Now they're telling us we're going to hear jazz in a whole new big way on the radio. That is . . . if we subscribe to it (for $9.99 a month). Or if we buy a new Cadillac: the new line comes equipped with XM. Jazz specials are on the horizon on XM for spring 2002.
Wynton Marsalis can brag about XM's allure -- ask him what it sounds like. The XM Satellite Radio people presented him with a portable $299 Sony Plug and Play unit to get him equipped in his West Side Manhattan apartment to hear higher quality radio jazz. ("I don't have a car. If I had one, I'd have XM in it,"he told me.) And along with John Pizzarelli (the voice of "Meet Me at Foxwoods") Marsalis is recording jingles for XM. After the press luncheon at B.B. King's blues club the other day on 42nd St., Wynton dashed out the door to record a segment for what the promo folks call "Amazing Radio"at NYC's XM facility in the Steinway building, 111 W. 57th St.
"It's a huge boon for jazz fans and potential jazz fans. We have five varieties of jazz, 24 hours a day,"boasted Lee Abrams, chief programming officer, as we feasted on prime rib and the trimmings. Sounds like Jazz 101, moving from what some were calling "Diet Jazz"on up. Hey, what brings in more jazz fans could be good for jazz journalists! We heard that it's a lot different than airlines' jazz: the satellite radio version is continuous and does not repeat itself. Outside awaited our demo convertibles curbside, where we could get in, listen to our ear's content, and find out what XM can do for our jazz heads.
Actually, my friend Jerry Walker, who does the media column for Jack Odwyer's PR newsletter, did just that -- heard the XM spiel -- after the press conference on XM's "launch day,"while I stayed for Marsalis to be interviewed for 15 minutes practically right under my nose downstairs at B.B. King's by Jonathan Schwartz on "Frank's Place,"available nationwide at Channel 73 on XM. We heard the sounds of Judy Garland with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra doing "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart."
One journalist, Walter Salm, editor, www.us-tech.com, commented to me from the next table, when I asked him what he thought about all this: "I think it sounds fabulous to get a better sound on the radio. I love to listen to 'Ole Blue Eyes.' Having spent a lot of time on the road in my life, I can tell you there's very little out there." Well, do you think this XM will be an improvement? "Absolutely. I've gotten it installed in my motor home. I'm a person who doesn't like to be away from my music."Salm and Abrams were certainly in agreement. "Public radio and XM are the only things I can stand listening to,"said Abrams. "It's a wasteland out there." Pushing his XM product, Abrams continued, "On XM, it's real people doing real things. We're on 100 'living, breathing' radio stations coast-to-coast."
Quincy Jones is also a member of XM's "family of artists,"said Abrams. "Quincy is in on a lot of the brain-storming sessions we're having, creating specials on the history of the music." Abrams said Quincy is involved in producing a 12-hour special for XM in the spring of 2002 on the history of 20th Century music, including jazz, rock, and rap. Marsalis, he said, was also recording segments for shows pertaining to jazz for the radio.
Marsalis was asked by Schwartz whether "all the good jazz stopped after Charlie Parker,"and he answered that "there are a lot of good players out there,"citing one, for instance, Marcus Roberts, who plays "in a style nobody plays in." Marsalis told Schwartz that a lot of jazz musicians need to get better and listen more to the "greats"and the "masters" who came before them. They also discussed ways of making listening to jazz more interesting to teenagers. "We need to make sure we progress and invite them into what we are doing." He said 16-year-olds are "not interested in being talked down to."
After the Marsalis interview, Schwartz stopped by my table to chat; we discussed the songs ("Dancing in the Dark,""By Myself,""Alone Together") that his father Arthur Schartz, who died in 1984, had written with Howard Dietz. XM Radio was airing the trumpet sounds of Wynton playing "Stardust."
According to Abrams, the jazz programming directors include Max Maxmirick ("a real jazz afficionado"), Steve Stiles, Russ Davis and Bill Evans (not the jazz musician).
"With no 24-hour outlet in New York City where you can hear jazz regularly on commercial radio right now, I hope we'll be welcomed," Abrams said. His colleague, Dave Logan, vp program operations, said he hopes XM takes off, as well, around the country, where in many cities, traditional jazz on radio is rare.
Carla Rupp enjoyed reporting on this event, and is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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