It can’t have escaped your notice that I listen to jazz; and that I like listening to the radio.
For a while, in the dim and distant past, these two passions came together: London started a jazz radio station, Jazz FM. They played jazz during their test broadcasts – lots of proper jazz, that is – but when it came to regular broadcasts, they tended to play blues and soul and so on, leaving their jazz programming to the evenings and late nights. (I used to go to sleep with the radio on; a trick I learned when visiting friends in New York.)
Then they dumbed down, because no one apart from me was listening, and Jazz FM became Smooth FM, instead. Nice.
Then about 18 months ago, theJazz was launched: a nationwide, digital (DAB) only station. It stuck to pretty much the more listenable side of things, but when I wanted to listen to jazz and couldn’t think what I wanted to play, it was there, and I could hear music I liked anytime on the radio.
But GCap, who owns theJazz, has had a change of management; and the new boss doesn’t believe DAB is going to payback their investment, so GCap’s DAB-only stations are being canned.
I had read about it at the time – in the Independent and on the BBC business news website, although there was nothing on theJazz.com at the time – I had to go to the parent company’s website to read the press release.
Now, theJazz is going on and on about how it is closing at the end of this month. All the broadcasts are now computer generated playlists – all the DJs either left or were fired, I guess. The music is only broken by ads – mostly telling me they are closing down in two weeks.
One of the other things they keep telling me is how if I like jazz, I can listen to jazz on their sister station, Classic FM – but only in the middle of the night. (What about all the taxi drivers and insomniacs who listen to classical music in the middle of the night? Will they be left with only Radio3? Ha!) Or I can sign up to ClassicFM.com and have streaming jazz direct to my PC.
Why not I thought? Well, actually because they make you register; and they want lots of data about you – phone number, address, all that kind of thing. I suppose this is so they can market stuff to me. If it was just my email address they were after, I’d probably have signed up. But frankly, I wouldn’t trust them with any more data than that, so no thanks.
But it did get me thinking about listening to the radio via my computer. I started exploring jazz stations over the web: I googled “jazz radio” and saw what happened. I found a couple of meta-sites housing links to jazz stations around the world – so I have now listed to jazz radio from New York (WKCR, the ur-jazz radio station that I first heard decades ago in New York; it isn’t very professional, but they love the music, and one of the joys of being in New York is listening to Phil Schaap, who plays Charlie Parker most of the time), San Diego, Los Angeles, Florida and Canada.
And then I thought I would try out LastFM an internet based service (that lots of you already listen to, I know!). I had read that LastFM had got licences to play all sorts of tracks, so I thought I would try it out.
I think their Tag Radio is brilliant. The thing I like about listening to the radio is the randomness and unpredictability of it – listening to things that are new to me or that I wouldn’t listen to. This widget picks up tracks tagged with “jazz”; and I can skip any that I don’t like.
I can even play it through my hifi (by linking my little handheld machine up to my amplifier).