fanatic! (the jazz edition)

I let my subscription to Live 365 lapse a couple of years back, without much regret. I missed Kyle Gann’s post-classic channel a lot, but could still get my other favorite, Bop City, on 365’s free service.

Live 365, for anyone who doesn’t know, is in the internet radio business. It gives small-timers a way to get a channel up and running, handles things like music licensing, for an ongoing fee; at the other end, it charges listeners a monthly fee for an all-access, no commercials version of the claimed 5,000+ “radio stations” which operate through its service.

In the era of Spotify and Deezer and Pandora, it’s a throwback. It really is radio by other means, and I imagine its target audience to be those of us who never quite let go of the fantasy of free form f.m., of the perfect transition from record to record, of the d.j.’s voice leading us on, of radio show as a way to get from here to somewhere else.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I’m a fan of the musician/writer/spoken word artist Henry Rollins, who also has a regular d.j. gig – at KCRW, a truly great station – and who put out several books which were essentially notes to his shows. For the music obsessive, they’re compelling reading. Rollins writes about music in what I’d describe as “fan style.” There is zero pretense to it; the writing is dead simple, and it’s really easy to get caught up in Rollins’ enthusiasm for a given band or artist.

Only thing is, I like to read about the music Rollins likes a lot more than I actually like listening to it. It’s not that he’s wrong or the music’s bad – it’s usually very good. But I’m basically a jazz guy, so my interests just lie elsewhere.

Which brings me back to Live 365, and a station I started listening to. It’s called “Jazz Note NSU,” and it’s the work of one guy – Ken Blanchard is his name – in Aberdeen, South Dakota. If you believe, as I do, that radio is about having someone else do the driving, and great radio is basically a matter of having someone great behind the wheel, then this guy qualifies. Jazz Note NSU is a mix of bop, post-bop and avant-garde and while it plays a lot of stuff I know well, it also plays a high percentage of music I’ve never heard, in many cases from bands and musicians I’ve never heard.

And here’s the best part: Blanchard has a blog to go with the channel. He writes with the same excitment for jazz that I read in Rollins, as in this passage about a Frank Lowe album:

I have been listening today to a new acquisition: Decision in Paradise (1985).  All the comments on the recording I have read describe it as “conservative”.  It is in fact a genuine exploration of the bop sentiment.  In many ways, this is my favorite kind of jazz recording: an avant garde revolutionary trying out the old whiskey.

I chose the album mostly for the band.  Don Cherry on trumpet suggests wild, but the suggestion goes wide of the mark.  Grachan Moncur III on trombone also misleads.  But I am a big fan of Moncur.  Geri Allen on piano, well, what’s not to like?  Charnette Moffett plays bass and Charles Moffett beats the skins.

I am playing the title cut and ‘You Dig!’  This is one album that you will dig.  It’s available from Amazon for about $5.  Get it and dig it.

Ok, Whitney Balliett it ain’t, but that’s just fine with me. The quoted passage makes me really want to hear the music, and there are a lot more passages like that. The blog has already pointed me towards a handful of recordings I know nothing about, which I will now check out. This is what it means to be a fan, to put your money (the Live 365 station costs money) and time into music that is made hundreds and thousands of miles away from Aberdeen, just because you love this stuff so much, you can’t keep it to yourself.

One thing: it’s been a while since the blog was updated. I hope that just means the writer is otherwise detained with his day job, and not that he’s lost heart for the project. Meantime, I’m going to give Live 365 some of my money.


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