Radio 3 angers jazz purists with tribute to Frank Zappa

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The Independent Culture

Having infuriated its classical music traditionalists, BBC Radio 3 has angered jazz purists among its audience by deciding to feature the rock icon Frank Zappa.

The guitarist and songwriter, who hated jazz (as well as a lot of other things), is to be the focus of a special edition of Jazz File this month.

The programme appears to be an attempt to break down more barriers at Radio 3, where some of the audience are already upset over changes to the music policy.

David Samuels, of the listeners' group FoR3 (Friends of Radio 3), said yesterday: "This is going to upset the jazz fans, no doubt about it. Jazz File is one of Radio 3's standard programmes. If they are going to put Frank Zappa on they are likely to start alienating the jazz fans the way they have the classical fans."

In notes for the programme, scheduled for 22 November, the BBC admits: "[Zappa] said he didn't like jazz, complaining of its endless 'noodling' and he once famously said that 'jazz is not dead, it just smells funny'."

Roger Wright, the controller of Radio 3, is known to be an admirer of Zappa and his band, the Mothers of Invention. In an interview nearly three years ago, he hinted at an ambition to get the rock legend on the Radio 3 airwaves: "The barriers are down. We don't just have people who listen to Handel and people who listen to Frank Zappa. There are people who are comfortable with both."

Mr Wright, who took over as controller five years ago, could argue that his strategy is working. Radio 3 was the only national BBC station to increase itsaudience in the most recent quarter.

But Gerald Kaufman, a Radio 3 listener and chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, suggested that a listeners' group would soon be formed called "Enemies of Radio 3".

He said: "There are people out there who listen to Handel and Doris Day, or even Handel and Kylie Minogue. But I wouldn't have assumed that because they listen to both, Radio 3 should accommodate both."

The BBC justifies the Radio 3 Zappa special, presented by Charles Shaar Murray, on the basis that "much of his music shows a jazz influence". It also points out that Zappa's recordings feature some of the most "dazzling improvisers of their time".

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