to the Chicago School Board, who I believe owned the station back then, for making it happen. And they did it without a station library. In those days the disc jockey had to have their own collection to program on the air. No wonder there were so many hard core characters on the air. They covered it all by being the big boys, and left the one-lung radio stations sounding like also rans.

Since that time there's been a gradual erosion of jazz's position at the station, and it’s a damn shame.

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p.s. I don't know how objective the Arbitrons are. Those are estimates. Pledge drives seem a good indictor of audience support, too.

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Well, thank good there are a few serious radio outlets for serious improvised music. Check out KSDS 88.3 FM, San Diego, CA. It’s a hip community college radio station that I recommend listening to. Leo Gates has a Monday evening show from 9 pm till midnight. He also subs during the week. OUSTANDING! Straight ahead hard core music. None of the predictable wimpy white wine and jacuzzi jazz. The guy gets down! Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Miles with Coltrane, Woody Shaw, Jackie Mclean, Clifford Jordan, et al, is the music of choice! Miff Mole has an interesting program on Thursdays from 9 pm till 11 pm (straight ahead music -no silly smooth jazz) and from 11 pm till midnight he features his "Free Time" show. The last hour is dedicated to free improvised music (e.g. Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Impulse Coltrane, WSQ, Steve Lacy, Albert Ayler, et al). Well worth checking out.

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So has Dick Buckley retired? Will he resurface somewhere else? Talk about a champion of the music.

P.S. I've been listening to WBEZ for the better part of twenty years. The bottom line is their jazz programming became less and less interesting to me personally. I not sure if that's a function of my tastes in jazz music becoming more diverse and/or their playlist becoming less diverse. I suspect it's probably more the former. I really don't care too much about the "why". Bottom line is that it's really too bad that there now is one less outlet for jazz music in Chicago and the surroundings areas.

In my heart, I really believe that more challenging forms of the music could be very well received, if the music is skillfully programmed and put in "proper" context. More teachers and fewer hipsters are needed in jazz radio these days. My 2 cents.

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WBEZ wasn't going to segue from Bud Freeman to Anthony Braxton anymore. It used to. The station had some real daring programming in the past, but it wasn't ever reckless.

For some radio professionals the parceling out of various styles of music to one frequency or another (this one's trad, this one's smooth, this one's avant-garde, this one's mainstream, etc), covers the scene. But when a station as powerful and journalistically rich as WBEZ set it's sights on jazz, as it did in the 1980's, the result was an explosion of community and historical awareness. I think the program director's name at that time was Hodges, and they were aces in presenting the Chicago Jazz Festival. That station was an invaluable means of connecting with the essence of jazz and the highest level of radio professionalism as well as radio journalism for me and I'll feel ever indebted to the Chicago School Board, who I believe owned the station back then, for making it happen. And they did it without a station library. In those days the disc jockey had to have their own collection to program on the air. No wonder there were so many hard core characters on the air. They covered it all by being the big boys, and left the one-lung radio stations sounding like also rans.

Since that time there's been a gradual erosion of jazz's position at the station, and it’s a damn shame.

Ah, Lazaro, the sweet memory of youth. The first time I heard Coltrane's tenor coming out of the radio several decades ago, in the middle of the night, it seems larger than life to me, and nothing I hear from anyone on the radio, your fine radio show included, will ever match that in my mind. You lay out a good case here, but the memory of hearing those magical sounds of the station's sound in the '80s, as you traveled into the big city and heard everything with fresh ears, is never going to be matched, since you've probably become a far more knowledgeable listener in the intervening 20 years.

The thing is, Buckley has still been playing what he likes all these years, he's still great, but I've never heard him segue from Bud Freeman to Braxton. Dave Tough, Oscar Peterson, Armstron, Monk on Buck's show, yes - Braxton, or anyone from the AACM...no.

Neil Tesser's recent 3 year run on AM 1240 was a solid display for his obvious knowledge and clever segues - but no Braxton was ever played. He might have played a short snippet of a Vandermark tune, maybe once in 3 years, if that. I did hear him play a not so inspiring Gary Burton's version of Bob Dylan's "I Want You" once and say it was a Beatles song. That was kind of fun I guess. Everybody makes a mistake once in a while though, that's no crime. Tesser knows the music inside and out and his recent local show was fine radio... but probably wouldn't match the standard you've created in your mind for WBEZ of the past.

Barry Winograd was on WBEZ in the 80s. He's been on WDCB (midday) for years, as well as WXRT on Sunday nights - Winograd is a fine professional with good taste, he does an excellent show, but I don't know that it would live up to your high standards of creative segueing, or the rigorous demands of folks like Jason Guthartz. Braxton? Haven't heard any on WDCB ever.

Larry Smith was great too, before recently retiring from WBEZ, and his live in the studio "jazz parties" are legendary in Chicago, as were his live broadcasts of Trane, Miles, etc from the Sutherland Lounge in the early 60s, but Larry was no Braxton proponent. Clifford Brown, Roy Eldridge, Bird, Diz, yes, but Braxton, nah. Fred Anderson was an old friend of Larry's, sure, but was Anderson's the music he most desired to present on the radio, not so much.

I have no doubt WBEZ sounded great to you in the 80s, but it probably sounds even better in your distant memories of youth hearing all the music with fresh ears and less of the knowledge you've accumulated over the years.

...And what's with the "Big Boys" comment? A subtle but sexist slam at Heim? Not like no one has done that before.

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How about WDCB, they're kind of in the middle, a mix of paid and some really good volunteer djs. Anyone there playing Fred Anderson or the gamut of AACM folks?

I know at least one dj plays Fred on occasion...

Well, JazzyPaul, I don't know if "one dj playing Fred on occasion" is going to cut it with the self appointed defenders of the "Chicago Jazz Community". Better start gearing up for the boo birds. They're scheduled to begin arriving at WDCB's door in early 2007.

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Man, Larry Smith played some blazing jazz on his program -- long jam sessions I'd never heard on record before (or since. He was great at the hard to find stuff, especially local). Isn't Barry a baritone saxophonist? I remember a few night time live sessions on his program, too, during Jazz Fest. that were a riot. The straight ahead programs on WBEZ were legendary. Buckley did do some programming outside of his historical retrospective he's best known for, but I don't think it was for long.

No, the "Big Boys" comment was not intended as a sexist slam at Chris, it was intended as a perspective on WBEZ's position in the market vis a vis signal strength, professionalism and the ability to program around ideas as opposed to formatting. There have been nights when I drove out of Chicago and listened to WBEZ until you could pick up WBLV as you come around the bottom of Lake Michigan and start up US 31. Incredible to hear uninterrupted jazz on the radio over the course of a 3 and a half hour drive.

And you're right about youth: I remember driving over the Chicago Skyway in the daytime catching WBEZ playing Tal Farlow's "Cookin' On All Burners" into Jimmy McGriff's "Skywalk" and wondered why it didn't sound so energized when I heard that same music elsewhere.

Yes, the Chicago Jazz Festival programmed Anthony Braxton with Leo Smith, maybe John Lindberg and Gerry Hemmingway, on the same evening as Bud Freeman's triumphant return to Chicago (with Wild Bill on trumpet). That type of programming did happen on the radio, though maybe not exactly as a seque.

Formatting can be a souless proposition, and WBEZ's jazz was all about soul. Like I said, there are many "tools" and program philosophies that a program director can employ to attract more listeners and Chris had a handle on all of them, used them liberally, and had success in broadening (no pun intended) the listenership. But there was a price to pay.

And what about now? I've heard from Kate Smith, a Chicago-based jazz records promotions person, that the on-air music programmers at the station have been "freed" of the format limitations and are delving heavily into the Chicago music scene, putting on recordings by local artists that people may not have heard of, and mining a treasure trove of live local recordings that puts the focus back on the Chicago music community and not on some abstract idea of what sounds good.

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Listening to 'BEZ during the Heim years, especially to her own show (when I did), I got the feeling, from the music that was played and the way it was introduced and spoken about, that the underlying emotional commitment was to shaping and policing the success of the format (in terms of demographics and numbers) rather than to Heim's own involvement (or that of many of the other hosts) with the actual music being played. This to me had a deadening effect. Radio, even music-orientated radio, depends a good deal on one's sense of the host or speaker's savvy and involvement. To be more specific about how this links up to the "music being played" aspect of things, the boundaries of, say, Dick Buckley's taste are what they are, but doesn't (or rather didn't) one always have the feeling that virtually every track he played is one that he had, at one time, personally savored? Makes a big difference.

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