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The University of Hartford

“Forward...into the Past!”
’UH Jazz Braces for the Future

By Chuck Obuchowski

         Former WWUH Jazz Director J.O. Spaak has earned his place in the annals of jazz survivorship. Not unlike the plight of Sun Ra, a previous Earth visitor and fellow spaceway traveler, this Vulcan radioman’s eccentricity might have caused some to overlook his serious commitment to the jazz realm in our corner of the galaxy.  Nonetheless, until the Starship Improvise beamed him up after March 27’s final edition of The Boundless Jazz Universe, Spaak had—for eight years—made a weekly “trek” to WWUH from his starport in eastern Connecticut. His unflinching dedication didn’t earn him a dollar, nor were his contributions to our station’s jazz mission acknowledged very often.  And it’s not widely known that the Jazz Officer has financed and produced numerous recordings by area musicians as part of his overall support for the art form.
Additionally, with the aid of WWUH Webmaster Chris Larson, he launched the New England Jazz Radio Cooperative (NEJRC) last year, an online service accessible via our jazz pages at the WWUH website (http://wwuh.org). According to Spaak, NEJRC is an attempt to improve communication between regional jazz stations, and to increase their visibility within the global jazz media village. The site also contains an extensive pronunciation guide, a very helpful device for jazz announcers throughout this solar system. A musician’s birthday database will be added soon. Although NEJRC has had a less-than-auspicious start, a publicity campaign this summer will hopefully hip more of our radio colleagues to its possibilities. 
J.O. Spaak may have ventured “out of this world,” or at least beyond the range of our airwaves, but his legions of fans need not worry; he assures us he’ll be returning to planet Earth to do occasional 91.3 Morning Jazz fill-ins, and to assist with station concert productions. We wish him well on his interstellar voyages; may he...pardon the cliché...live long and prosper!
So—what can listeners expect from the WWUH jazz posse in the near future? Veteran Accent on Jazz announcer Peter Michaelson has returned to the fold as Spaak's successor in the Tuesday 9-midnight slot. I’ve assumed the jazz director reigns, with ample assistance from Monday WWUH jazz host Dean Hildebrandt. Rest assured that we will do our best to maintain the standard of quality you have come to expect from our jazz programs over the years.
Live broadcasts of maestro Brown’s Monday Night Jazz Series in Bushnell Park will resume on 91.3 FM in July. A complete schedule will be posted in our next program guide and at our website, as soon as it is made available to us. Additionally, WWUH will again participate as a media sponsor of the annual Litchfield Jazz Festival, scheduled August 3-5 at the Goshen Fairgrounds. Throughout July, listen to our jazz shows for special giveaways and interviews with selected Litchfield festival musicians.     

“The Music is the Magic...”

            The above lyric, as delivered with ecstatic conviction by Abbey Lincoln, kept repeating itself to me as I traipsed through the woods moments ago. I’d become quite frustrated at my inability to come up with a fitting conclusion for this piece, and the persistence of this mantra-like refrain was annoying, as it seemed to be distracting me from the matter at hand. Suddenly, it struck me...that’s the very message I should be conveying—“the music really is the magic!” That’s why we keep listening, that’s what draws us back, time and time again.
I was reminded of my very first visit to New Orleans, in April of last year. My wife and I were viewing Louis Armstrong Park, once the site of Congo Square, the only place where slaves had been allowed to congregate for the purpose of playing musical instruments. I imagined the release, the joy and the communion these people must have felt as they reveled in the sharing of sounds and songs. Think about it—the music that came to be known as jazz, at its very core, is all about liberation. The best jazz frees our minds, bodies and spirits.
Try as they might, none of those multi-national robber barons has yet to capture the music’s heart and soul. They feed us pretty packaging, 24-bit digital remastering and pseudo-hip jam-band poseurs, but they have no clue of how to handle the “real deal.” Ken Burns gave it a good shot in his PBS series, but in fact, he barely scratched the surface. Viewers got a nice taste of the spirit embodied in “the ghosts of jazz past” (witness the subsequent boom in sales of reissued material by deceased artists), but precious little insight into the music as it exists today. Guess that’s up to those of us who share it with you every day on the radio, in nightclubs and concert halls, and yes, even in WWUH program guide articles.

 As we acknowledge the 100th birth anniversary of Louis Armstrong on August 4, let us listen carefully for the gifts that Satchmo and countless others have given us during the past century. And let us remember that each and every one of us who enjoys this music has a responsibility to support the artists who bring it to us, and to share the life-force of these glorious sounds with others. Say Amen, Somebody!

Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2001

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