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.


Op-Ed: Bob Dylan’s Appeal From One Generation To Another.

June 4, 2012

Times Have Changed

By Devon Wendell

On Tuesday, May 29th, President Obama presented Bob Dylan with the Medal Of Freedom — designated as the nation’s highest civilian honor — at the White House.   Obama’s comments at the ceremony about Dylan’s influence on his life and American culture were the typical “Voice of a generation” spiel that Dylan himself has rejected throughout his 50-year career. This got me thinking about the vast differences between Dylan’s appeal to the baby-boom generation who witnessed him first (like President Obama) and my generation, which followed.

I’m 37, and I recall viewing Dylan first on the “We Are The World” video. His phrasing was off, his tone nasal, and I thought it was the worst sound I had ever heard. My Mom drilled into me that this man “changed the world for us.” But I shrugged it off, and that was it until high school.

I attended a Quaker school in Brooklyn which was run by some aging hippies who were downright obsessed with the ‘60s culture they grew up in. The school’s Principal even had Allen Ginsberg come and read “Howl” on two separate occasions in front of the entire staff and student body.

I was already a stubborn purist who had discovered blues and jazz at the age of ten and looked down on rock and folk music. At that time, I didn’t even like The Beatles or The Stones. For me it was all about Muddy Waters, Son House and Albert King, as well as Miles, Bird, Monk, Coltrane, Ellington, and Rollins. I also liked Motown, James Brown, and Jimi Hendrix, whom I’ve never considered to be a Rock n’ Roller.

I was a young, budding musician and believed rock and folk lacked originality and richness and was geared towards teeny-boppers and the pop-charts.  There was nothing remotely interesting about The Byrds or Peter, Paul and Mary to me.

The few friends I was able to collect shared my musical views and taste.

We also had resentments towards our parents and teachers. (The irony is not lost here.)

One summer afternoon, a few friends dropped by my house to hear me practice my electric guitar, listen to records, and sneak some wine.  One of them had brought a tape compilation of Bob Dylan songs.

I was weary because this kid also liked punk, which I found boring and stupid.  He knew I had a chip on my shoulder and liked the sound of rage or just being fed-up.  Howlin’ Wolf singing “I’m Gonna Leave You Woman Before I Commit A Crime” — that was real to me. When I saw the kid had a Dylan tape, I instantly thought of whining hippies in the mud, flowers, and unicorns.

After some arguing, I finally let him play the tape and I couldn’t believe what I heard.  The music was fantastically snarling and evil. “You’ve got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend,”  “You’re an idiot babe. It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe,”  “How does it feel to be on your own?” “Forget the debt you left, they will not follow you,” etc.  Most of the music was set to Chicago blues or music I could relate to, so that got me too. It was clear that Dylan loved and understood American roots music and was proud of it at a time when it was being co-opted by The British Invasion.

I loved everything I heard. This wasn’t the “Times They Are a-Changin’” Dylan that my teachers and my mother spoke of.  This was a big middle finger to the world.

My friend proceeded to show me bootleg videos of Dylan’s press conferences from 1965 following the release of “Highway 61 Revisited,” in which Dylan was chain smoking, dismissive to the press, and seemed emotionally disengaged.  My pal also told me the story of how Dylan had stood up in front of  The Emergency Civil Liberties Union in 1963, a month after the assassination of JFK and declared, “There is no difference between the left and right anymore,” and that he wouldn’t be some musical puppet for anyone’s political agendas.

Suddenly Dylan seemed as rebellious and complex to me as Charles Mingus. I started really listening to Blood On The Tracks, Blonde On Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, and Oh Mercy. I identified with the way he viewed the world as being hideously absurd, rejecting old notions of how to live and think, and most importantly the way he viciously struck back at heartbreak. With pen and tongue he relentlessly did it in a way that was both harsh and beautiful.

I felt the pain and necessity in that brutality that stemmed from his sorrows. At the same time, where you had the viciousness of “Idiot Wind,” “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” you also had “If You See Her, Say Hello,” “A Simple Twist Of Fate” and “Ramona,” in which Dylan wasn’t afraid to show his vulnerability.

That dichotomy of the pissed off nerd poet (Boy, could I really relate to that), who even said “Fuck you” to the Pete Seegers and the growing “counter culture” of his day, and the forlorn poet, whose pained verses reflected his struggles to maintain a healthy/long lasting romance, seemed more universal than the “Blowin’ In The Wind” Dylan. Wars pass, and so do trends, but the Dylan loved by my generation tapped into the same themes as did Shakespeare, Yeats, Thomas, and Rimbaud.

This being the case, I was a little disappointed that Dylan didn’t unleash the beast at The White House when receiving the medal, voicing his disgust towards such trite ceremonies and the current political climate.  To me, his lifeless stare as the President rambled on spoke volumes – he didn’t act like someone who was completely grateful for the award. But who knows how he really feels, and does it matter?

What matters is his music, and that’s something all generations can appreciate.   Wait, that sounds too corny.  Dylan would hate it.  Ultimately the great thing about Bob Dylan is that you can’t sum him up.

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To read more posts by Devon Wendell click HERE


Brick Wahl: Keeping It Real 2

February 26, 2012

By Brick Wahl

Just realized there are still comments bouncing around on this. Don Heckman’s got clout….

My whole point in that original rant is that if things continue as they are there will be no place left to play. The jazz scene has shrunk by at least two thirds in the past ten years. Clubs literally cannot afford to book the stuff. It not only does not draw people, but it literally drives them away. People leave. They listen a bit, get bored, pay their tab and leave. More leave than don’t leave in many, if not most cases. You book jazz and you will have empty rooms. The exception is the Blue Whale, but that exists because USC is nearby and has such a strong jazz program. It’s the hang for all those kids and their friends, and for jazz fans who can’t believe there is a club booking such cool crazy shit like you can see at the Blue Whale. The downside of that is that those kids don’t buy a lot of drinks and even less food. College kids are broke, and college kids who study jazz are, um, bookish….and party they don’t. If people don’t party the club doesn’t make any money. And if clubs don’t make money they close….or change music. Even the Blue Whale complains about a lot of lousy turn outs (though they seem to be doing well whenever I’m there.) .

Brick Wahl

And, oh yeah….the Movable Feasts are big successes…but they are concerts…. They are presented as concerts, marketed as concerts, structured as concerts. Concerts have always done much better than clubs. They feature well known names from NYC or Europe. Plus the place has, I believe, student rush tickets. And most importantly of all…the Jazz Bakery does not rely on bar tabs and door money for its funding. It is supported by patrons. That’s how it stayed open all those years when no one was showing up a lot of nights. But as far as genuine jazz clubs — not performance spaces but clubs that try to feature jazz a few nights a week — well, those are disappearing fast. Vibrato makes its money off its menu. Blue Whale by being a hip college joint with a vast pool of young talent to feature.. And there’s scattered other spots that have the weekly jazz night that does well. But they are few and far between, and certainly not part of any city-wide jazz scene, a scene that existed a few years ago.

So players can say that they play for themselves and don’t worry about whether people like it or not (and I think that is the general attitude)…..but that means that within a couple years there will be virtually nowhere to play And certainly almost nowhere to play for pay. I used to fully support that attitude, I loved it. Then I noticed that all the clubs were gone.

Btw…one of the signs of the shrinking jazz scene is its fragmentation….there’s a young experimental scene that’s centered at the Blue Whale; there’s a very white mainstream jazz scene that finds a home at Vitello’s, and the black cats hang on at Nola’s and a couple other small spots. There always was a young cat-old cat divide and a white cat-black jazz divide in LA, certainly in the seven or eight years I was writing things up. I was always trying to get the scenes together more. To mix ideas, influences, players. But the opposite has occurred. I don’t know what to say about that. Except that I don’t think it’s a good thing.

Incidentally, saw Jon Mayer at a bare Desert Rose a couple Saturdays ago. He was brilliant as ever. Highly recommend seeing him there if you’re near Los Feliz on a Saturday night. And Ben Wendel and combo at a very packed Blue Whale a couple weeks ago was a thrill, man. Loved every second of it. And so sorry to see that Mssrs. Melvoin and Holloway slipped away this past week. Oh well.

OK…..I’ve run outta words…..take care everybody….

To read Brick Wahl’s Keeping It Real 1 click HERE.


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