And all that Jazz ...

by David Hill / 25 December, 2004

When I suggested some months back that jazz was perhaps out of place on Concert FM, I put a rift among the riffs. My ideas were piffle, one corres-pondent informed me. Actually, they were "piffel", which made me picture some Germanic legume. I was hate-filled, said another. I felt SOOO important.

Now, from my bunker deep in the provinces, I'd like to revisit the argument. My Christmas wish is that jazz be placed somewhere other than CFM.

Hold the piffel-pounder. Isn't the present situation, where Brubeck and Basie are squeezed in among Brahms and Bruckner and Berlioz, a bit demeaning to the noble art of improvisation?

At the moment on CFM, jazz junkies can count on 80 minutes per week - an hour of Phil Broadhurst's The Art of Jazz; and the genial Rodger Fox for 20 minutes on Upbeat! (I suspect Rodger is responsible for the !).

Afternoon Requests or morsels on Cadenza might lift the total to two hours. A couple of times, CFM has taken the bull by the horn sections, and made a jazz player Composer of the Week. That would mean a weekly total of nine hours out of 168. And it's no better on National Radio.

Currently on NZ public radio, jazz is a poor relation. It's jammed in, often incongruously. It's a token presence and, like many token presences, it gets resented or resentful. From bunker level, the solution seems clear. Jazz deserves its own station.

Elsewhere in the world, this is the norm. In the US, National Public Radio has dozens of jazz stations, from Alabama's Huntsville WJAB ("jazz nearly 100 percent, with blues and gospel") to Wisconsin and Wyoming ("Milwaukee WYMS: jazz 100 percent"). Add private or commercial stations, and wait, there's more.

Okay, the US is big. But for other countries try "Radio Jazz Stations" on the Web. Bulgaria has them. So have Denmark and India and Uganda. Laos hasn't. Australia, I hate to tell you, has over 30 listings, including one that broadcasts the Wangaratta Festival.

Try New Zealand, and you're given Radio Massey 99.4FM, Cool Blue Auckland 96.1FM (sadly, this went off air in July) and Lower Hutt's the Station 88.4FM. I can't pick up any of these outlets, which is my cultural loss, but somebody has actually gone out there and got their appetites on air. Terrific.

Having their own station(s) would give jazz enthusiasts dignity, status, a forum, an ear. Thousands of ears, in fact. Ears that at the moment may not feel like waiting for the scraps from CFM's or NatRad's plates.

So I say unto you devotees of Monk and Armstrong and those other cats: Get organised. Get politically active. Get a profile. Get your own station. Just think of what it will save you in piffel problems.

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