DONE DEAL The jazz community came out in force to protests cuts in programming at WGBH, but it's doubtful that the station is going to change its mind.
"I don't know if we made a difference, but we had a hell of time," said Ken Field at the "WGBH Jazz Funeral" last week. True dat, Ken.
When 250 people, more or less, gathered outside WGBH studios in Brighton last Thursday, July 5, it was more than a funeral; it was a protest. 'GBH, as we all now know, has made some drastic cuts in its jazz programming. To wit, jazz announcer Eric Jackson — who's been with the station for more than 30 years — was moving from Monday–Thursday, 8 pm–12 am, and Sunday, 10 pm–12 am, to Friday–Sunday, 9 pm–12 am. Steve Schwartz — a producer as well of host of the three-hour Friday-night jazz show — was being let go. So local jazz programming was being cut from 21 hours to nine. What's more, the syndicated seven-day overnight jazz show from San Francisco–based announcer Bob Parlocha was being moved to weekends only.
Various pockets of jazz programming can still be found on Boston radio, most notably on MIT's WMBR block of late-afternoon programming, and at Harvard's WHRB. And this isn't the format's first major loss: for more than 25 years, Jeff Turton's Sunday Jazz Brunch on WFNX was a must-listen for local jazz fans until it was cancelled in 2009 (of course, the "terrestrial" 'FNX will soon be gone lock, stock, and barrel, but that's another story).
But Jazz with Eric Jackson on WGBH (previously known as Eric in the Evening) was more than just a show; it was the on-air community center for jazz, beamed over a superior 100,000 watt signal. Aside from organizing informative specials based on a particular artist, Jackson conducted thousands of interviews with artists appearing locally and, along with Schwartz as a producer, hosted live performances from the 'GBH studios. For jazz fans, it was a quick and easy way to stay in touch with what was going on in and around town. Jackson's appealing voice, vast historic knowledge, and taste in a broad range of the music didn't hurt either.
When Jackson posted on his Facebook page on June 19 that "Changes at WGBH are coming," the response from the Boston jazz community was instantaneous. In short order, two Facebook pages went up: "Save Eric in the Evening" and "Save Jazz at WGBH Now!" Field, peripatetic leader of Boston's avant-second line outfit the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, began organizing Thursday night's protest in conjunction with jazz publicist Sue Auclair, singer and concert-presenter Anita Coelho Diabate, and others online. In a point that Auclair reiterated in her frequent posts, the change would affect more than fans: this was about musicians, venues, and all the people who make their livelihood from jazz.