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The University of Hartford

Jazz Programming at WWUH:
Nine Different Perspectives

By Chuck Obuchowski

            If you listen regularly to WWUH’s jazz programs (M-F, 9 a.m.-noon and Tu-F, 9 p.m.-midnight), then you already know the deal. However, if you’re new to the station or haven’t tuned in to hear jazz before, you may be surprised at the uniqueness of each hosts show. Since this station began broadcasting from the University of Hartford in July 1968, it has remained a bastion of free expression—artistic, social and political. We were “avant-garde” and “alternative” long before those adjectives had been co-opted by ad agencies in order to sell trendy merchandise.   
           
At present, the WWUH jazz roster clearly reflects this tradition of free expression; every one of our nine volunteer announcers selects the music, the topics and the type of presentation his program will feature. No one is told which recordings or what style of jazz he must play; no one is instructed what to say, or what not to say, during his three-hour slot. Consequently, no two jazz shows on WWUH sound exactly alike; each program has its own personality, and each emphasizes slightly different branches of the jazz family tree.  Many of our jazz hosts have been with the station for over a decade, a strong testament to their commitment to the music.
           
Since jazz is the primary focus of the current WWUH program guide, we’ve encouraged each of our jazz programmers to offer a few words about his show. These pieces are listed in order of each program’s appearance during our weekly schedule. 

Monday Morning Jazz—Dean Hildebrandt

            I feature mostly mainstream jazz from the 1940s to the present, including Latin jazz, but excluding free jazz, fusion and “smooth” jazz. I program a wide variety of artists—from new releases, and from the station’s extensive jazz library—in a balanced mix of trios, quartets, combos, big bands and vocals. I sometimes include music of well-known artists who are appearing locally, and of artists whose birthdays fall on the show date. Requests are welcome, and are usually played during the last half of my program.
           
I’m actively involved with music, playing saxophone in several local bands.

Tuesday Morning Jazz: “Out Here & Beyond”—Chuck Obuchowski

            My show title includes a veiled reference to Out There, a recording by one of my all-time favorite improvisers: Eric Dolphy. As for the “Here” appellation of my show title, I make it a point to salute the many wonderful musicians, events and venues in our region—and to play recordings by local artists and by artists visiting the area. I frequently conduct interviews with such artists, usually at 10 a.m.
           
I favor music, which ventures “Beyond” the standard repertoire, beyond pop schmaltz, beyond nostalgic retreads of past styles. To maintain its vitality, jazz has always engaged improvisation and the willingness to explore new sonic directions. To that end, I devote a major portion of every program to new releases, with an emphasis on independent artists and those musicians who allow their creative impulses free reign.
 

Tuesday Accent on Jazz—Peter Michaelson

            I play tenor saxophone, and I tend to feature tenor players on my show. Tenor men like Paul Gonsalves, Warne Marsh and Von Freeman get played on Tuesday nights. During a recent program, I alternated the music of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins with Bing Crosby’s versions of the same tunes. For listeners who love/hate Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra, I play them too!
           
Be sure and tune in on Tuesday, August 28 for a special Lester Young/Charlie Parker show. Since Pres was born on the 27th, and Bird was born on the 29th, the date is a natural. I will include interviews and rare recordings by these two masters.           

Wednesday Morning Jazz—Bob Celmer

All forms of jazz are appreciated, but Latin is my ultimate. It's passionate and exciting, yet thought provoking and expressive. I enjoy creating three hours of music as a spontaneous process. Each set begins like a blank canvas, with an idea or an inspiration. From there some aspect of the piece will be threaded - the particular instrumentation, the rhythmic pattern, or perhaps that all the musicians happen to be female - and find another selection that weaves in just right (always in search of the perfect segue). From set to set a lot of styles are touched upon - from bebop to vocals to big band to contemporary to ragtime to fusion to blues. This is partly because it's all wonderful music, and mostly because I don't think I would choose to listen exclusively to any one jazz genre for three hours straight! There are three hallmarks: First, the request lines are always open. This policy reinforces my notion that the listeners are as eclectic as our jazz library; plus, it's a great opportunity to learn constantly about additional great names in jazz. Second, during the 10 O'clock hour there is a set called the Meditative Moment. This is a "jazz meets ambience" pause for relaxing, for intro-spection, for whatever spiritual refreshment the music provides. Can jazz really be contemplative? Try Lyle Mays' "Closer to Home" on his first solo album - you'll see what I mean. Thirdly, the 11 O'clock hour has the Fantasy Interlude. Make no mistake about it: nothing beats jazz for romance! Here the listener gets a double scoop of the most sensuous and concupiscent jazz selections I can find. Our listeners can create a much more original "music video" in their own minds than could ever be seen on cable! This set of music serves as the catalyst.

Wednesday “Accent on Creative Music”—Maurice D. Robertson

            I’ve been a jazz music announcer at WWUH since October 1976. My format is all-inclusive, i.e. straight-ahead, Afro-Cuban, avant-garde and hip-hop. I try to connect the various time-periods and innovations in improvisation. To spice up the mix, I present artist interviews and birthday specials, and I’ll take sensitive music requests, as well.
Editor’s note: Besides his contributions to the Connecticut airwaves, Maurice has also earned a reputation as one of our State’s best jazz photojournalists. His body of work—spanning over two decades—serves important historical and artistic purposes, providing extensive visual documentation of the region’s jazz community.

 Thursday Morning Jazz—Mark Channon

            My interest in the world of radio began many years ago; I attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, graduating in 1981. I joined WWUH in 1989; five years later, I was asked to take over Thursday Morning Jazz when Donna, the ever-popular “Lady Jazz,” left the Hartford area. I enjoy being a part of WWUH’s unique programming.
           
Contemporary big bands are always the cornerstone of my show, with smaller ensembles spinning off from there. My “Artist on the Hour” series gives plenty of exposure to musicians who are appearing locally, who have a new release, or who may have just hit the scene and are deserving of recognition. I’ve had the opportunity to interview some of Connecticut’s jazz community; I’ve also conducted interviews with internationally-known figures such as Doc Severinsen, Cleo Laine, Maynard Ferguson, Slide Hampton, Louie Bellson, John Pizzarelli and dozens more.
           
My fascination with jazz has prompted me to produce a number of big band concerts, including the Woody Herman Orchestra, Buddy Rich, the USAF Airmen of Note and the US Navy Commodores Jazz Ensemble. In October, I’ll be presenting a show featuring the US Army’s premier touring big band, the Jazz Ambassadors.
 

Thursday Accent on Jazz—Bill Measom

            My Thursday night’s WWUH jazz program mirrors my eclectic musical tastes, covering material from the 30s to the present, everything from swing to bop to free jazz. I enjoy playing recordings by jazz legends like Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans and Miles Davis. But I also try to expose my audience to contemporary masters whom I admire, such as Steve Turre, Dave Douglas and Steve Davis.
           
I started listening to the radio when I was nine years old. Benny Goodman was my first musical hero; I even played the clarinet in a marching band for a while, during my school years. It wasn’t until my 20s that I really started to listen seriously to jazz, but once I did, I became a fan for life.

           
As editor of the WWUH Jazz Line for the past several years, it’s my job to keep this listing of area gigs current and comprehensive. I update the recorded phone listing every Friday afternoon; you can access it anytime you’d like by calling (860) 768-5267.
 

Friday Morning Jazz – Terry Weichand

            Morning jazz on WWUH is presented by four or possibly five (modesty forbids me) skilled and uniquely talented individuals, all volunteers, who select the music, whether it is burned on to CD's, or grooved into flat vinyl. The entire spectrum of the genre is generally covered by personalities utilizing the station's expansive (and ever expanding) collection of recordings. Variety happens, contemporary to archival, here is a week's worth of music, from nine to noon. Friday Morning Jazz labors bringing the daily grind to a climax, expelling stress in the work place, and also, just maybe, forshadowing a coming weekend.
     Billie Holiday, whom is a long-time request, opens Friday Morning Jazz with a soft, sweet, and often-sorrowful voice nuanced by nubile innocence. Accompanists might include Benny Goodman, Lester Young, or Teddy Wilson, and occasionally, the song is listed with the band under her name.
     The very nature of radio is ephemeral, radiating through the ether here and now, then instantly gone, with words spoken, notes played, or lyrics sung, to never be heard again, unless the broadcast is recorded. Who would ever re-live those three hours in an office calculating percentages, copying documents, sorting mail or stacking stock in a back room to be once again tuned into the program? Listeners compliment my air time, but I feel that they are performing a more valuable service by billing accounts or filing claims, even though that that does pay 100% more than my salary at WWUH. Oh well!
     Spring pollination brings forth the fruits of summer, and also (but not directly), Monday Night Jazz in Bushnell Park, which happens, through the efforts of Paul Brown. Staff members spend hours of their time assisting in this broadcast for the enjoyment of WWUH listeners. Schedules are disrupted, engineers are deployed to the park, and announcers are asked to present themselves before the picnicking mass on the grass. I will see you there, somewhere near the stage, diggin' the evening jazz.
 

Friday Accent on Jazz – Doug Maine

      Each Friday night, I try to bring together jazz from different historical periods, styles and cultures. I revere the great artists of the 20th century jazz canon, and I'm mindful of their importance and of the great music they made. I'm also drawn to important and distinctive yet obscure contributors to the music like Mary Lou Williams, Herbie Nichols, Sidney Bechet, Ernie Henry, Henry "Red" Allen, Hank Mobley, Clifford Jordan, Don Pullen, Oscar Pettiford, "Big Sid" Catlett, Paul Chambers, Jaki Byard and Sonny Criss, to name but a few names. Living giants like Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Jay McShann, Wayne Shorter, David Murray, Elvin Jones and Randy Weston also occupy an important place in my personal jazz cosmos. By the same token, I believe the one constant with jazz is change, so I also make an effort to expose newer, less familiar and more unconventional musicians and their efforts to take the music in new directions.
     
Often, I don't know beforehand exactly what direction a show will take. There's kind of a format — I usually play sets of about a half-hour of music each, but specific pieces are often selected on the fly. If you've heard any of the long pauses that occasionally result, you're aware that this strategy has its hazards, but when it works, I like to think the music flows and ties together different artists' conceptions, times and places, languages, etc. Hopefully, the result is at least the sum of its parts. Because there's so much great jazz to choose from, I try not to repeat the same music, especially the same cuts. If I really like a new recording and/or think it's been overlooked, I may play selections from it in consecutive weeks, but not the same tracks, at least not intentionally. I also glance at the playlists of other Accent on Jazz hosts, in an effort to avoid playing the same music that was played a night or two before. None of this is to say that I don't have my favorites and never give in to the temptation to dust them off and put them on.
     
I try to put the music first, rather than my ego or the instant gratification that some find in ringing phones. Believe me, I know that even after 20-plus years of doing this that I all I have to trade on as an announcer is my "real-ness" (read: persistent lack of polish). Audience feedback is valuable, interesting and sometimes challenging. I do play requests, but I don't believe that callers with requests are necessarily representative of the larger audience. I think most people tune to WWUH with an open mind; they want to hear music that's good but not necessarily familiar, as opposed to things they've heard many times before. I try to select music that most listeners will like or at least find interesting, at the same time trying to follow the road less traveled by avoiding the most obvious and commercial. There's also some attempt at subversion, so to speak, at putting things in a context that enables people to hear music they might otherwise shun out of fear of the new and different. My personal inclination is to try to maintain a relatively high energy level, with ever-changing sounds that hopefully create a kinetic excitement that pulls listeners along from one piece of music to the next. Friday night is the start of the weekend, after all. I also try to avoid tracking entire recordings because that doesn't seem like interesting programming. With age, I may be slowing down a bit, as music with unusual tone colors and textures increasingly intrigues me.
     
Maybe I'm too easily distracted, but music, for me, isn't something that just blends into the background, especially jazz. But how you listen is your own business, and we're just grateful that you do. Unlike a former coworker I don't view "music without words" as meaningless. Jazz is the artist's expression of what it's like to be alive in a particular time, place and context. It is an aesthetic creation with its own intrinsic value. And what musicians express through their instruments is just as much a form of communication as words that are spoken or sung. One of the most creatively exciting branches of the music that I try to tap into is so-called "Latin jazz." So-called because it actually breaks down to almost as many stylistic variations as there are musicians bringing ideas into jazz, whether from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, Colombia, Jamaica, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, the Dominican Republic, French Antilles, Venezuela, Nueva York and Toronto. Percussion and rhythm is a crucial element, but just consider some of the outstanding pianists from Latin America: Chucho Valdés, Danilo Pérez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Hilario Durán, Rubén González, Frank Emilio Flynn, Héctor Martignon, Ed Simon, Helio Alves, Edsel Gómez, Michel Camilo, Hilton Ruiz, Omar Sosa. The other side of the coin is the many North American musicians creatively borrow musical ideas from other musical cultures. These include Tom Harrell, Jane Bunnett, Michelle Rosewoman, and Steve Turre.
     
With its roots in the African-American experience, jazz is multicultural music, and its boundaries are constantly being stretched. In an interview I did a couple of years ago, Joel Frahm quoted Wayne Shorter as saying, "jazz is hungry." It takes music, rhythms and ideas from all kinds of music from all kinds of places, and it does so with increasing frequency. Even though I couldn't play an instrument or sing in key if my life depended on it, I try to bring that same spirit to finding and picking out music to play on the radio.

Copyright©WWUH: July/August Program Guide, 2001

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