Talking Jazz

So, the barbarians at the gates have won a convincing victory.

So, the barbarians at the gates have won a convincing victory. Jazz FM, the radio station that the innocent may have assumed was committed to playing the music after which it is named, has persuaded the regulator Ofcom to change its remit. No longer will the station be required to ensure that "50 per cent of the output in daytime sits well with the term jazz". Now, says John Myers, the station's head, Jazz FM has "a wonderful opportunity to deliver radio that remains distinctive and compelling while being commercially attractive".

The implication is that its former requirement to broadcast music to which the label "jazz" could be attached (fulfilled only by stretching its interpretation of the word to well beyond breaking point) was a bit of a bother, quite frankly; and that jazz is neither commercially attractive nor distinctive and compelling.

How will Jazz FM use this "wonderful opportunity"? Judging by a sample from one morning, listeners can expect a mix of even more overworked old soul numbers. Good for the bank balances of Al Green, Bill Withers, et al, but not exactly thrilling for the rest of us.

A little history. This is a station that has always had an ambivalent relationship, at best, with jazz. So chary was it of being associated with a minority art form, albeit one that some consider to have been the greatest American contribution of the last century to world culture, that it even changed its name at one point to J FM. When the Guardian Media Group bought the station two years ago, there was hope that a more enlightened approach might hold sway.

But the way this latest change at Jazz FM has been reported on The Guardian website makes it clear that those steering the group probably think that jazz is a perfume by Yves Saint Laurent. "Traditional jazz will vanish from Jazz FM's daytime schedules... but modern jazz singers such as Jamie Cullum and Joss Stone will be heard throughout the day." The fact that so ignorant and misinformed a statement could appear on the site makes it clear that nobody in charge knows the first thing about jazz.

Traditional jazz is an early form of the music represented by the likes of Louis Armstrong, and has never been much played on the station. The term does not refer, as the author seems to think, to all jazz prior to 1990. Modern jazz, of course, does not mean that which has been created in the past five years but, broadly speaking, encompasses all jazz that followed on from the bebop revolution after the Second World War. And, lastly - Joss Stone, a jazz singer?

The always excellent Dinner Jazz evening shows are being extended, but it's still shameful that a station called Jazz FM should want to shunt the music into a night-time ghetto. Although it hardly seems possible, Jazz FM has disgraced itself still further. Its very name ought to be a breach of trading standards.

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