June 25, 2008. Posted by Stevan Smith.
It seems like every month we hear a story about a jazz station switching formats for various reasons. Be it a lapse in listenership, funding, and/or general interest. Traditional Jazz, in particular, has slowly fallen off of the airwaves nationwide. Some stations have turned to such formats as Rock, Top 40, and News and Information, leaving a jazz enthusiast in these markets with nothing but their mp3 players, cds and vinyl.
Now, like the good "company man" I am, I would say that one can hear an exceptional jazz playlist at WBGO.org. But for some, there is no reason why such an influential American art form isn't available on a radio station in every town and city. I agree 100%. Unfortunately, politics and business tend to supersede our love for quality music. I just find it ironic that jazz radio stations are being abandoned in the "real world", while a jazz radio station was recently added to a "virtual world".
Huh?! Virtual world!?
Yes! The controversial, yet commercially successful, Grand Theft Auto video game series added a jazz radio station with its latest installment Grand Theft Auto 4. Now, this is by no means an endorsement of the video game and its mature content, but the irony is killing me. No pun intended.
The GTA series is probably more popular in the media for its violence, than it is for its immersive & often sarcastic world. The video game series, in recent years, has included radio stations that you turn on when you enter a vehicle, and you can listen to them as you drive around the games virtual city. These radio stations come equip with host, playlist, imaging, and even commercials. In the past, the formats largely consisted of Rock, Soul, Hip Hop, R&B, Talk, and even Classical. The series has gained much notoriety for its authentic soundtracks.
What makes this inclusion so interesting to me (and maybe you too), is the fact that it is a "traditional" jazz station - hosted by none other than jazz icon Roy Haynes! The station is titled JNR 108.5: Jazz Nation Radio. Their tag line is "Jazz from a time before it became elevator music." The playlist consists of such jazz legends as Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Count Basie. Other notable djs in the game include Roy Ayers- host of Fusion FM- a jazz fusion station, and DJ Premiere- host of the old school hip hop station The Classics.
DJ : Roy Haynes
Genre : Jazz
Tracklist :* Count Basie - "April in Paris"
* John Coltrane - "Giant Steps"
* Chet Baker - "Let's Get Lost"
* Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers - "Moanin'"
* Miles Davis - "Move"
* Charlie Parker - "Night and Day"
* Roy Haynes - "Snap Crackle"
* Sonny Rollins - "St. Thomas"
* Duke Ellington - "Take the 'A' Train"
* Dizzy Gillespie - "Whisper Not (Big Band)"
This isn't a ploy to exploit an art form because it's scaling the billboard charts. This is respect. This is a declaration to the importance and validity of straight ahead jazz. This is a nod from a "video game company" that grossed a record breaking 500 million dollars in its first week of sales. This is, though unconventional, an exposure of traditional jazz music to a broader demographic than you could find in the real world.
Now I know some may say, "...well you still have to tune in to hear it". Well I believe that, like the dynamics of the video game...it's all about the choice. Keep Jazz alive in your "real world"! Support...
© 2008 WBGO