Towards a Community Radio

Towards a Community Radio

I often get comments that the music I play on the Jazz Spectrum is inaccessible and turns people away. This is honestly not surprising – a lot my show ends up consisting in music that is either atonal or has uncommon instrumentations. Still, I continue to play the music that I do, not in spite of others, but to the contrary, because I believe that many creative musicians (who often go unrecognized) best capture the spirit of jazz and are thus fitting for a radio show.

I am reminded of a quote from a recent interview done with guitarist Bill Frisell by The Believer Magazine. He said:

“I was checking out Louis Armstrong a couple years ago. I was really thinking about him a lot. What blew my mind was how we sort of take it for granted, that sound is such a part of everything now, but what did it sound like when no one had heard him before? What did it sound like to be there? It was the most outrageously radical avant-garde insane thing, what he was doing. Like some kind of Martian crashing down through the ceiling!

But at the same time it was so beautiful and everyone could understand it. It was like a new giant flower that just appeared. When I’m looking back I’m actually trying to find some kind of a key to go forward.”

How should we understand this coupling of innovation with accessibility?

Mr. Frisell reminds us that throughout the history of jazz, people organized around the new sounds coming from creative individuals.In fact, many musicians did not achieve widespread fame because their music was dedicated entirely to a local community. Today, when the these names do surface – Horace Tappscott, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Andrew Hill, among countless others – they are often understood solely in terms of their music, when in fact so much of their artistic project was to act as community organizers of sorts. Sometimes I feel that the communities that formed around music constitute the very spirit of jazz.

Can this organizing be achieved through a radio show? While I recognize that physical organization is unlikely, certainly we can organize in spirit. Listening to music that, at different times, had a significant impact on certain communities can in theory provoke and inspire anyone in similar ways today. Arguably, the jazz music currently at the vanguard might be the best music for achieving this.

I try to find music that instills me with this other-worldly feeling that is not necessarily specific to one “genre” or “era” of jazz. Indeed, I think this appears is the music of Louis Armstrong just as much as in the music of Anthony Braxton! I hope that the spirit of freedom that I try to maintain in my shows reminds us what is means to organize, something hugely undervalued today.

Carlos Snaider programs the Jazz Spectrum on Fridays from 9-11AM EST.