Radio Jazz: Time To Get Sirius?

By Michael Katz

There is nothing like driving around in a remote area to underline the virtues of good music. So I’d like to say a few kind words about Sirius XM. And also Avis, whose rental car was equipped with it. I recently spent a week in Yellowstone National Park, the setting for my new novel, Dearly Befuddled.

Yellowstone is a driver’s paradise or nightmare, depending on the vagaries of bison and elk, and the tourists who want to photograph them. A typical day checking out the geyser basins, waterfalls and hiking trails involves at least several hours on the road. Thanks to Sirius, I was able to share them with Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and many others.

I’m sure those of you with functioning long term memories can remember when driving across lonesome stretches of the West meant searching through the vast emptiness of AM radio, where the choices were country music, country music, Jesus, Jesus en Espanol, country music en Espanol, and a fading baseball game from Mars. Sirius offers something for everyone, and multiple versions of it. There are several jazz channels, but Channel 67 (Real Jazz) seemed to be more Straight Ahead, as the late, great DJ Chuck Niles would have said. In addition to Miles and Stan and Freddie, my relatively brief sampling had favorites such as Stanley Turrentine, Hank Mobley, Dave Brubeck, as well as current names like Warren Wolf, Marcus Miller, the Clayton Brothers and Roy Hargrove.   The DJs, including Miller and Mark Ruffin, are knowledgeable, although chat is at a minimum. There are live recordings of concerts, too, from Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center.

I’ve got to admit it is pretty amazing to walk  away from the eruption of Giant Fountain Geyser and listen to Shirley Horn sing “I’ve Got The World On A String.”

Giant Fountain Geyser

Or drive away from the Black Sand Basin as Jackie Terrason plays “Smile.”

Black Sand Basin

Then there is the question, what do you do while you are stuck in traffic, while, unknown to you, a bison is playing Grand Marshal to the Road To West Yellowstone Parade.

I am somewhere behind the bison.

The answer is, you switch to B.B. King’s Bluesville on Channel 70 and listen to Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Doug MacLeod. “Got them Wanderin’ Bison, Rubberneck Tourist Blues.” The time just flies by, really.

This begs the question, should I pay up and subscribe at home. I’ve tried to be loyal to our local station, KJazz 88.1. I understand the importance of a local station, promoting local players and events (if only…). In Kjazz’s defense, they cannot run separate channels for blues and smooth jazz as Sirius does. But in the end, we all vote with our feet (or our index fingers). And Kjazz needs to spend more time with current and/or local artists, and less time recycling the same hackneyed playlist over and over.

In the meantime, if you are hitting the road, don’t leave home without Sirius.

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.

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