Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tuned Out

Complaining about terrestrial radio in 2020 is akin to railing against the decimation of the typewriter industry in 1990.  It’s a hopelessly irrelevant subject.  Yet I continue to see musicians and jazz institutions pouring time and money into the sham.

The enterprise is a Potemkin village erected by duplicitous publicists and brazen programmers.  Examine the total weekly plays and the corresponding number of stations on the most prominent chart.  Furthermore, the majority of the reporting stations are obscure.  Only one of the stations occasionally featuring jazz in the Kansas City market even registers as a blip in the ratings.

The content of the jazz chart is even more jarring.  There’s nothing wrong with any of the individual albums.  I happen to love a few of the recordings in the current Top 50.  Yet taken collectively, the grouping presents a picture of jazz as a fossilized remnant of the past.

At a time when innovative and socially relevant jazz is being made by the likes of Ambrose Akinmusire, Terri Lyne Carrington, Robert Glasper, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Matana Roberts, the anodyne tone of the majority of jazz radio programming (there are, of course, plenty of wonderful exceptions to the bland predictability) is designed to pacify rather than inspire active engagement.  Maybe it’s a good thing so few people hear it.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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