This is the third part of a three-part series reminiscing on how I got started with contemporary jazz 20 years ago and highlights since. Part one is here; part two here.
Eventually, I graduated from the University of Missouri but still stayed on as a volunteer announcer for KBIA for some time. I think at some point the evening contemporary jazz show was put to rest and I didn’t want to stay on for programming that didn’t interest me as much. It wasn’t long before I missed it. At the same time, I started learning this new way to make content for this thing called the World Wide Web. In 1995, I learned HTML, got a web host and created my first GIF. cJazz: The Contemporary Jazz Site was launched in January 1996. I recall it being one of the first 16 jazz sites indexed by Yahoo! (people added sites manually then; there was nothing like Google yet). I’ll never forget how I quickly received 15 email messages about the site and about half were outside the U.S. It really put the world in World Wide Web. I remember an email exchange with Rob Mounsey, getting a nice message from a doctor in Italy, and meeting Suzy Cline who was running a jazz hub called Jazz Stuff.
Most labels weren’t sure or unaware of the Web then but Randall Kennedy at Warner Bros. knew the deal. I think he had a WB Jazzspace site going earlier than other jazz labels. Michael Ricci launched AllAboutJazz.com, now the top jazz site on the Web. Larry Rosen, Dave Grusin, and Jon Diamond founded Jazz Central Station. Morrice Blackwell launched JazzReview.com, still a top jazz site to visit.
I spent five years building up ContemporaryJazz.com (I’d bought the domain name soon after the site launched). I worked on it almost every day for most of those years. Due to a major change in my life and some burnout, I sold the site in 2001. I later regretted that decision and was happy to be able to get the site back a couple of years ago. I won’t be giving it up again.
This is the second part of a three-part series reminiscing on how I got started with contemporary jazz 20 years ago. Part one is here.
KBIA-FM, one of the top NPR stations in the country, had an evening contemporary jazz program that would have a life-altering affect. One night, I won a GRP sampler in a giveaway. When I went to the station to pick it up, I started talking with the music director and I guess I got talked into doing a tryout for the show. I had no broadcast experience. I remember a pronunciation sheet that taught me how to say Metheny and Corea. I gave it a try and before I knew it, I had a FCC license and was on the air from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Having unlimited access to contemporary jazz was a dream come true. I’d come in to listen to (and later get to participate in) calls from record label promoters the music director was taking. Fellow students and the KBIA staff would joke that they should be a cot in the studio for me since I would always cover for people. Eventually, the music director trusted me to help select the music. That was so awesome for me. To this day, I still am compelled to share music I like with people, which is why there is ContemporaryJazz.com Radio. That music director, Darren Hellwege, became a good friend. He was the best man at my wedding! The program director at that time was the organist. My time working at KBIA is a treasured part of my life. My next contemporary jazz highlight would also be in the media field: the World Wide Web!
My contemporary jazz journey began 20 years ago, in college. In 1989, I was dating a girl who listened to contemporary jazz. She had cassettes of Spyro Gyra’s Point of View and David Sanborn’s A Change of Heart in her blue Honda. I was a bit familiar with modern jazz (a high school classmate had Light Years by the Chick Corea Elektric Band) but not knowledgeable. She and her mother and me took me to an Earl Klugh concert in St. Louis (he was touring behind his Solo Guitar recording). I was completely infatuated with this girl and I wanted to experience everything she enjoyed. When the relationship fell apart, I took an even stronger interest in the music because I didn’t want that part to end. I started buying Jazziz magazine. Based on the issue I bought (the one spotlighting the Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown! compilation), I bought cassettes of the latest from Grover Washington, Jr. and Fattburger. I’d listen to these on my Walkman while serving as a student worker at the student loans department. Little did I know of the life-changing event coming soon.
There’s a handful of DVD and Blu-ray releases coming out this summer that jazz fans might be interested in. A Blu-ray version of Jamiroquai’s excellent 2003 Live at Montreux is on its way. New Morning concerts by Yellowjackets and Mike Stern are coming out on both DVD and Blu-ray. Go through the carousel below to see what else you can expect!
It’s hard to believe Michael Jackson is dead at the age of 50. I always imagined him having a comeback of sorts. A time when he rose above all the weirdness and rumors and reminded us why he was on top in the 80s. I just thought he had more to contribute. A last chapter on a high note.
From Herbie Hancock:
This is an unbelievable tragedy, first of all for his family, for his devout fans, for the world of music and for the world of culture. Michael was one of the most diligent creators. His passion flowed through every pore of his being. His sense of invention was unparalleled. Who else could have thought of the moonwalk and who else could have created such a unique sense of movement in dance. His contribution to music and music videos; Off the Wall, Thriller, We are the World are expressions of his consummate talent. Above all his compassion for serving humanity and desire to uplift and encourage excellence are etched in his legacy.
He changed the world.
From Quincy Jones:
For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don’t have the words. He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.
I’ve been a fan of Hiroshima for a long time. I love contemporary jazz. I love Japanese arts, culture, and society. It’s been a natural fit. I’ve been recommending The Best of Hiroshima compilation for a long time. It’s been the best compilation of their music from their earlier recordings. It’s also been their only compilation…until now. The band is celebrating 30 years in the recording industry with a retrospective called Legacy. Legacy is eleven of the band’s more familiar songs from their first decade, re-recorded by the band’s current lineup. Led by founders Dan Kuramoto (on saxophone) and June Kuramoto (on koto), Legacy reminds you how their East Meets West sound became so popular (two of their first five records went gold). The songs are nicely balanced between faithful renditions and reworked versions that sound like what they might have created for live performances. I don’t know if Hiroshima’s old label is keeping Best of Hiroshima in circulation so I’m happy the band included some original arrangements. Tracks like “Turning Point,” “Thousand Cranes,” “One Wish,” and “I’ve Been Here Before” stand the test of time. The updated, extended version of “Another Place” works for me. “Hawaiian Electric” stays a little too familiar at first (the 80s keyboard sound could have been left behind) then goes salsa. Appropriately omnipresent is June, who plays the koto as beautifully as ever.
Dan Kuramoto sums up Legacy best: “I would like to think that there’s a heart and a voice within this music that doesn’t go out of style,” he says. “These songs are as fresh and meaningful to us today as they were the first time they were recorded. They’re not of a particular genre. They are our musical heart. They shift gears from Japanese to jazz to salsa to R&B and beyond. Throughout each piece, you can hear the echoes of all the experiences that have influenced us along the way.”
Look for Legacy from Hiroshima out on August 18 on the Heads Up label.
In unsurprising but still disheartening news, JazzTimes has stopped publishing. According to the web site, print publishing will resume when a sale is closed. In today’s economy and with information being instantly available online, I don’t know how any niche magazines or newspapers are able to keep going. I’m especially baffled by Jazziz, whose high price is for a sampler CD? Who is paying for a sampler CD when you can sample full-length tracks on sites like Lala? Oops – just read that Jazziz is now quarterly. Their web site has its subscription link disabled. Will the venerable Down Beat (celebrating 75 years of publication!) be the last magazine standing?
Sadly, JazzTimes has stiffed some contributors. Howard Mandel wrote about this today. Here’s hoping those writers and photographers will be able to get their pay.
I started a discussion on jazz magazines last October. Feel free to drop by The Forum and share your thoughts.
Four musicians, each from a different country, got together to record music in NYC in April. The thing is: they didn’t write any music. They improvised everything. This isn’t like some of the free jazz I’ve heard. It’s modern. It’s got my interest. Check out the teaser below. I think you’ll want to learn more too.
You’ve read a bit about it and heard cuts from it. Now you can win your own copy of the new live recording by the Gary Burton Quartet (Burton, Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow, and Antonio Sanchez)! I’ve got three CDs to give away. Just post a comment below! Don’t forget to include an email address for me to contact you for a mailing address if you’re a winner. This contest ends ended June 5. Good luck!