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The University of Hartford

“A REACH IN THE DARK”
Assessing My First 54 Days as WWUH Jazz Director

By Chuck Obuchowski

          May 24, 2001, 10:30 PM: I’m hunkered down in the WWUH business office, muttering curses and glaring blurry-eyed at a computer screen. This cluttered alcove of radio-activity is quiet tonight—save for my mumbled profanity—here in the bowels of UHa’s sprawling Harry Jack Gray Center. Having spent several hours updating jazz news for the station’s web site (http://wwuh.org), I am very ready to call it a night, just as soon as I can copy the material onto our URL. But, nooooo! The “publish” function won’t respond to my commands, no matter how many troubleshooting tricks I employ.
           
Never mind that I haven’t even started working on the ‘UH program-guide articles which I’m supposed to submit within 24 hours...nor on the weekly tally of our 50 most-played current jazz releases, due to be sent to the Gavin radio report before 6 p.m. tomorrow. During that same timeframe, I’ll have to listen to a bunch of marketing people telling me why their new musical “product” is better than all the rest; I also need to redouble efforts to publicize the concert we’re co-presenting in two weeks. And guess what...this jazz director gig isn’t even my “real” job!
           
Not surprisingly then, I’ve begun doubting my sanity of late. (I know what you’re thinking...some listeners have wondered about my state-of-mind for years!) The office chair teeters precariously as I rock, lost in fear and self-loathing. Why am I putting myself through all this nonsense? What about my family? My “free” time? A decent night’s sleep?

           
Next door (in the WWUH air studio), one of my comrades-in-sound, Maurice Robertson, is visiting with Mixishawn, a man whose uncompromising musical visions have enhanced Connecticut’s artistic environment for many years. Maurice is playing an album by Sun Ra, in acknowledgement of the late bandleader’s birth anniversary. The banshee wail of Marshall Allen’s saxophone, even channeled through tiny office-ceiling speakers, drowns out my chair’s pitiful squeaks. Mixishawn begins playing along on wooden flute. Maurice turns up the studio mike, and his radio audience is suddenly privy to a raging duet that ignores the boundaries of time and space.
           
So much for fear and self-loathing! The purity of spontaneous creation, propelled from deep within one’s spirit, pretty much obliterates any negative energy, which stands—or, in this case, squeaks—in its path. “Cleaning the slate,” John Coltrane called it.
           
Ok, so maybe I blew my complaints out of proportion; perhaps I expected too much of myself, wasn’t patient enough...I’ll get it right, sooner or later. Meanwhile, there’s no denying the simple truth: this music matters a great deal to me. And this jazz directorship is something I’ve been called to do right now. I can’t explain it rationally, any more than I could tell you why I’m mesmerized by the work of Charles Mingus, but not by that of J.S. Bach. As R & B philosopher Van Morrison once noted, “it ain’t why, why, why, why, why...it just is! ” My predecessor, J.O. Spaak, paints a rather dark picture of “The State of Jazz Today” elsewhere in this Guide. Perhaps I’m naive, but I refuse to accept his notion that jazz may soon be reduced to secret-society status...and as long as I have a voice in the matter, I’ll continue to “reach in the darkness,” delivering musical beacons to anyone willing to listen.
        

Copyright©WWUH: July/August Program Guide, 2001

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