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Why Do we Argue about Smooth Jazz?

  • Afraid of art form dilution

    Votes: 6 54.5%
  • Just like to argue about something

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Want to keep the "Jazz" listeners a select and small group

    Votes: 2 18.2%
  • Believe that it minimizes the greats of the past

    Votes: 3 27.3%
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615 Posts
Yeah, just as good as anything to argue about.

We don't want it popular? I don't have an easy answer. I started listening to radio about 1958... my first memories of spinning the dial and searching to see what was on the different stations and finding Elvis. If there were stations on the FM dial, there weren't that many and it didn't much matter because not many people had an FM radio. In 1967 I had a Zenith 3 transistor radio with FM and began to listen to KMPX in San Francisco. They were playing whole rock album sides. It was underground and far off the mainstream radar. That was the beginning of a big change in how music was marketed and even played and recorded.

Around '59 or '60 a station came on the air called KJAZ. It was an AM commercial station. The broadcast license cost them a couple thousand bucks at the time. I think the KMPX license cost fifteen hundred dollars. It was nothing compared to the tens of millions a license in that market is worth now.

Rolling Stone was a news rag that you could get fifty cents or a quarter or something... it was cheap, nothing. Bill Graham had started to produce big events in bigger and bigger venues. KJAZ was a total education for me... as well as listening to the three TOP 40 AM stations and the two underground rock stations. When it finally went under, it wasn't until '86 that KCSM emerged out of the San Mateo Community College broadcast arts program. That was like a breath of fresh air.

I believe KCSM is going as strong as ever and I stream it as much as I am able. Quality stuff for the most part and I have favorite DJs or shows that I try to catch. One of the DJs who started as a jazz DJ at KJAZ said on the '50s and '60s only a few new records came out each month. Now they get a hundred CDs in the studio every day.

In the '50s we had dial phones with no area codes, black and white TV on 4 channels, AM radio... that was some high tech stuff man. We bought 45s, and 33RPM records but you could still buy '78s in stores. There was really only two kinds of music... Popular and Classical. Even on Top 40 Radio you could hear Johnny Cash, the Supremes, Beatles, Stones, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles as well, and all the different covers of Louie Louie. It was all pop music.

In the '60 we had FM, Color TeeVee and push button dialing. There was the money to be made, and the media industry we have today really started to grow up and corporations began to see the money that could be made. Not necessarily a bad thing... MOTOWN? But, this is a huge subject and I don't know enough about it. I do know that radio air play became really segmented and so did the record racks as new and bigger record stores popped up.

In the '70s there was stereo and even quadrasonic four channel recordings, Shefield Labs direct to disc. Our family had reeeemote control for our new Color TeeVee and then had 2 television sets. If that wasn't cool enough there were 8 track tapes and then cassettes. I used to transcribe solos using an Ampex reel to reel machine because I could slow the tape to half and a quarter. Whee!

The '80s was cable TV, MTV and then finally CDs. Still a long way from MP3s internet, PCs, cell phones. Right! The last 25 years had been a wild ride.

So here is the deal. It's all about the money. I don't want to get into politics... but I'm jussayyin'... this bill that just passed to cut funding for public broadcasting is heart breaking. It is unfortunate that music and the arts have been caught up in the power/money games.

No matter how you label it is all just music. I don't have Sirius and think that maybe it is just against my religion to subscribe to canned programming. I know I am spoiled to have been able to have a listener supported and largely volunteer Jazz stations to listen too for the last 25 years. Not like that everywhere.

We are lucky here in Portland to have a 24 hour listener supported Jazz and Blues station KMHD (KMHD.FM) much like KCSM. The Smooth Jazz station that was here in this market died a few years ago and there isn't one now.

The air waves... our public airwaves... we own the FCC... at least that was my understanding. Practice is probably different than theory. But, bandwidth is worth lots of money, so it's kind of amazing that there is any kind of jazz or blues out of the air anywhere. Jazz ain't dead, it's getting supported with real money on a grass roots level.

But we are so in the minority as a demographic. I heard an interview with Milt Jackson and he said something like; if all you heard on the radio was, Ellington, Lester Young, Miles, Bird and Diz... everybody would dig it and support the music.
Maybe that is a good topic for discussion... Who, what happened there in the '60s/'70s for the growing music industry to bail out on jazz. Was it the public that bailed or the record companies... or something else?

Last night I went to see Pancho Sanchez Latin Jazz Ensemble. They played a whole spectrum of grooves and feels, from salsa, mambo, classic Willy Bobo, Tito Puento to soul music. Was it commercial? Yeah, was he pandering to the audience? Yeah. Was it a great show with world class musicianship? Yeah it was BADD to the bone!

"Jazz" might be really screwed up by the corporatocracy but it is by no means dead. We might look back at this time in ten years and just laugh because we have no idea what is going to blow up here next. The music is still getting played and recorded.

Chris Botti and Gerald Albright were mentioned. For me, if those guys want to be tagged in a certain kind of way to get their music heard, more power to 'em. They are both great artists and people connect with them. I have seen Chris Botti three times in like five years. His touring band kills. I saw Gerald Albright a dozen years ago too and he was really hot.

I have a high school friend that owns a successful recording studio and her own record label. Her deal now is 96KB downloads and analog recording. High resolution for acoustic artists. Hot stuff... it's a brave new world out there.

What gets marketed may have no direct relationship to good or bad. A bunch of this stuff is controlled by fat, bald guys in three piece suits, sitting in a board room trying to figure out some new angle to justify their existence to the share holders. NO?

I don't get the point of beating on different players or "styles" or music. It's a waste of time. There is so much good new stuff to listen to. And besides, jazz is live art form. Before I ever was a player, I was a music fan. I get to see Regina Carter tonight and Joshua Redman next week.
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