Wednesday, May 23, 2007

All That Jazz

There used to be a UK radio station called Jazz FM. It was amongst the batch of early digital radio stations which were available via the new DAB radios and on-line. As digital radio became more accessible and the popularity of broadband increased, radio stations which catered for something other than BBC Radio One-and-a-half tastes where, at last, a practical possibility. As a jazz-lover, I - like many of my fellow fans - tuned into Jazz FM as soon as our sparkling new DAB radios were taken out of their boxes. And what a disappointment.

It wasn't that we had to get used to hearing some of the great legends of jazz in close proximity with adverts for car insurance or toothpaste. Many of us were veterans of American jazz radio programmes and therefore were used to commercial co-existence (although there was one particular advert for BUPA Care Homes which seemed a little too carefully targeted for my liking). It wasn't that we would have to occasionally share our platform with artists whose relationship with jazz was about as tenuous as Vera Duckworth's relationship with the Royal Family. It was the sheer volume of chaff that got you down. You had to listen to hours of lift-music to find minutes of the genuine articles. Soon, your brain was left atrophied, you got saccharine-tinnitus, and you tried to shift the dial back to Jazz Record Requests or the Best of Jazz.

When Jazz FM suddenly vanished off the digital air-waves last year, few jazz fans noticed and even fewer were upset. And equally, when a new Jazz Radio Station - theJazz - rose like a digital phoenix from the ashes, jazz fans were much more cautious and a little less willing to give it a try. It wasn't until last week - when I was scratching my head and trying to work out the meaning of life - that I tried the new station out via its web-based player. And it is better than I expected - certainly better than Jazz FM. It is still a shared platform, but the proportion of real jazz is much better than in the past. It still seems to be playlist-based (and therefore if you listen for long enough you tend to here the same tracks over and over again) but as long as you don't listen for too long that is not a problem. And it is still a bit wooden (as though someone is reading the links from the back of an envelope) but that will probably improve with time.

So my initial verdict is relatively positive. It's certainly worth a try and you will not be too disappointed unless you charge in with too many expectations. Turn to their website and give it a try.

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