The greatest musicians America has produced have always had a hard time getting respect and their cause won’t be helped by the decision of KXJZ, the only legitimate jazz station in Sacramento, to dump most of its jazz programming for a package of talk shows from National Public Radio.
Sacramento used to be one of the few places in America where you could turn on the radio at almost any time and hear John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and many other greats. There was a daytime alternative to the jihad of junk the recording industry inflicts on the public. That has ended, and the city is worse off for it.
These great artists need more exposure, not less. These virtuosi changed the course of musical history. They could play anything, in any key, and their legacy includes “Parker’s Mood,” “Giant Steps” and “All Blues.” When they were ignored in America, Europe recognized their creative genius. On both sides of the Atlantic, their works have stood the test of time, yet few people in Sacramento are familiar with these giants. Fewer still know about Johnny Griffin, Wardell Gray, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Junior Manse, Benny Golson, Pepper Adams, Jane Getz, Bobby Militello, Booker Ervin, Buddy DeFranco, Pony Poindexter, Red Holloway and many others.
There are plenty of radio talk shows in Sacramento and already plenty of talk on KXJZ, which already runs the standard-brand NPR material from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m., then again from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The lineup KXJZ seeks would include “The Todd Mundt Show,” “Talk of the Nation,” “The World,” and an hour of news from the BBC. Few can be pant-ing for this beltway blather.
The rationale of Capital Public Radio boss Michael Lazar seems to be that NPR talk has been a success elsewhere. Support for great but neglected artists does not appear to matter. On the other hand, it does to those who support the station financially.
Calls are running two-to-one against the change. These callers will have a chance to take action during pledge week, which will surely continue to be a KXJZ feature. Jazz supporters may want to take a cue from this KXJZ subscriber. When I got the awful news, I e-mailed a protest in the name of, among others, saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Sonny Criss, concluding: no more Sonny, no more money.