Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

How Jazz Disappeared from the Airwaves: The Music Schedules Are a Swamp of Cheesy Easy Listening

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

How Jazz Disappeared from the Airwaves: The Music Schedules Are a Swamp of Cheesy Easy Listening

Article excerpt

Last week, a friend took me out to Ronnie Scott's, which used to be a fleapit, but is now totally glamorous, thanks to a refurbishment by its new owner, Sally Greene. It was great: cocktails and dancing and decent frocks to gawp at. But most of all, I loved listening to the Ronnie Scott's All Stars. I do like a trombone, especially one that's being pumped like a machine-gun.

This got me thinking: where on radio can you hear jazz and swing, or the best standards? I know that Radio 2 does its bit (though God alone knows why the fantastic Sunday show by Russell Davies, which celebrates the popular song, was trimmed to make way for the egregiously bland Elaine Paige), and I know that Radio 3 will cover this month's London Jazz Festival. But it's patchy. What if you feel like some Grant Green or Bobby Darin on a Tuesday morning?

In London, there used to be Jazz FM--until, that is, it was bought by the Guardian Media Group and became Smooth FM ... at which point it suffered an identity crisis. By night, it is still recognisably a jazz station, though without experts such as Helen Mayhew (she, incidentally, can now be found presenting shows on BBC Radios 2 and 3). By day, it turns out a terrible mishmash of vaguely soulful sounds: Lemar and Simply Red feature prominently.

However, GMG Radio, the station's parent company, recently submitted a proposal to the regulator Ofcom, asking that it be allowed to change Smooth again, turning it into an easy-listening station for the over-fifties (it will, however, maintain the 45 hours of "specialist" music programming it still claims to broadcast). Ofcom has launched a public consultation, which will close this month.

I hope that Ofcom, egged on by music fans, will refuse. Turn the dial on your digital radio and you'll find that there is already too much easy listening out there: Galaxy, Magic, Saga. (And who has its eye on Saga? …

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