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ALL THAT JAZZ

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 11, 2013

BRYCE ON MUSIC

– Better take in some “cool” before it disappears completely.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

About three years ago my wife and I were saddened to learn WSJT-FM, the “Smooth Jazz” channel in Tampa, was leaving the airwaves. We had listened to it for years, either outside on the patio, inside on the weekends, or while driving around. Although we didn’t know the names of all the songs, we always found it calm, relaxing, and just plain “cool.” I like to believe I have an eclectic taste in music. Even though I was of the Rock generation. I love classical, Big Band, some international sounds, particularly Japanese and Spanish, but Jazz holds a special place in my heart. After college, I picked up on it in some small nightclubs in Cincinnati, but as I traveled on business I found some excellent jazz in Chicago, New York, Toronto, and on top of the legendary Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, but that was some time ago. So, when WSJT announced they were abandoning jazz, we were greatly disappointed. They didn’t shut down completely though. Today, you can listen to them streaming over the Internet.

A similar phenomenon happened back in my old hometown of Cincinnati where WVXU (the “Voice of Xavier University”) played jazz classics and “When Swing was King” for years. Unfortunately, their ratings slumped radically and they were forced to abandon jazz. This seems to be a common occurrence as jazz stations are slowly disappearing. According to Lady Jay Davis, a well known radio personality and jazz aficionado in Reno, Nevada, “I have lots of thoughts on how the smooth jazz format was KILLED. Stations turned it into a top 40 format and burned everyone out, then cloned the stations for every market. It is a format that should have evolved into smooth and HOT. Instead they commercialized it and then depended on ratings to sell it. What an excuse for failure.”

As jazz disappears from the airwaves, it is slowly being forgotten, particularly by younger people who simply know nothing about it. Back in 2000, Ken Burns produced his television documentary on “Jazz” which chronicled the development of this unique American sound. More than anything, the miniseries was useful to educate the uninformed regarding the various forms of jazz, everything from Dixieland, which traces its roots back to New Orleans and the South, to “Cool Jazz” emerging after WWII. The program also described the contributions of such people as Charlie Parker, Jr., Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday. As an aside, singers such as Bing Crosby and Judy Garland were devotees, and could belt out some excellent jazz songs themselves.

As for me personally, Dave Brubeck, who recently passed away, was the first to bring jazz to my attention. His “Take Five,” which was released in the early 1960’s, should be declared the national anthem of jazz. The clever mixture of piano, sax, bass, and drums is pure genius. It is no small wonder it has been used in television and commercials over the years as an icon of class and elegance. From there, I learned the early work of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, which, of course led me to Charlie Parker, et al.

More recently, I was fortunate to see George Benson in concert. At the time, I knew little about him. I just thought he was another guitarist with some easy listening music to his credit. Boy was I wrong. Although he started slow, I quickly recognized him for what he was, a jazz craftsman. His rendition of Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade” made a believer out of me. He is also known for such classics as “On Broadway,” “Give Me the Night,” and “Breezin’.”

The group who had the most profound influence on me regarding jazz was the Modern Jazz Quartet, whose roots can be traced back to Dizzy Gillespie. The quartet starred Milt Jackson, John Lewis, Percy Heath, and Connie Kay. Although they are perhaps best known for their song, “Django,” there are many other impressive cuts which jazz buffs love, such as “Confirmation,” “Blues on Bach Blues in B flat,” “Concerto De Aranjuez,” “Round Midnight,” and “Willow Weep for Me.”

There are of course many other artists who deserve recognition, but space prohibits me from listing them here. Nonetheless, after learning jazz, I saw Rocker Jimi Hendrix in a new light. It wasn’t Rock that made him unique, it was simply a new form of jazz.

Jazz is still around, but unfortunately it has gone underground in this country. No, you won’t find it on radio or television anymore, but you can still find it on an obscure cable channel or on the Internet. The best way to enjoy it though is to visit one of those small jazz nightclubs which still exists in the big cities or the occasional jazz festival.

As an aside, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the jazz classic, “Just the Two of Us,” recorded by Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers, and written by Withers, Ralph MacDonald, and William Salter. It has a very special meaning for my wife and myself for over 30 years, and produced by some very special people. Yes, jazz can have that kind of effect on you. Be sure to listen to it before it is gone with the wind.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


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11 Responses to “ALL THAT JAZZ”

  1. Dustin Tarditi said

    WB Tim,

    Good call – I checked them out online and they were playing Bee Gees and then Earth Wind and Fire… not quite what I expected, but maybe just time slot programming or something. That was a neat app, though – I’ll keep checking in on them.

    One of our local stations, WCPE Classic Radio was one of the first to simulcast to the web. Fortunately, we have some good jazz here thanks to a plethora of university radio stations, but “format stations” have been gobbling up many genres here too. Thank you Clear Channel Communications… you are the “Spam” of media.

    Be well!

    S&F,

    Dustin (BTW, I can finally add “PM” to my fraternal signatures!)

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    An A.W. of Macon, Georgia wrote…

    “I remember those days well too. Before a fire destroyed my collection of LPs I had quite a few albums. Duke Ellington’s played here in Perry and at their arrival, found a damaged instrument, my son and grand son loaned the a trumpet and a trombone. And got to see the concert free. I was away on TDY in Alaska and so missed it. The kids had a great time and spent a couple of hour with the band afterwards helping with the packing up. A memorable event for them.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    An L.M. of Chicago, Illinois wrote…

    “We had WNUA, Smooth Jazz in Chicago. Ramsey Lewis even had a daily morning show. Our shuttle bus driver tuned the station on during the trip between the train station and my employer. It was great. But it too has succumbed to the Clear Channel and Cumulus Media, et al, station sanitizing. Alas, I knew them well, when they we’re alive.”

    Like

  4. Bill Baldwin said

    I used to communicate occasionally with one of the DJ’s at WSJT. She discussed the narrow scope or range of music they could play, indicating that their listeners only tolerated music within narrow parameters. This is where it got boring since, toward the end, it appeared to me at least that they were repeating tracks quite a bit. Where I once listened to the station all day, I now searched for other stations to break the monotony.

    Frankly, with the technology of Pandora, one can now tailor their music to fit their tastes, And, the best part is no commercials or a DJ’s mindless chatter.

    Like

  5. Tim Bryce said

    An S.G. of Boise, Idaho wrote…

    “Had to go listen to Just the Two of Us!”

    Like

  6. Tim Bryce said

    A W.A. of the Dominican Republic wrote…

    “AMEN to Jazz. It is on the top of our list for music, also. Fortunately, we have SKY satellite and there are have 2 Jazz stations that we listen to very frequently. Dave Brubeck was also one of my favorites, if not my favorite and remember getting a new stereo and listening to “Take Five”, which was one of the first records I played on that new stereo.”

    Like

  7. Tim Bryce said

    A U.V. of Largo, Florida wrote…

    “I like Jazz, but not the modern jazz. It’s a bit too improv for me. I like to know what song I’m listening to. But as you say “Keep the Faith” – the younguns are beginning to latch onto a new music – Swing. There’s hope yet.”

    Like

  8. Tim Bryce said

    An S.G. of Chicago, Illinois wrote…

    “There is a season for all things.”

    Like

  9. Tim Bryce said

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “I, too, have eclectic taste in music. When you mentioned jazz nightclubs, I suddenly remembered going to an after-hours jazz club when I was in college. The music was a fascinating mixture and the musicians local guys, but what struck me was how fast the time went by. We left that club as the sun came up and the joy of that time was a new experience for me.

    I hadn’t thought of Hendrix as jazz, but his music is certainly influenced by jazz. I’ve never been able to think of any musician to compare Hendrix. Maybe I need to listen to some more jazz.”

    Like

  10. Tim Bryce said

    A V.C. of Palm Harbor, Florida wrote…

    “I was sad too. I wondered what had happened to that jazz program. If you want to stay awake between 11pm and 6pm you can listen to jazz on 89.7, but some of us usually take this time to sleep. Novel idea, I know, but necessary. At least for me.”

    Like

  11. Tim Bryce said

    An A.H. of Rochester, Kentucky wrote…

    “I love jazz! Great post here!”

    Like

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