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Swing to the Net
Digby Fairweather defends Internet jazz radio
In February’s Jazz Journal – one of the most revealing issues I’ve seen in some time – it was fascinating to see two respected commentators (and good friends) coming at radio jazz from two inadvertently opposing corners.
“On the BBC,” wrote Alan Luff, “there is no regular outlet for jazz of any kind.” And for sure, since the demise of Radio 2’s The Best of Jazz, no weekly BBC programme exists which covers – as Humphrey Lyttelton’s did – the entire span of recorded jazz history from (approximately) Freddy Keppard to Zoe Rahman.
As a decade-long BBC presenter, I knew (and suspect I still do) that (a) fixed proportional statistics for on-air representation of specialist art forms are set in stone within Portland Place and that (b) petitions for such issues – including one recent one instigated by Chris Walker, incorporating over six-hundred signatures, and requesting an on-air restoration of The Best Of Jazz by a responsible, informed presenter (Steve Voce or Alan Luff would have been perfect choices) – receive at best a brief glance, followed by consignment to the office shredder.
This is an issue all to itself. Throughout the jazz worlds of not only broadcasting but education – and in some respects performance too – there is a fast-diminishing population of commentators (and therefore listeners) who know and appreciate, say, the joyful differences between Herman Autrey and Bill Coleman, Goodman and Shaw, Gene Sedric and Chu Berry or even perhaps Roy Eldridge and Henry ‘Red’ Allen.
Steve Voce’s views on Internet radio jazz presentation were as ever both illuminating as they were frank. I agree with Steve about almost everything but wonder – on this one occasion – if he may have counter-reacted a little too quickly to what is, in essence, a fledgling source of jazz communication. Internet radio – still in its birth-pain complications – is very probably (unlike DAB) the medium of the future.
In my view, truly qualified commentators should grasp this new medium even if minimal financial investments are (for now) necessary and fees must – for the time being again – be foregone. To restore knowledge of the differences I mention above I would happily work for nothing, as do a number of acknowledged jazz authorities for UK Jazz Radio, a new and thriving British radio station on the Internet. Surely our music deserves this kind of service in its honour and in the interests of its authentic preservation?