Tag Archives: Jazz in the Conservatory with KCSM-Jazz 91

Jazz in the Conservatory with KCSM-Jazz 91

Hola a todos. I overheard some of the jazz students in the Conservatory talking about a piece they had heard on KCSM-Jazz 91 in the Bay Area. I heard them say the name Pedro Aznar. Oh yeah, Pedro from Argentina who joined the Pat Metheny Group (PMG). That was one of the best choices Pat Metheny ever made by bringing Pedro into the PMG. Pedro first appeared on The First Circle CD. I’d never heard anything like that before. Wonderful! Then I later heard the PMG perform live at UC-Berkeley with Pedro doing the vocals. He also played a couple of instruments in the Group when he wasn’t doing the vocals. Later, Pedro left the Group and other musicians sang the vocals for him, but it wasn’t the same. Oh it was still good, but they weren’t Pedro Aznar. He’s still singing and recording mostly solo pieces.

KCSM-Jazz 91 is a good station — one of the few 24-hour jazz stations in the non-United States — and they have an excellent Music Director, Jesse “Chuy” Varela who, I believe, used to be at KPFA in Berkeley years ago during the days of Mama O’Shea. I don’t think Chuy ever has a day off and Chris Cortez’s days off are in short supply too. I enjoy the Pat Metheny Group (PMG) tracks they play from time-to-time. I’ve noticed those mostly from Chris. I enjoy Chris’s voice and repertoire selections. It’s a shame the PMG is no longer around. Who would have ever thought that the Pat Metheny Group would disband? Hard to believe. Lyle Mays — Pat’s iconic and talented keyboardist with his signature sounds — left the Group and started doing his own thing and today Pat, I think, mainly performs solo repertoire or maybe with one other musician.

They play quite a variety on KCSM, and they’re member-supported. I also enjoy “Ooooooh, yeah” (isn’t that Chuy’s signature expression?) Chuy’s Latin Jazz programme on Domingo/Sunday from 2-6PM, and enjoy the español he speaks occasionally. He’s multi-lingual in some world languages — good to hear that — with music being the international language that speaks to all of us. Well, except for the demented, orange-faced current White House occupant which from my understanding has no interest in music of any kind. There are “people” like that — they’re rather dead inside — with no interest or ear for music. (Shaking head in disgust with eye rolls) Hard for me to imagine. That explains, in part, why the current WH occupant has never invited any musicians to perform at la casa blanca/at the White House, not that any self-respecting musician would even consider playing for him anyway. I know I wouldn’t. Why waste one’s time performing for chronically lying basura?

During a recent KCSM-Jazz 91 pledge drive I perked up when I heard something about npr. I thought: npr? Why are they talking about npr on KCSM-Jazz 91? They’re not an npr member station. (Spoiler: Oh yes they are). Then I heard them partially play the funding credits required by the network (npr) for the npr jazz programme they had just played hosted by Nancy Wilson. I thought: Hmmmm? How are they able to play that npr programme without being an npr member station? I perked up because other than at pledge time once or twice where they aired a special jazz “documentary” type programme produced by npr, I’ve never heard any npr programming at all on KCSM. I asked myself: So KCSM-Jazz 91 is a npr member station? Why is that? That’s news to me. Why are they paying an expensive npr membership fee when they don’t air any npr programming except for one or more of npr’s jazz-content programmes during pledge time every few months? It wouldn’t seem to make it worth it.

I used to listen to npr until around the time that Cokie Roberts1 (ugh) was droning on and on one morning about George W Bush and how “He’s a very attractive candidate.” Listening to my radio I thought: What the fuck drugs is she on this morning? What is wrong with the woman that she finds George W Bush “a very attractive candidate?” And what did that mean? (Bob didn’t ask her). That she found him hot to look at or his conservative politics were “attractive?” I don’t know what she meant but it’s not what I had expected to hear on npr. Or had she and Bob Edwards been hitting the hooch in the backroom so early in the morning (3AM East Coast time for the first feed of Morning Edition from the network)? Although I think Cokie was at home and talking with Bob in the studio by phone. I think that’s the way that worked. Politically with npr, things went downhill after that as far as I was concerned. Most of npr’s on-air “celebrities” (such as Mara Liasson) became mouthpieces for the conservative, pro-war Establishment. And in my opinion, Cokie became more conservative after she began working for corporate ABC News. Some npr listeners accused her and others of selling out to corporate for the money, something we’ve seen time after time.

Up until then, I had been a very dedicated listener to npr and I already knew how npr worked with their member stations and their programming, unless they’ve changed something since, which doesn’t seem to have been the case.

Mi amigo/My friend and I had even taken a pre-arranged tour of npr when we were visiting the District of Columbia. This was when they were in their former network headquarters over in the NW section of the District, not their new headquarters in North East DC. We observed the production of All Things Considered one afternoon and saw Ann Taylor read the news in her booth — whom we had heard countless times with her signature sound, “From National Public Radio News in Washington, I’m Ann Taylor” — and all of the other booths in the studio. It was quite a production. Very interesting to watch. We talked briefly with the ATC Producer whose name I believe was Bob Boilen. He was very nice to us, everyone was welcoming. Had a nice time, meaning we just sat quietly in the back behind Bob not wanting to be any problem to anyone, in part, since they were broadcasting live the first feed of ATC to the npr member stations. It was interesting watching Bob’s time counter throughout the programme for when everything throughout the programme was supposed to start on the second, such as npr’s bumper music, the news headlines and the segments of the programme, so that the programme ended exactly on time, then the funding credits began from the network. Then I think the next afternoon I tuned into npr member station WAMU in the District and listened to ATC remembering our experience from the day before.

I suppose someone might want to know: Did you see Cokie Roberts or any of the other npr “celebrities?” No, we didn’t see any of them. We didn’t really think about that to tell you the truth. We were not there to see “celebrities.” It was not something I even thought about. We were more interested in the production aspects of the programme. We arrived at the npr reception area and they phoned up to the ATC Studio and told them we were there and we were escorted up to the ATC Studio. We saw the two ATC show hosts, Robert Siegel and Linda Wertheimer, sitting in their booth. So I guess in that case we saw “celebrities,” and then Ann Taylor of npr news arrived at — what seemed like — about 10 seconds before she was supposed to go on to read the newscast at the top of the hour. We watched her. Even though we had never seen her before we knew who she was. She started her sign on in her signature voice, “From National Public Radio News in Washington, I’m Ann Taylor” into the microphone while standing as we both remember it, and then, plop. Plop was her butt hitting the seat of the chair in the news booth after she said “…I’m Ann Taylor.” Then she read the news. Then later at about 19 after the hour, she read the news headlines followed by the bumper music.

The following is for people who are into bumper music: I don’t know how it works now since I don’t listen to npr, but they played good music during the programmes, both for ME (Morning Edition) and ATC. It was part of the reason why I listened. I really enjoyed their bumper music. The producer had a good taste in music. For their bumper music of each programme they had a set of pieces — I think it was about ten pieces of about 10-15 seconds in length each in the set — that the producer chose and the programme used that set for about a year or so before they changed to a new set of music. So these bumper music pieces rotated throughout the programme during the year and were played after the news headlines. Depending upon how much time remaining between the news headlines and the next segment of the programme, the listener got to hear varying parts of each piece, or on occasion (if the news headlines were longer) we heard hardly any of it as it was fading out in the background. Other times, there would be more time available (shorter news headlines) so the producer backed the tape up (or whatever they were using) because they needed more music to fill the time so we got to hear a part of the music that we’d not heard before — that was always interesting — and then would come the familiar part that we’d heard many times before. Regular listeners, if they were paying attention, got to learn the bumper music quite well because we kept hearing it over and over; these ten little short pieces of 10-15 seconds each. I enjoyed nearly everything they chose. Also, the producer chose the best parts of each piece, I noticed. On occasion, I found out what they were playing (meaning the artist and title) and bought it and listened to it and I said, “Yes, he chose the best part of that. The rest of that doesn’t do much for me.” The same was true on Weekend Edition. One of their short bumper music pieces in one of their sets was a piece by Bruce Hornsby that started out with rich piano chords, it sort of had a gospel feel to it. I always listened for that one. Most of the bumper music was in the jazz category. Over the years, I think there was only one piece in one set that they selected that I really didn’t like the first time I heard it (on ME) and it didn’t grow on me over time and I thought: You mean we have to listen to that every-other-morning or so for the next year? That’s because they only used 4 pieces from the full set during the 2 hours of the programme on one day since there were 4 news headlines segments during the 2 hours of the programme. Initially when a new set of bumper music appeared (roughly every year), they played one group of 4 pieces from the full set on one morning and then another group of 4 pieces from the full set on the next morning, then over time they mixed them all up along with the two extras from the set of about 10 pieces, so it became unpredictable. I hope all that makes sense to you. It seems the best way to explain it. But I’m sure some people liked that piece that I didn’t care much for. All the rest I liked.

From my current research, a npr member station pays a general fee to npr, and in addition they also pay a fee for each programme they take/air from the network and play over their local npr member station. In KCSM’s case, that would seem to be quite a bit of wasted money I should think. Paying a lot of dinero/money for something they rarely use, except for a couple of times at pledge time. Or does KCSM’s npr membership go way back when they used to play some npr programming — before becoming a 24-hour jazz station — and they don’t want to cancel their npr membership thinking they might need it in the future? Nevertheless, I just found it odd. And when they do air the npr jazz programme(s) or part of it during pledge drives — they seem to interrupt the npr programme they’re airing to encourage listeners to call — they don’t allow the required npr funding credits to play at all or in their entirety from what I’ve heard over the air. But isn’t that part of the npr contract with the member station to credit npr for that programme? I think so. That’s why when I was listening to sanitised npr — “National Pentagon Radio,” as some refer to it, or “Nice Polite Republicans” as others refer to it where npr never wants to offend anyone, especially the conservatives as if the conservatives would even be listening to them! — the member station played the funding credits from the network which went like this (it was always the same, very-skilled and enunciating guy who read them, usually at a brisk speed):

“Support for this programme is provided by this and other npr member stations and the npr news and information fund. Contributors include The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, _____________. This is npr. National Public Radio.”

If that is not played from the network with the npr programme being aired over the npr member station, the station (KCSM-Jazz 91) is supposed to read that over the air in its entirety per their contract with npr. Is KCSM doing that each time they broadcast a npr programme during pledge drives? I don’t think so. Well, you couldn’t prove it by me and I was listening for it. And I bring all this up because I was waiting to hear the npr funding credits which would tell me that they are a npr member station. I heard part of a npr funding credit once when they were airing the Nancy Wilson hosted npr programme, but that was the only time. I haven’t heard anything since. The point is: npr does not want the local stations taking credit for their content or being lax about airing the funding credits. Personally, I always preferred to hear it from the network rather than to hear the local guy slur and mumble his way though it — loose dentures? — as they did on KQED-FM. I never did understand why KQED cut it off from the network and had Norm read it instead. KALW played the network version, which sounded far superior and professional.

Hopefully KCSM-Jazz 91 Radio will be around for a long time as they are an excellent jazz station. And they could have less pledge drives if they got rid of their needless npr membership fee(s) they’re paying. They don’t need it. Why pay for something you don’t use, except on the odd occasion? Occasionally during a pledge drive. At least to me, that seems like a waste of money. And a npr membership fee is not cheap. Then, again, there’s the additional fee for the npr programme they take during pledge time. KCSM-Jazz 91 could easily pay a lot less by buying jazz CDs or the like of a similar nature to npr’s jazz programmes and play those on the odd occasion during pledge time. Mi amigo/My friend had these speculative thoughts on this: He says that KCSM is probably keeping their npr membership for safe-keeping because if they were to cancel it and then later want to air npr programming and reapply to npr, their application might not be approved because of too many npr member stations in the Bay Area market. That makes sense to me. From the list I saw, there are already 4 npr member stations in the Bay Area, including KCSM-Jazz 91. And there are over 1,000 npr member stations in the non-United States.

Or they could re-air all or part of some of Chuy’s in-studio interviews that I’ve heard in the afternoons with jazz artists visiting the Bay Area. It would be so much cheaper than a npr membership/fees with no funding credits to play or read. It would give KCSM-Jazz 91 more air time, and Chuy’s interviews are KCSM’s own locally-produced programming. Something to consider.

Oh I wanted to mention this: Was I the only one who cringed the other morning when John Hill on KCSM-Jazz 91 mangled the name: Rubén Blades (who’s full name is Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna). Apparently John didn’t see that accent mark over the second syllable of Rubén (not that it would mean anything to him! no disrespect intended), but which means that the second syllable is emphasied and that it should be pronounced Ru-BÉN and not “Ruben” as John pronounced it, as if it were English. It’s not. It’s español. He also pronounced the surname Blades as if he were talking about blades on a shaver. Instead of: ruˈβem ˈbla ðes. “Blades” has two syllables en español. It’s not pronounced “blades.” John’s español is, well, really, non-existent frankly. His español reminds me of Lucy when she was trying to learn some basic español from Ricky on I Love Lucy. I think we all remember how that went. Choppy and broken. Not fluent and smooth. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the name Rubén Blades pronounced the way John pronounced it the other morning. Has he never heard it pronounced correctly on his own station or anywhere else? He does try, bless him, but I suggest he run it by Chuy or someone else fluent en español at the station who can pronounce it correctly for him. I don’t know how many international/world languages John speaks and this is not directed at him, but my problem with people who speak only US-English is that English is so disrespect of other world languages by trying to put other world languages into English. Most inappropriate. The words of other world languages are of other world languages. They’re not English words nor should an attempt be made to make them “English.” That disrespects them. They are of their native world language. But the English language disrespects other world languages constantly by stripping them of their accent marks and umlauts for example, such as the word Über. That is not an English word. Yet the San Francisco-based corporation by that name for some reason chose to disrespect Deutsch/German by sanitising/removing the umlauts from the Deutsch word Über. Either that or they are ignorant of the Deutsch/German language. Typical of the US and the many proudly and willfully ignorant USians. But the incorrect word “Uber” seems to have stuck so they are responsible for helping to ruin a Deutsch language word because I saw a sports team on television wearing shirts that said “Uber” without the required umlauts. And unfortunately, most US-English language speakers who are parked at corporate microphones — and who probably only speak US-English — seem to take great pride and find humour in and find it funny when they (deliberately?) mangle words of other international languages. Quite an infantile approach. I remember when Whoopie Goldberg found it funny when she couldn’t pronounce Univisión correctly to introduce her guest who worked at Univisión. Whoopie smiled and laughed after mangling the name of the network. The appearance it gave is that she had not prepared properly for the interview — couldn’t even pronounce the name of the network where her guest worked — and was “winging it.” I also remember when the ignoramus in the White House — who has trouble with US-English — told Jorge Ramos of Univisión to “go back to You-nah-vision.” Of course there is no such network name. Jorge should have responded, “the name of my network is Univisión (pronounced: uniβiˈsjon), pendejo.” Chau.—el barrio rosa

CORRECTION: I’ve not heard the programme since I’m not usually listening at that hour, but every Lunes/Monday at 9.00pm for an hour KCSM-Jazz 91 airs npr’s “Jazz Night in America” programme. So other than at pledge time, that’s still only one hour per week of programming from npr. But my point in the article remains true, the mainstay programmes from npr that I was thinking of that they don’t air are: Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, and npr news.

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1 Since I mentioned her up above, mi amigo and I were rather shocked to hear that Cokie Roberts had died of complications from breast cancer. Never expected that. She was 75 and was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2002. From what I read, she kept it to herself as she didn’t want anyone to know that she was sick. Even with severe pain and not eating (because of her chemotherapy making her too sick to feel like eating) she kept doing what she would usually do as best as she could. Cokie’s good friend, Linda Wertheimer at npr, went to see her just before she died. Linda said she didn’t know if Cokie knew she was there but Linda told her that she’d see her on the other side in that big studio and Cokie would be a star there. To Cokie: Have a nice trip on your next journey.