Like a broken record: Jesse “Chuy” Varela on Jazz 91

Would someone please whisper in Chuy’s ear that musicians are not a “cast” — he uses that word all the time when referring to the group of musicians on a CD he has played — but rather an ensemble? Groups of musicians are referred to as an ensemble. They will confirm that in the College of San Mateo Department of Music if he would call over there and enquire. It’s on the same campus where he’s located. The word “cast” is for actors in the theatre. Not musicians. Could someone please pass that along to Chuy?

I don’t think there’s ever been a bad piece of jazz composed if you hear Chuy tell it. Even that monotonous piece they played the other morning where I had to get up and go turn my radio off because one measure kept playing for literally over 1 minute. The same thing over and over. Awful! I said: Is the fucking CD stuck or what? They think that’s good music do they? It was a case of a bad musician thinking, “I’ll fill the next one minute of my piece with the same monotonous thing over and over” to extend the length of it rather than come up with a creative insert as a bridge between the two sections of the piece. I suggest they ask the professors in the College of San Mateo Music Department about what is good music and what is trash, since they’re right there on the campus with them, rather than taking Chuy’s word for it. To him, every piece is “great, great, beautiful, beautiful, wonderful, wonderful.” And maybe the Music Department can educate the radio staff about the word “ensemble” so they won’t keep erroneously referring to a group of musicians (an ensemble) as a “cast.” (roll eyes).

And didn’t I hear Chuy going on about “sending out prayers” for someone? That has no place on a secular radio station dedicated to jazz. Now he’s shoving his religious beliefs on the listeners and making baseless assumptions about listeners that they share in his beliefs about “prayers.” Most inappropriate.

After every vocalist he plays, he says, “That was the beautiful voice of [name of artist].” Yes, all vocalists no matter who they are have a “beautiful voice” according to Chuy regardless of how much annoying and wobbling vibrato they sing with and or with pitch problems. They’re all a “beautiful voice.” One wonders: Has Chuy ever studied voice? What about ear training? His Latin Jazz programme on Domingo/Sunday is weak on Latin jazz that sounds distinctly like Latin Jazz. Other than his theme music, most of what he plays until 4.30pm is what he plays on any other programme. His closing music doesn’t sound at all like Latin Jazz. The Latin Jazz segment doesn’t start until about 4.30pm. So he wastes 2.5 hours of the Latin Jazz programme playing what one hears him play any other time. Does he forget which show he’s supposed to be doing? Why have a show called Latin Jazz that’s promoted from 2-6pm on Sunday’s when half of that time is not Latin Jazz, with few exceptions? Just because the composer’s surname is of Latin ancestry doesn’t make it Latin Jazz. That’s like — in classical music — having a Russian Piano Festival with works of Beethoven and Mozart on the programme, just because the pianist’s last name is Russian! For a Russian Festival, one expects to have Russian composers on the programme, regardless of the ethnic origins of the pianist’s surname. Insanity. Change the starting time of the Latin Jazz programme to 4.30pm. Also, you’ll hear Tony Bennett sing, “I left My Heart in San Francisco” on Latin Jazz? WTF does that piece have to do with Latin Jazz? Absolutely Nothing. That piece is a ballad, not jazz or Latin Jazz. You’ll also hear him play 70s disco music on Latin Jazz. That has nothing to do with Latin Jazz either. Is the guy losing it?

Hola a todos. I’m sure he’s a nice guy; he seems to be. He has a calming voice. Maybe that’s part of his appeal with listeners and with station management, although Chuy is part of the station management so he’s not likely to be going anywhere no matter how monotonous and on auto-pilot he sounds. I used to like him and look forward to him being on as a radio personality. But being a new listener to KCSM Radio at that time, I must not have noticed the annoying things about him that I notice now.

Chuy is absolutely predictable when on the air as if reading from a prepared script and his script is the same every show, even his tag line “And you heard it hear on KCSM.” Reminds me of the late Ray Taliaferro. In Ray’s latter years, if you had heard one of Ray’s shows you’d pretty much heard them all, but he suffered from dementia which none of us knew about at the time.

It’s ensemble. Not “cast.”

Chuy plays a group of pieces. After the last piece plays, he comes on and tells us “what a beautiful, beautiful piece, just wonderful, wonderful. That was by the great [name of artist].” Then he tells us about the “cast” that performed the music. Actors performed the music? Really? No, he’s using the wrong word — they all do on KCSM (it is station policy to refer to musicians as a “cast,” rather than what they are, an ensemble? — when he uses the word “cast” because musicians are not referred to as a “cast.” The word “cast” has nothing to do with music. Look it up. A group of musicians is called an ensemble, not a cast. Cast is the language of the theatre when listing the actors. Then he refers to “the one and only [name of artist].” Well if he or she is “the one and only” he/she won’t be confused with anyone else so why even say “the one and only?” Has Chuy never thought of that? But he says that frequently. Then he concludes with “And you heard it hear on KCSM with Jesse Chuy Varela.” Does anyone care where they heard something? Do they care who played it? Why is that important? It’s as if Chuy is trying to make it all about himself in addition to the music that he constantly gushes over, even the worst of music. It’s as if he think he needs to be a marketing agent for every jazz artist out there.

By comparison, on classical music stations, they usually just announce the piece played, give the credits and that’s that. The announcers don’t give any opinion of the piece played. That’s for the listener to decide. The announcers don’t gush and gush over it and tell the audience what a great and beautiful piece it was and who played the CD in the studio, as if anyone cares!

Then there’s Chuy who gushes and gushes over every piece he plays, even the most monotonous music where you think the CD is stuck because it’s the same boring measure over and over and over and over. Pieces like that are just bad music and show a lack of creativity by the composer. And when using adjectives to gush over the music it’s “great, great” “beautiful, beautiful” and “wonderful, wonderful” with Chuy. I think that listeners can make up their own mind whether they like the music or not and whether it’s “great, great, beautiful, beautiful, wonderful, wonderful. Listeners don’t have to be told what to like. In fact, while writing this, I heard all of these things that I’m writing about after he played a group of pieces. I heard “the one and only” and “great, great, beautiful, beautiful, wonderful, wonderful” and of course the usual “you heard it hear on KCSM.” The station must have a directive that says: Give our brand name (KCSM) as often as you possibly can.

I guess the station’s manager likes to have at least one person seemingly on automatic pilot. Fortunately, the other people on the station are more spontaneous and original. I have those that I especially like.

But with Chuy, you know what he’s going to say before he says it. He gushes over every piece of music and “album” — isn’t the word “album” outdated? — he plays. According to Chuy, there’s not one bad piece of jazz music ever composed or played, even the pieces that play the same measure repeatedly where it sounds like the CD is stuck. Even that is “just beautiful, beautiful, wonderful, wonderful, great, great music.” And every vocalist he plays has a “what a beautiful voice” even the ones with the most annoying wobbling vibrato where I have to turn the radio off. (For those who don’t know: Noticeable vibrato is often used to cover up pitch and vocal problems). But it’s critically important to know that, “And you heard it hear on Jazz 91 KCSM with Jesse Chuy Varela here with you until 6.” Is it important to know that he’s with you until 6? Sort of sounds like he’s sitting the listeners doesn’t it? Like a babysitter.

Chuy’s Latin Jazz programme is also “hit and miss.” I do like his theme music. I believe that’s by Dizzy Gillespie. Sometimes that seems like the most Latin piece he plays. In other words, you won’t likely hear Celia Cruz played. Unless I’ve missed it, I don’t think he’s ever played her on the Latin Jazz programme which is hard to believe. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say I must have missed it! Although: I don’t think so. Let’s just say that Celia is not a big item on the programme if he has played her. Sometimes his show is good with genuine Latin jazz, at least for a short time. Other times I say to my radio: That piece doesn’t sound remotely Latin. Have you forgotten what show you’re doing? What is it doing on the Latin Jazz programme? Just because of the composer’s surname? It’s as if he forgets what show he’s doing so he plays something that doesn’t sound remotely Latin that he would play on any other show. Flute pieces come to mind. He loves solo or ensemble flute pieces where the flautist is the soloist. But most of the time those pieces don’t sound Latin at all. They’re usually mood pieces.

Even mi amigo/my friend has noticed this, and he doesn’t really listen to Chuy. I pointed these things out to him and just casually listening he said he’d noticed them as well, so I don’t know how most of the listeners haven’t noticed them either.

Chuy made his political beliefs known to the audience on a few occasions. He’s clearly a D-bot. A cult member of the Democratic Party Cult. (The Republican Party Cult is the other cult). When Biden selected Ms Harris, Chuy was gushing over that and said, “That’s the feather in the cap.” Oh, please! Then he added, “She’s from the Bay Area you know.” What does that have to do with anything? Feinstein and Pelosi are from the Bay Area but I don’t hear you gushing over them. Chuy is very sheeple. That’s the bottom line. Chau.—el barrio rosa

Update (the week of 23 May 2021): I did appreciate Chuy’s interview with Pat Metheny which was aired earlier in May 2021 during pledge drive. That’s when special things are aired to bait/entice listeners to support the station. It’s interesting because any other time Chuy rarely plays the music of Pat Metheny unlike some of the others on the station. But nevertheless, I appreciated the lengthy interview with Pat.