Geoffrey Smith leaves Jazz Record Requests

Geoffrey Smith, presenter of BBC Radio 3's Jazz Record Requests, is to leave the programme following a decision to refresh one of the BBC's oldest jazz features, writes MARK GILBERT

Geoffrey SmithBBC Radio 3 has announced that following a "collaborative decision" to "refresh" its flagship Saturday afternoon programme Jazz Record Requests presenter Geoffrey Smith will move to the midnight slot from 5 May, where he will chair a new programme titled Geoffrey Smith's Jazz.

Mr Smith says he looks forward to sustaining the style and approach he has developed in over two decades presenting JRR. His drawled, coyly inflected opening signature "He...llo" and his relaxed American accent gave the programme an unmistakeable identity that may prove hard to replace.

In a statement issued by the BBC Press Office Mr Smith is reported as saying: "This is a wonderful opportunity for me to continue to share my passion for jazz from a more personal perspective. I have so enjoyed reading listeners' letters and anecdotes for Jazz Record Requests and I hope all will join with me as I take a look at the history, performers and performances that have made jazz great."

Mr Smith swaps times with Alyn Shipton, whose Jazz Library series, axed by R3, used to fill the Saturday midnight slot. Mr Shipton will now take over JRR at the usual time of 5pm - although in the past the occasional opera performance from the New York Met has jockeyed it forward into a later position.

Jazz Record Requests was launched in the 1960s with Humphrey Lyttelton as its first presenter. Humph was followed by Jazz Journal contributors Steve Race, Peter Clayton and Charles Fox before Geoffrey Smith arrived in 1991.
There have been suggestions that the changes might reflect a bid to attract a younger audience to JRR. Andrew Kurowski, Editor of New Music and Jazz, BBC Radio 3 said: "The station continues in its commitment to broadcast a wide range of jazz programmes aimed at both jazz aficionados and listeners who are newer to the genre."

*See full interview with Geoffrey Smith on 20 years of Jazz Record Requests and its listeners in the May edition of Jazz Journal.


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Your Comments:

Posted by Graham Marlowe, 5 April 2012, 7:34 (1 of 37)

"Refresh" = dilute, dumb-down. More girl singers. You get the picture
Posted by paul acton, 15 April 2012, 20:28 (2 of 37)

After Steve Race, Ken Sykora took over for a couple of years. Everybody forgets him. Let's hope that for the new JRR, that horrible signature tune is finally replaced!
Posted by Mark Gilbert, Editor, 15 April 2012, 20:36 (3 of 37)

Thanks, Paul - look out for interview with Geoffrey Smith in May JJ.
Posted by Martin Bates, 22 April 2012, 18:06 (4 of 37)

I'll miss your knowledgeable commentary on the music & players, you'll be a hard act to follow, Geoffrey! Best of luck with the new midnight jazz slot.
Posted by Jazz-lover Jo, 28 April 2012, 14:16 (5 of 37)

What a great loss to JRR! Saturday tea-time won't be the same without Geoffrey. I hope the 'refresh' does not dumb-down as predicted above (although there are some great girl singers around...)
Posted by Lyn Richmond, 28 April 2012, 16:14 (6 of 37)

Thank you Geoffrey for all the hours of wonderful varied jazz since 1991. And thanks BBC for the Listen Again facility.
Posted by Philip Russell, 28 April 2012, 16:15 (7 of 37)

So....."the occasional N.Y. Met Opera jockeyed JRR forward into a later position", did it? Well, yes, if occasionally means frequently, and forward means backward. And Geoff Smith is to move to the midnight-slot, which is a lot better than 2 am, innit. Swingin! P.R. P.R.
Posted by Gary Walsh, 7 May 2012, 1:05 (8 of 37)

Thank you Geoffrey Smith for your wonderfully laconic presentation style over the last two decades. Looking forward to saying hel-lo your new programme. On a separate note, let's be clear that no one is under any illusion as to the true meaning of the terms "collaborative decision" and "refresh". Glad I've got plenty of Smith's Jazz Record Requests archived. :)
Posted by Mark Gilbert, Editor, 7 May 2012, 11:00 (9 of 37)

The playlist for Saturday's programme (with Mehldau and Neset) makes interesting reading in the context of the Geoffrey Smith interview in May Jazz Journal. GS says JRR is what it is and suggests 15-20 requests a week from a predominantly post sixtysomething audience. How many requests for 5 May prog and from where? Has a broader requests constituency been created in advance of the first new programme by polling a previously untapped area of the jazz community? Is a new platform being engineered in the context of pressure on R3 to reach out to new audiences (cf. the jollifications of Radio 3 Breakfast)?
Posted by Gary Walsh, 8 May 2012, 23:13 (10 of 37)

Let's not pussyfoot around this any longer, we know full well how the BBC operates. One only has to acknowledge the present level of kowtowing in effect over the upcoming jubilee to understand whose interests are truly represented. Not that I'm suggesting the old queen herself had a personal hand in the Radio 3 "refresh". Although the premise does conjure some amusing scenarios. Of course they plan to "engineer" the sound and personality of the programme from now on, as Mark Gilbert's reference to the latest playlist fairly indicates. A truer picture as to the full extent of this shall become more apparent after a few months as they attempt to make the process seem like a natural change or, as it was doubtless pitched at the meeting, organic. It would be naive to think a corporation the size of the BBC does not have an agenda of some kind of course, but one that favours an out-of-touch and biased BBC Trust and ignores its investors - its actual listeners and licence payers, of course - is one that shall be its eventual collapse. I've already suggested elsewhere that Alyn Shipton continues the truncated Jazz Library in the JRR slot. It's not as if anyone from the Trust will be listening is it?
Posted by Mike Phelan, 12 May 2012, 16:37 (11 of 37)

I've not been around at the right time to listen JRR recently but this evening I am. It's rather like being in one of those pseudo sophisticated bars of a tasteless hotel and being addressed by the smoothie who, between records, is chatting up the peroxide blond behind the bar. Please can we have Geoffrey Smith back at a reasonable time.
Posted by rod maclean, 12 May 2012, 17:05 (12 of 37)

This new chap is too bland. Just highlights how professional and refreshing GS is.
Posted by Bernie and Jenni Illien, Jersey, Channel Islands, 12 May 2012, 17:08 (13 of 37)

How can Saturday nights ever be the same? How we will all miss Geoffrey's relaxed, suave and polished commentary. "Refresh"?! "Collaborative"?! I think we all know what these clichés really mean. Miss J. Mitchell was so right: You never know what you've got 'til it's gone. Thank you Geoffrey for all these happy listening years. Now all we have to do is stay awake 'round midnight - and we will, that's for sure.
Posted by Chris Hurrey, 16 May 2012, 5:23 (14 of 37)

Peter Clayton and Geoffrey Smith made my Saturday afternoons for decades. All good things come to an end but I am sure the BBC is, as ever, lying about the real reason. Oh well, have to listen to GS with my cocoa. Good-BYE!
Posted by Mark Gilbert, Editor, 16 May 2012, 9:57 (15 of 37)

Paul Acton: Just twigged - Ken Sykora is the subject of a new film, details in the June issue of JJ and later a review. A fine guitar player in the Hot Club style - see the trailer here - and a Desert Island Discs subject in 1962, unfortunately (no surprise) not available as a BBC Listen Again but his selections are shown here, from Max Bruch to Django.
Posted by Alison Sykora, 16 May 2012, 12:30 (16 of 37)

Thank you for remembering my dad, Ken Sykora. The Man With The Jazz Guitar is playing during the Glasgow Jazz Festival at the Glasgow Film Theatre 27th and 28th June. Please go to the website for earlier dates in Ipswich and Dunoon. Five Feet Films have a copy of the original Desert Island Discs programme featuring dad and intend to offer it to the BBC for inclusion in their online series.
Posted by Mark Gilbert, Editor, 17 May 2012, 20:05 (17 of 37)

Great news that Five Feet have a copy of the Desert Island Discs with Ken Sykora. Kind regards - MG
Posted by Phil Baird, 20 May 2012, 7:35 (18 of 37)

Perhaps it's something to do with when you first started listening to JRR and my favourite was always Peter Clayton. When he died it was like losing a friend. I'll miss Geoffrey Smith's show too but he's very knowledgeable and it'll be nice to hear him stretch out a bit. Alyn Shipton is a great presenter and his Jazz Library was a return to form for the BBC's jazz programming. He'll do a great job on JRR.
Posted by David J, 1 June 2012, 1:41 (19 of 37)

After listening to the 'refreshed' programme I can only say the change was not for the better. The selection from listeners' requests just seems so dull.
Posted by Arnoud and Judy Roele, 2 June 2012, 20:37 (20 of 37)

Saturday evenings will never be the same again! We used to love 'he--llo' and that inimitable voice. Alyn Shipton is just so bland; do they really think he's going to attract younger listeners? Only one thing for it, we shall have to "listen again" to GS at a more convenient time.
Posted by Norman Churcher, 6 June 2012, 12:22 (21 of 37)

Guess I've listened to my last JRR, then. With respect to Mr Shipton, Geoffrey is irreplaceable.
Posted by Paul, 17 June 2012, 12:52 (22 of 37)

Well GS seems quite pleased with this change, however, he has now been relegated to the graveyard shift as was John Peel. An equal lack of respect by the execs at the BBC?
Posted by Doug Redfarn, 15 July 2012, 9:52 (23 of 37)

Sorry, but the decision to take GS off JRR is a mistake. All due respect to Alyn, but really, he just doesn't have the style of Geoffrey. I can remember some ten years ago that he played a blues jazz type track from one Jimi Hendrix! Good byyyyyyye
Posted by paul acton, 28 August 2012, 21:01 (24 of 37)

It's been a few months now since the introduction of the 'new' JRR, so I feel I can now comment on the content. A track by Steely Dan was played last week, this would have never been considered in the past, (I don't care if Victor Feldman and Wayne Shorter are on it, they were just there for the money). Also there seems to be much more meandering tuneless world music featured which doesn't fit the description of jazz. I don't think it's Alyn Shipton's fault. He certainly knows his subject, and his previous Jazz Library programmes were excellent. It's down to BBC manipulation. Where have all these non jazz requests suddenly come from? I'm sure nobody dared to send in such requests when the others were in charge.
Posted by Jon Betmead, 6 October 2012, 16:21 (25 of 37)

When I originally heard Alyn Shipton presenting JRR I assumed he was a stand-in for a vacationing Geoffrey Smith. Smith is a wonderful presenter..warm, charismatic, informative, humorous, irreplaceable !!! What IS going on ? Shipton sounds like a robot by comparison...& where have the track personnel listings gone ? Bring back Geoffrey immediately before Shipton's sleep inducing blandness loses all your listeners !!
Posted by Colin Taylor, 3 November 2012, 18:12 (26 of 37)

Golly, gosh, it's taken a very long time indeed to get around to realising, acknowledging the fact that Geoffrey has gone. Crikey, I want to say no, don't go, man. You have the voice, the style, the charisma for at least another twenty years. Am I getting sycophantic? No, you are just the business, one voice that lets me, let me, ride over the trad, lollopy, items that you were obliged to present in that fatherly, loving way you did. Now I have to buy a Roberts radio to ensure I can record your dulcet tones and you won't go missing. I can't have that when I might get wrecked on that desert island and I need my eight records, one of which must contain your voice. More later, let there be much more... later.
Posted by Merk Tain, 30 December 2012, 0:28 (27 of 37)

Can honestly say I Havent listened to j.r.r since heard the news that G.S had been moved to the graveyard shift..Gutted! Have the guys in charge have no idea! Refresh what! Get G.S back on! Saturday afternoons havent been the same since..Ps nothing against A.S just not the same..
Posted by L J Morris, 10 March 2013, 23:05 (28 of 37)

I can only agree with Merk Tain's comment and add that myself (aged 40) and two teenagers (aged 17 and 16) still miss Geoffrey's Jazz Record Requests dreadfully. I am sorry too that Alyn Shipton just doesn't have that lively yet chilled tone that somehow just means Saturday afternoons. We were worried something dreadful had happened to Geoffrey because why else would they change it. We love Radio 3 but JRR was one of the highlights. Genius combination.
Posted by Ronco Arsepest, 12 September 2013, 9:02 (29 of 37)

All downhill since Peter Clayton and Charles Fox - they were the real guys.
Posted by Jacquot, 8 January 2014, 20:53 (30 of 37)

JRR was a favourite programme while GS ran it. He had a warm, dynamic voice, a deep interest in his subject, and an engaging personality. Alyn is doubtless a very nice chap, but he's as dull as ditchwater, and his record choices have changed the programme so far away from what I want to listen to that I no longer do so. Thanks BBC!
Posted by Bernard Brencher, 8 February 2014, 19:07 (31 of 37)

So sorry to hear that Geoffrey Smith is leaving. Over many years I have listened to him on Jazz Record Requests And I loved the way he played so many listeners' request, many of which were some of my favourites. I remember still going to Dobell's jazz shop in Charing Cross Road and spending hours listening to some of the best of jazz. Please pass on my very best wishes to Geoff and tell him a special thank you from me. Bernie Brencher, London
Posted by Peter Richard, 27 September 2014, 16:35 (32 of 37)

Two plus years on...still miss you Geoffrey and your distinctive JRR ! AS is knowledgeable and been around for sure, but Beeb beige bland. Not only your move, but BBC continually make personality mistakes and it is getting worse...the mighty dumbdown is underway...thank God for Internet radio. Take care and thanks for twenty of the BEST JRR.
Posted by Michael Fadil, 4 October 2014, 18:51 (33 of 37)

Still enjoying the programme on Saturday afternoons after many years. Always good presenters; Peter Clayton perhaps my favourite being the best informed on the subject. This is the view of one who likes best the jazz and swing era from, say, 1900 to 1950. Enough said?!
Posted by Alan Kirkby, 1 July 2015, 18:19 (34 of 37)

Jazz record requests appears to me, that's its become a nostalgia trip for over sixties. There very little East coast, New York hard bop or jazz fusion played on this programme.By the way I'm seventy five.
Posted by Pug Horton, 6 October 2015, 7:57 (35 of 37)

Re...Top 50 Jazz Artists!!!!! What about a cut from the Sidney Bechet/Bob Wilber Wildcat recording?????
Posted by Roy stainton, 17 October 2015, 16:17 (36 of 37)

After listening to Geoffrey Smith for many years I was sorry to see him go. He played a terrific variety of music. Since Alan Shipton has taken over he has played a boring selection of music which has been monotonous. Sounds like Alan Shipton's own requests. Please bring back Geoffrey Smith as the current selection of music is utterly boring. PS - I am 77.
Posted by Pwd, 19 March 2016, 17:14 (37 of 37)

Ken Sykora -wow. Last heard his name when my mother talked about him, 50 or more years ago. Probably soon after the Desert Island discs referred to. But Peter Clayton was certainly my favourite JRR presenter. I can still hear him introducing Golden Leaf Strut.
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