Radio: Further Thoughts About KJAZZ

June 26, 2013

By Norton Wright

Some final words about the KJazz benefit concert at Disney Hall providing much needed financial funding for KJazz Radio, the station which in various incarnations has been serving the southern California listenership for over 30 years.

Here are ten, perhaps little known facts about the station provided by Station Manager, Stephanie Levine –

1. The KJazz annual operating budget is just under $2 million and is judged to be a very efficient operation given its 24/7 programming and its live DJ staff of 10… Jazz radio stations in NYC and other areas have higher operating budgets.

2. As a listener supported station, KJazz raises about 85% to 90% of its annual operating budget from its audience donors via three pledge drives per year, primarily in Southern California but also around the nation and world.

3. But even with that strong listener support and some modest grants, the station often runs at an annual shortfall of $200,000 to $300,000 — that shortfall being covered by the generous financial contributions of Saul Levine, the station’s General Manager…Incidentally, Mr. Levine takes no salary from KJazz.

4 In the year 2007, Mr. Levine stepped in to reorganize the station and brought it back from the financial straits that threatened its closure, all on behalf of the licensee of KKJZ -= the California State University, Long Beach Foundation, for whom the station is operated.

5. In any given week, the station’s Arbitron Cumulative Audience is over 458,000 listeners making KJazz the most listened to full-time jazz station in the nation. The station also has a large number of listeners on the Internet – approximately 100,000 listeners in any given month.

6. A typical KJazz listener listens to the station’s programming, off and on each day, for about 1 hour.

7. KJazz daily play lists of tunes are particularly organized to provide a satisfying jazz experience for that listener who switches between radio news, traffic & weather reports, and other programs and tunes in to KJazz for that 1 hour each day. The reason that the station often repeats the same tune in the course of a week’s programming is to increase the chances that its typical listener will catch some of his/her favorite jazz tunes in the course of a day’s or week’s listening.

8. KJazz DJs make suggestions about the play lists for their shows, but the playlists for the weekday DJ’s shows are organized under the direction of General Manager Saul Levine. The music in specialty programs is determined by the programs’ hosts, e.g. John Pizzarelli’s Radio Deluxe, Ramsey Lewis’ Legends of Jazz, Bob Parlocha, et al.

9. Last Saturday night’s First Ever KJazz Summer Benefit Concert raised substantial funding, and the station has already received considerable positive feedback from donors asking that the event be made an annual one.

10. Whenever you are interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to KJazz, the station’s telephone pledge line is (800) 767-3688.

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As noted above, sometimes KJazz Radio is criticized for what a steady, all-day listener considers too many repeats of the same tune in the course of a day’s or a week’s programming. But it’s helpful to remember that the station’s daily play lists are designed to please that listener who gets to listen to the station for only 1 hour a day and wants a chance to hear some of his/her favorite tunes during that one hour. For the steady, all-day listener, it may be an occasional drag to hear the same tune several times a week on KJazz, but do all-day listeners really object to hearing some jazz classics played two or three times in the course of a seven-day week?

Sometimes criticism arises regarding KJazz’s play lists that emphasize modern jazz standards rather than the new work of up-and-coming artists or those newcomers pushing the jazz envelope. Yup, I personally would like to hear  KJazz play more of today’s new and super talented artists (e.g. Jason Moran, Halie Loren, Jenny Scheinman, Graham Dechter, Nik Bartsch, et al.) — and KJazz may already be leaning in that direction. Given that the station chose to open last Saturday night’s Benefit Concert with Harvey Mason’s new, fusion sextet, “Chameleon,” much to the delight of the audience, maybe those kinds of successful experiments will prompt the station to schedule a weekly hour or two focusing on new jazz talents — or at least infuse its weekly playlists with more of the jazz scene’s promising newcomers. Wasn’t it Dizzy who said, “With the eating, comes the appetite.” Or was it, “If you play it, they will come.”

All of which is to suggest that, in today’s America, there is occasionally the tendency to make perfection the enemy of the good. KJazz may not be perfect, but it is very good station, and in return for a contribution of modest dollars a year, we get some very heavy and satisfying jazz programming.

Congratulations and thanks are due to General Manager Saul Levine and his lean, hard-working KJazz staff who are keeping the jazz torch burning in southern California, across America, and around the world.

To read more posts by and about Norton Wright click HERE.


News: The 55th Monterey Jazz Festival Final Line Up.

April 5, 2012

By Michael Katz

The 55th Monterey Jazz Festival announced its complete schedule yesterday, adding Tony Bennett and Michael Wolff (leading his Cal Tjader tribute band) to a program already rich with stars that include Pat Metheny, Showcase Artist Jack DeJohnette, Esperanza Spalding, Trombone Shorty, Bill Frisell and Artist-in-residence Ambrose Akinmusire.

Tony Bennett

More on all that later. If you really want to know how loaded this festival is, set your watch for 9:30 p.m. Saturday night, September 22. Here’s what you can hear: Metheny, DeJohnette and Christian McBride in a trio performance on the Lyons Stage; Wolff and his Tjader band with Warren Wolf on vibes along with Pete Escovedo, John Santos, Vince Lateano and Robb Fisher at Dizzy’s Den; The Tierney Sutton Band at the Night Club; Gerald Clayton at the Coffee House. Yikes. Almost all at the same time.  Fortunately, Sutton gets a head start at 9 and Metheny plays another set with his Unity Band featuring Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez and Ben Williams on Sunday night. Still, if that cloning research gets perfected by September, you know where to find me.

Here’s a few of the other highlights. The Friday night arena show opens with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band making its MJF debut, and we LA folk know they will get the festival off to a rollicking start. I confess to having heard little of Melody Gardot, who follows, other than sampling the bluesy jazz offerings on her website, but that’s the beauty of MJF.

Ambrose Akinmusire

There’s always some fresh faces,  including harmonica player Gregoire Maret at the Night Club and vocalist Gregory Porter, who has been creating a big ripple lately, with Night Club’s late set. DeJohnette and Akinmusire perform at Dizzy’s Den and the Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra caps off the Arena Show. Finally, pianist Mulgrew Miller, who I would rate along with Michael Wolff among the finest of his (and my) generation, will lead his trio in three performances at the Coffee House.

Saturday is blues/roots/funk day in the afternoon. Robert Randolph and the Family Band open the show at the Arena and end the afternoon at the Garden Stage, always a great place to hang out. As mentioned, Trombone Shorty headlines at the Arena   and his performance, on the heels of his 2010 tour de force, will be one of the most anticipated of the festival. If you are looking for something a little quieter, two of my favorite musicians, flutist Ali Ryerson and guitarist Mimi Fox will be performing a matinee duet at the Night Club.

Saturday night, in addition to the aforementioned logjam at 9:30, begins at the Arena with guitarist Bill Frisell’s Beautiful Dreamers band performing the Festival’s commissioned piece and ends with Tony Bennett. Whether the moon will show up on cue as it did during the opening notes of “Fly Me To The Moon,” as it did in Bennett’s memorable 2005 concert has yet to be determined, but don’t bet against it.

Esperanza Spalding

Sunday afternoon features the award-winning high school and college groups, highlighted by the all-star Next Generation Band at the Arena, with alumnus Ambrose Akinmusire sitting in. The NGB was one of the highlights of the festival last year, so don’t wander in late. Esperanza Spalding, with a hot new album and lots of national exposure, anchors the afternoon show. The late afternoon Sunday shows at the Garden Stage often provide some of the most relaxed and enjoyable moments of the weekend. This year vocalist Jose James gets the 4pm slot and Kyle Eastwood and his band are sure to be crowd pleasers at 5:30.

Sunday night at the Arena begins with Pat Metheny’s band and finishes up with the MJF 55th Anniversary All Star group, featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, trumpeter Akinmusire, Christian McBride, Benny Green, Chris Potter and drummer Lewis Nash. (They also perform Saturday night at Dizzy’s Den.) There’s plenty happening on the grounds, including vibist Stefon Harris’ Cuban themed 90 Miles Band with David Sanchez on sax and Nicholas Payton filling the trumpet chair; DeJohnette and Frisell in duets; and the annual Hammond B3 organ blowout featuring John Abercrombie, Larry Goldings and Chester Thompson. Tiger Hamasyan takes the piano spot at the Coffee House.

The 55th Annual MJF runs September 21-23. Details at: www.montereyjazzfestival.org/2012

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To read more iRoM reviews and posts by Michael Katz, click HERE.

To visit Michael Katz’s personal blog, “Katz of the Day,” click HERE.


News: The 34th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival

February 17, 2012

By Don Heckman

The summer jazz season in Los Angeles had its annual kick-off party yesterday at the Playboy Mansion.  February may seem like an early start, but the media get-together, which takes place in a circus-sized tent pitched in Hugh Hefner’s luxurious back yard, has become a traditional introduction to the events planned for one of the year’s jazz highlights — the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl.

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby, who once again will emcee the Festival, hosted in his inimitable fashion, while also providing comic counterpoint to producer Darlene Chan’s introduction of the Festival’s line up.  Several of the headliners were in attendance.  And there was some briskly swinging music provided by the talented young players of Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Band, who, along with the Calabasas HIgh School Jazz Band, will introduce the next generation of jazz to the Festival.  By the time the party was over, one could confidently say that the 2012 summer jazz season was well underway.

Programming eight hours of non-stop music a day over two consecutive days for an audience of 18,000 is a challenging task on several different levels.

Start with the fact that — with audiences that size — there will understandably be far ranging opinions about what constitutes good jazz.  And, for that matter, about what constitutes jazz at all.  The only solution is to provide a mixed musical banquet, with something for many different tastes.  Complicate that goal with logistics impacted by travel and booking schedules, which can find many desirable performers in Michigan, Miami or Moscow in the middle of June.  And add to that the practical need to include enough certified headliners to fill all of the 18,000 seats.

To Darlene Chan’s credit, she’s succeeded in doing all of that, year after year.  And, looking at this year’s line-up — reaching from Christian McBride’s Big Band and the smooth jazz stylings of Boney James to Ramsey Lewis’ Electric Band and Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project — it’s a safe wager that she’s making it all happen once again.

For more information about the 34th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival, click HERE.

Here’s this year’s line up for the Festival, which takes place June 16 & 17 at the Hollywood Bowl:

Saturday, June 16

Christian McBride Big Band

Boney James

Ozomatli

Sheila E.

Sharon Jones & the Dapp Kings

The Soul Rebels

The Global Gumbo All-Stars

The Cos of Good Music

Sunday, June 17

Ramsey Lewis

Robin Thicke

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Keb' Mo'

Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project

The Cookers

Spectrum Road

Chico Trujillo

K G Omulo



News/Preview: The 54th Monterey Jazz Festival

April 21, 2011

By Michael Katz

This is the time of year when Monterey Jazz Festival diehards pour over the newly released lineup, plotting strategy for seeing as many of the 500 + artists spread over six venues as humanly possible. This year’s 54th Monterey Jazz Festival, September 16-18, promises to be one of the best.

To begin with, the Main Arena schedule is loaded.

Hiromi

Friday night’s show opens with the sublime Japanese pianist Hiromi and her trio, followed by Radio Deluxe guitarist John Pizzarelli’s quartet featuring his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey and his dad Bucky. Anchoring the show will be Poncho Sanchez with special guest, Monterey favorite Terence Blanchard, doing a tribute to Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie. The Grounds venues include Richard Bona and Raul Midon in the first of two appearances, featured artist Robert Glaspar in a piano trio setting, young pianist Helen Sung and Portuguese singer Carmen Souza.

Saturday afternoon is the blues/funk/roots program. Last year Trombone Shorty took over the festival and this year the main stage features “An Afternoon in Treme” with Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Kermit Ruffins, and others, followed by Huey Lewis and the News. If the place is still standing it’ll be back to jazz at night, with a promising slate that begins with pianist Geri Allen and Timeline featuring tap dancer Maurice Chestnut in the commissioned piece, a tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr.

Joshua Redman

Artist –in– Residence Joshua Redman is next with his James Farm group, and Herbie Hancock closes out the show. Meanwhile, on the Grounds stages, you can check out sax greats Donnie McCaslin and Chris Potter, who is playing with bassist Scott Colley, as well as singer Pamela Rose and many others.

Sunday afternoon is devoted to the Next Generation, and a special shout out to local L.A. schools. The L.A. County School for the Arts won the big band competition for the third year in a row and will be performing on the main stage, and also has a vocal ensemble performing on the grounds; Hamilton High has a combo group, Cal State Long Beach and USC both have big bands performing.  The more pop oriented Sunday afternoon stage show features India.Arie and Israeli Idan Raichel on their Open Door Tour.

Bruce Forman

One of the festival highlights is always the late afternoon ensembles at the Garden Stage, which this year feature sax player Tia  Fuller and guitarist Bruce Forman with Cow Bop, a country/jazz/swing group. Singer/pianist Judy Roberts and Greg Fishman on sax perform throughout the festival on the small Yamaha stage.

Sunday night on the main arena begins with a Miles Davis/Gil Evans retrospective, featuring music from Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain and Miles Ahead,  featuring Terence Blanchard, Peter Erskine and Miles Evans.

Sonny Rollins

Many of us in SoCal saw this performance at the Hollywood Bowl two years ago, so our eyes will shift to the Night Club on the grounds, where pianist Benny Green and his trio will team with saxophonist Donald Harrison for a program of Monk Music. The annual B-3 blowout is also taking place in Dizzy’s Den, with Wil Blades opening, followed by Joey DeFrancesco with special guest Bobby Hutcherson.  Pianist Eldar is at the more intimate Coffee House.  The one and only Sonny Rollins closes things out on the main stage.

Exhaustion follows, but at that point, who cares?

Joshua Redman photo by Tony Gieske.


News: Sam Cooke’s 80th — January 22, 2011

January 15, 2011

Had he lived, Sam Cooke would be 80 on January 22, 2011.  Though his tragic death, at the age of 33, deprived successive generations of new music from Cooke, known as ‘the man who invented soul,’ his legacy and influence endure. A feature film biography, based on Peter Guralnick’s critically acclaimed book Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, is in development.

His own catalog of original recordings continues to connect with music consumers who are now offered the possibility of hearing the core of his catalog in high-resolution digital audio by agreement between ABKCO Records and HDTracks.  Four albums, Sam Cooke at the Copa, Keep Movin’ On, Ain’t That Good News and the career-encompassing compilation Portrait of a Legend 1951 – 1964 are soon to be available for download in 88.2kHz/24bit audio. Next month, The GRAMMY Museum® in Los Angeles will exhibit artifacts that reflect Cooke’s life and music in celebration of  his 80th year.

In 1986, 25 years after his passing, Cooke was among the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, alongside Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly.  His transition from gospel music to R&B and rock ‘n’ roll was the template followed by soul/urban performers for the past 60 years.

Cooke’s songwriting has stood the test of time with versions of his classic repertoire performed and released over the years by such notable artists as John Lennon, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Seal, The Animals, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Luther Vandross, Bobby Womack, R. Kelly and countless others.

Rod Stewart recently told Rolling Stone, “To explain what Sam Cooke meant to me, it would take a couple of hours just to scratch the surface. The man basically introduced me to soul music. The first time I heard him, his music hit me like a thunderbolt and just slapped me around the head. I was 15 years old, and he changed my life.”

Aretha Franklin noted, “Sam was a singer’s singer who strongly influenced many male vocalists.  He was loved, respected and revered by artists in the pop and gospel field of music, as well as by his audience, as a unique and extraordinary artist and human being.”

“Sam Cooke is somebody other singers have to measure themselves against, and most of them go back to pumping gas!” quipped Keith Richards while Muhammad Ali succinctly stated, “Sam Cooke was the world’s greatest rock-and-roll singer…the greatest singer in the world!”

Perhaps, Sam Cooke’s most influential song is “A Change Is Gonna Come” which eloquently decried racial discrimination.  On the night he was elected President, Barack Obama, clearly was profoundly aware of the song when he invoked its central them stating, “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

The legacy of Sam Cooke will be celebrated throughout 2011 with many radio, retail and online promotions. Check ABKCO Records for updates.

Courtesy Bob Merlis/ABKCO.


News: SFJAZZ Builds A Home

May 6, 2010

By Don Heckman

SFJAZZ today announced that long-anticipated plans to build a permanent home for the 28-year old San Francisco organization have finally come to fruition.  The SFJAZZ Center will be located in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, at 205 Franklin Street, a few blocks from Davies Symphony Hall and the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center.

SFJAZZ Center

Architect Mark Cavagnero has designed a 35,000 square ft. transparent structure that he describes as “the first free standing building, that I’m aware of, that’s designed specifically for jazz.”  The facility will include a large performance space created with both the pure acoustics and the unique, up-close visibility of jazz programs in mind.  “We want the artists,” continues Cavagnero, “to feel the energy and the excitement of the room….We want the audience to feel like they’re in it together with the musicians.  Like a large version of someone playing in the living room at a friend’s house.”

SFJAZZ Center Performance Space

The facility will also contain a smaller performance venue, a café/restaurant, classrooms and educational spaces and offices for the SFJAZZ organization.  In addition, the Center will provide a new home for the stellar players of the SFJAZZ Collective.

An on-going capital campaign to raise $60 million for construction of the Center has been led by an anonymous $20 million dollar contribution.

“Being truly an institution,” says Randall Kline, founder and Executive Artistic Director of  SFJAZZ, “means bricks and mortar.  It means having a place that people know to be the place that SFJAZZ lives.  The real reason that we’re doing this, and why we believe people should be joining us in supporting this building, is because it’s culture for the 21st century.  We want this to be something that embodies the spirit of jazz.”

Computer renderings of the SFJAZZ Center provided by SFJAZZ and Mark Cavagnero Associates.


News: Jimi Hendrix’s personal items arrive at the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian

April 28, 2010

By Don Heckman

Some unique Jimi Hendrix items have arrived at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. for the exhibition “Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture,” opening July 1. Hendrix’s grandmother was a Cherokee Indian.  The items, which were accompanied by his sister, Janie Hendrix, consist of a full-length coat made of multi-colored leather patchwork, a leather necklace and a leather pouch.

Janie Hendrix, President/CEO Experience Hendrix, LLC. Tim Johnson (Mohawk) Associate Director for Museum Programs, National Museum of the American Indian

According to the Museum, the coat must have been a Hendrix favorite, “as seen from the deep creases around the elbows, dark demarcation sweat lines and well-worn hem.”  The garment hasn’t been displayed before, and photographs have not previously been published.

Other Hendrix items scheduled to be in the exhibition include a reproduction of the Fender Stratocaster he performed with at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and a reproduction of a Gibson Flying V guitar with artwork that appeared on the original – two of the dozens of guitars that Hendrix reportedly possessed at the time of his untimely death in September, 1970.

For more information about the exhibition, click here: National Museum of the American Indian.

Photos by Katherine Fogden, Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.


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