Jazz death at ’GBH

By JON GARELICK  |  July 12, 2012

That doesn't mean I'm not among those who find the loss incalculable. I say this not only as a critic, but as someone who played jazz on the radio (along with Steve Schwartz and others) at WMBR back in the late '70s and early '80s. The gateway to jazz for me and thousands of fans has always been through radio. In Boston, knowledgeable curators of the jazz airwaves like Jackson, Schwartz, Steve Elman, the late Tony Cennamo, and others now also gone from 'GBH, like Ron Gill, Al Davis, and Jack Woker provided programming with historical depth and astute commentary. Now that particular kind of "news and information" is going to be harder to come by. (And no, Spotify and Pandora just don't cut it when it comes to jazz education.)

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As for how the loss affects the health of the jazz scene both locally and regionally, that too is incalculable. There were years when Auclair, in her role as a publicist for Scullers Jazz Club, used to run artists between sets over to 'GBH to talk to Jackson, alerting who knows how many listeners about a great show or a new artist. Those days are long-gone, too. Maybe the local angle was something Schwartz had in mind on his last show, July 6, when he played a cut by trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and added pointedly (in his own soft-spoken way) that he was playing Pelt because he had a show coming up that weekend at the Marblehead summer jazz series.

Among the people who showed up at the 'GBH studios last Thursday night were many carrying instrument cases. They played Jackson's old theme song, Horace Silver's "Peace," and some New Orleans jazz-funeral standards: "A Closer Walk with Thee," "Down by the Riverside," "When the Saints Go Marchin' In." The impromptu band included local performers Jerry Sabatini, Russ Gershon, Bob Pilkington, Glenn Dickson, Myanna, and Vicente Lebron, while Bert Seager, Mili Bermejo, and Lawrence Brown were among the many other musicians in the crowd. José Masso, whose Con Salsa is the last remnant of music programming on WBUR, was also on hand, as were music journalists Bob Young and Steve Morse.

As Field said, it was a good time, but I don't think it will make a difference. At least not at WGBH. Emblazoned on the wall of the building (also home to the vastly more powerful and influential PBS television affiliate) was the broadcaster's mission statement: "WGBH enriches people's lives through programs and services that educate, inspire, and entertain, fostering citizenship and culture, the joy of learning, and the power of diverse perspectives." For several thousand people in the jazz community, that "mission" is sounding a bit more hollow these days. In the meantime, JazzBoston has scheduled a public meeting at the Boston Public Library from 6 to 8 pm on July 31 to discuss "The Future of Local Jazz Radio." Here's hoping there is one.

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