Friday, December 29, 2006

More Year End Stuff-Bob

Today I'll be presenting selections from my Top Ten CDs of 2006 in the 11:00am hour. Then on Jazz Masters today at noon, I'll look back at some of the legends who passed away in 2006. That'll be followed by our final thirty entries in our Top 88 Countdown for 2006. We've been giving you sections of that list all week and it culminates today. KCCK will present the entire Top 88 starting at 9am on Monday, New Year's Day, and repeat the whole thing right after that. So you have plenty of opportunity to catch it all at one time or another. The Top 88 list, by the way, as well as all of our producers' Top Tens can be found on our web site,

Happy New Year!

Bob Stewart, Program Director

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Top Picks for 2006-Bob

As 2006 winds down, KCCK will be doing something just a bit different for our end-of-the-year countdown. As usual, we'll run the full Top 88 Countdown of the top jazz discs of the year on New Year's Day starting at 10am. In addition, the week leading up to that, Tuesday through Thursday, we'll have a couple of hours of the countdown each day beginning at 1pm, with a three-hour-plus set to wind down the countdown on Friday. Also listen for each indvidual producer's Top Ten favorites over the next couple of weeks.

NPR's Toast of the Nation will again ring in the New Year for us. We'll start at 7pm on the East Coast on Sunday night with Kendrick Oliver and the New Life Jazz Orchestra from Berklee College of Music in Boston, followed by a tribute to the late Jay McShann from Bobby Watson's Kansas City Jump Band. Then we'll move on to the Big River Concert for New Orleans from Chicago's Symphony Center with Branford and Ellis Marsalis, Nicholas Payton and others. A set by Steve Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchesta at Tonic in New York City follows that, before we move on to Kansas City with Karrin Allyson from the Repertory Theater there. The night will conclude with a set of blues from the Derek Trucks Band at the Kreswick Theater in Philadelphia, the jumpin' jive of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy from the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and the McCoy Tyner Trio with Joe Lovano from Yoshi's in Oakland.

Happy New Year from all of us at KCCK!!

Bob Stewart, Program Director

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holidays Heat Up-Bob

With Christmas closing in fast, Jazz 88.3 is ramping up our holiday music accordingly. In the days leading up to Sunday and Monday, we're increasing the number of holiday tunes you hear during the programming day. Plus, this week our Midnight CDs are the newest addtions to our holiday jazz library. The pickings have been pretty slim as far as new jazz releases go this season in comparison to past years. But the handful that have come in are quite good.

Last night we featured Kerry Strayer and his orchestra with "Christmas in Kansas City." Strayer is the musical director for the Plaza Lighting Ceremony in K.C. every year and he's put together a collection of some of his really fine arrangements of holiday favorites. Tonight it's "Tidings of Comfort and Joy" by Skafish, a pianist out of Chicago who made his name in the rock and New Wave genres in the 80's, but has now crossed the street to the jazz side of things. Some really nice trio arrangments. Mack Avenue Records has put out their second compilation of music from some of its stable of artists, most notably the young trumpeter Sean Jones, but also the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, the Hot Club of Detoit, and Oscar Castro-Neves. "Jazz Yule Love II" will be featured Wednesday night. And then on Thursday night, our Featured CD for December, "The Harlem Nutcracker," will be spotlighted. This was originally out in 1999, but didn't get widely released. It's a really fine addition to our holiday collection featuring David Berger and his Sultans of Swing Big Band performing music based on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, including three Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn arrangements.

All of our vintage jazz programs on Sunday along with Bob Naujoks Gentle Jazz will be in the holiday mode, as will Nightbreeze Sunday night, highlighted by specials from the Paul Winter Consort and by Ian Anderson. And then from midnight Sunday to midnight Monday, KCCK will have our annual mix of non-stop holiday classics and newer releases. Included will be the debut of our Jazz at Riverside concert with Dan Knight, A Swingin' Jazz Christmas, at 10am on Christmas Day, and a special with Dave Brubeck combining holiday music and conversation with the legendary pianist at 6pm that night.

Then it's on to our End-of-the-Year specials the following week, which we'll talk about more in an upcoming post. Enjoy!

Bob Stewart, Program Director

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sounds of the (endless) Season-Dennis

The following is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the program for the Dianne Reeves Christmas concert at Hancher. Thanks to Rob Cline for allowing me to reprint it here!

There are two groups of people who are already tired of Christmas music before most of us have even started our shopping: Anyone who works in retail, and…. DJs.

“Christmas Creep” gets worse every year, as decorations and music often pop up before Halloween. And the recent competition in pop radio to be “your holiday music station” guarantee that we get a full dose of Christmas cheer well before Thanksgiving.

(Yes I mean you... and especially YOU.)

And if you think you get tired of Christmas music, imagine the announcer sitting in the studio playing those songs day after day.

Personally, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with holiday music for years. As a young radio announcer, I would watch with a sinking feeling as the program director hauled a scarred cardboard box into the studio with the word “XMAS” scrawled on the side in faded block letters. This sight signaled four endless weeks of format-busting tedium, as even the most contemporary station’s playlist suddenly sprouted Perry Como, Bing Crosby and the Boston Pops. For a young DJ who prided himself on being on music’s cutting edge…. pure torture.

Had you asked me in those days, I would have told you the only Christmas song worth the vinyl on which it was pressed was Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” As time passed, a few other tunes made my “tolerable” list: Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s “Little Drummer Boy,” Santa Baby” (Eartha Kitt’s original, not Madonna’s horrifying remake), and the Russian and Chinese Dances from the Nutcracker (although that may have been due more to Disney’s “Fantasia”).

But in 1984 a record arrived that changed how I, and millions of others, perceived Christmas music forever.

It was by a little-known Midwestern group whose music combined the forms of classical music with the rhythms of rock & roll. Up to this point, the major market for their albums had been to audiophiles and the occasional stereo store, who used their high-quality vinyl pressings to demo stereo speakers.

I’m speaking, of course, of Mannheim Steamroller. Chip Davis began writing what would become his Fresh Aire series when he was a junior high music teacher. Adding some drums and electrics helped his students relate to the classical structures he was trying to teach them. Later, as the leader of the “Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant Band,” backup group for 70s star C.W. McCall, Davis parlayed some particularly savvy instrumental work on the novelty hit “Convoy,” into a Grammy award for best Country Instrumental and subsequently a chance to record his own unique music.

But classically-inspired rock wasn’t easy to pigeon-hole, and Mannheim Steamroller’s Fresh Aire might have remained just a musical footnote (or perhaps, grace note), had Davis not turned his attention to Christmas music.

For my money, the release of "Christmas" is one of the major musical landmarks of the last thirty years, because it completely rejuvenated the holiday music industry. It no tonly made people take holiday music more seriously, it paved the way for other artists to get their Christmas music heard, even if it didn’t fit into the usual pop milieu.

Certainly, Mannheim Steamroller changed the way I thought about Christmas music. I was captivated not only by the fresh spin Davis put on familiar tunes, but also the obvious passion and love he had for this music. It made me listen to other Christmas music with a different perspective. Gradually, I began to hear that same passion in other, more conventional arrangements. The velvet-smoothness of Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song,” Bing Crosby’s heartbreaking wistfulness in “White Christmas.” Even Whitney Houston, then a pop icon, now a self-parody, returned to her gospel roots in a soaring “Do You Hear What I Hear” that still stands up well today.

When I got to Jazz 88.3, I didn’t know what to expect when Gordon Paulsen pulled out the boxes with the Christmas CDs (aluminum instead of cardboard, it was the Nineties, after all). Would Christmas jazz meet my new “it’s OK if they’re serious about the quality” test or be the jazz equivalent of the Beach Boys “Little Saint Nick?”

I was pleasantly surprised. Instead of changing KCCK’s sound, our Christmas music enhanced it, as every tune was good jazz, just jazz that happened to feature holiday melodies. Now, Christmas on 88.3 is one of my favorite times to listen, as I get to hear all-time jazz greats from Miles Davis to Oscar Peterson to Harry Connick Jr. make the music of the holidays their own.

So what makes good Christmas music? I suggest that a great Christmas song needs to embody the same qualities of an artist’s entire body of work. The song needs to stand on its own, regardless of whether it’s a Christmas song or not.

Springsteen’s “Santa Claus” works because it’s a good Springsteen tune. Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and of course Chip Davis bring the same passion to their Christmas music they sought to achieve with their “regular” recordings.

Good Christmas music? Yes. But good music first.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Big Band Memories-Martha Tilton tribute-Murray

Remembering Martha Tilton is the theme of this Sunday's Big Band Memories between 3 and 5pm. I'll feature many of her great sides with Benny Goodman in the 1930s, and on the Capitol label and elsewhere in the 40s and 50s. One of my favorite Martha Tilton records is a V-Disc recorded especially for servicemen, called "Beyond the Blue Horizon." Hope you can join me this Sunday, December 17th on All That Jazz, 88.3 and 106.9 FM, KCCK. (On the web, too, at

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

HD Radio Reviews-Dennis

We've been broadcasting in digital HD Radio for over a year now, but receivers capable of picking up the high-quality sound are just now starting to trickle into our area. At Jazz 88.3, we have the Boston Acoustics Receptor, the Sangean HDR-1 and HDT-1 and the Radio Shack Accurian, which is on sale right now for $124.99 after a rebate from Ibiquity, the company that created the HD technology. Corridor-area Radio Shacks are carrying the Accurian, and a salesman told me over the weekend sales are brisk. The others can be bought online.

The Dec. 6 New York Times reviewed several of the models available. You can read their review here (free registration to may be required).

Here's our opinion thus far: The Radio Shack is a great buy for the money, with the benefit of being available locally. We have two, one is playing in my office at this very moment. Only downside is no alarm function, if you're looking for a clock-radio replacement.

The Sangean HDR-1 is a close second, and with its wood-grain case, might look better with your decor.

The Boston Acoustics has slightly better sound, particularly bass response, but it's expensive.

All of the above are table-top models. The only component tuner we've seen is the other Sangean, the HDT-1. But it is outstanding, and we think may be the equal of tuners costing hundreds more.

Have you bought or even heard an HD radio? Please share your opinions! It will help us and be a good guide to others.

Dennis Green
General Manager

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Big Band Memories update-Murray

I'm Murray Kent, host and producer of part 2 of "Big Band Memories", each Sunday afternoon from 3 to 5 on (we hope) your favorite station, All That Jazz, KCCK 88.3 and 106.9 FM. (Cary J Hahn does the first half, 1 to 3.)

I will check in to give you an idea of what's coming up on my next show. Sometimes the lineup changes at the last minute...last Sunday I did an extended tribute to jazz legend Jay McShann who died on December 7th. The week before I did a two-hour remembrance of Anita O'Day.

What's coming up this Sunday? As they say in radio-land, "stay tuned." Except now you can bookmark this site to get the latest news on your favorite programs. I'd certainly encourage you to let us know your thoughts about the station and this show.


Murray Kent
KCCK Jazz Program Producer

Welcome to Our Blog!-Dennis

Jazz 88.3 KCCK is now operating in the Blogosphere. Visit here to find out more about what is going on behind the scenes at Iowa's Jazz Station, along with advance tips on "can't miss" programs, great new releases, and random thoughts from our staff.

Your comments are welcome! Post here or email me directly at the address below.

Dennis Green
General Manager