Everybody knows that it is usually an advantage to be the home team. Whether it is the familiar crowd or just the comforts of being in one’s hometown, the team always seems to get the benefit of the doubt.
When it comes to the stations that I carefully list on my Radio page, it is probably a disadvantage to be the "home team." Instead of picking and choosing as I can online, when I’m in the car, I get to pay close attention to every nuance. This is especially true as I live in the Inland Empire area of greater Los Angeles and cannot receive many of the many non-commercial stations that can be heard closer to the center of all the action.
Because I can be so much more familiar with certain stations, I try to be fair. In fact, I probably do give a lot of "home team" advantage to the stations I can hear in my car because…well, I don’t have much of an alternative. There’s one college/variety station here that, if it was located somewhere else, I probably would have pulled from my list long ago. It’s just that, on those times when it isn’t playing yak-’em-up news/talk/opinion shows, the music is such a relief that I cannot bring myself to take it off the list.
However, there is another station that has been pushing my limits for several months now. At first, I excused their main transgression due to possibly trying to get more people in on the latest pledge drive. Then I excused it due to the station preparing to move its studios. Then I excused it as a possible way to raise ratings during drive time.
It was the last one that finally broke the camel’s back. The reason is that the format of the station that has gotten my ire is jazz. The main transgression they are committing is having a repetitive playlist. If there is one radio format that should never be repetitive, it’s jazz.
Yet, every morning and afternoon, KKJZ in Long Beach is doing just that. Perhaps what is worse is that the songs they are repeating so much aren’t even the big hits like Take Five, Kind of Blue, My Favorite Things, and such. It’s oddball things like a funky version of Tequila, people lamely trying to cover Vince Guaraldi, tons of Chuck Mangione, and pretty much every soft, flabby jazz-fusion hit from the mid-to-late 1970s that every TV station used to use for its old "Community Calendar" background music.
Mixed in with all of that is now a very large amount of "smooth jazz" and some very questionable vocalists from the 1950s and 1960s that were far more pop than they ever were jazz. Having once been a station that covered all sorts of jazz with no significant repetition where one was willing to sit through a less-liked style as something different was surely coming next, KKJZ is now a thoughtless blob almost no better at times than the local "smooth jazz" station.
I do not know the extent of the grumbling that is going on in L.A. over this although I do know some is out there. Unfortunately, it is nowhere near the blow-back that WCLK in Atlanta received when it also tightened its playlist and, to be frank, put in more songs that they thought would appeal to a more affluent (a.k.a. white) audience.
This shift to more repetition and more "smooth jazz" has gone on through at least two pledge drives so I guess it’s not hurting KKJZ’s cash flow enough to make the program director reevaluate the playlist. With things seeming to be as permanent as anything ever gets in the radio business, after catching KKJZ doing the same thing during two non-drive-time shifts, I felt I had no choice to remove the station from my Radio page and be certain nobody got the impression that I thought it was doing a good job with jazz.
Thankfully, I already have a replacement. I have recently been going through all of Canada’s radio stations again to see if there have been any positive changes. After a week of listening as time allowed, I am confident I have a very suitable replacement to get my "ten bast jazz stations" back up to that nice, round number.
While its official call letters are CJRT, this station coming out of Toronto, Ontario in Canada is best known as Jazz FM 91. The station has a long history going back to 1949 when it was the second experimental FM outlet to be licensed in Canada. It switched to the current all-jazz format in 2001 and the change also came with a big educational emphasis for local music students.
I’m not sure what has changed since the last time I gave Jazz FM 91 an extended listen but it sure seems it has really hit its stride. The variety is proper and the hosts are superb. There is a little more syndicated programming than I would usually like to see but that is forgiven as it is all very good plus the fact that this station gets no money from the provincial government.
Whether a full-time jazz aficionado or just something for certain moods, Jazz FM 91 is a good one to try. Unlike the station I just dropped from the list, I don’t believe it will leave anybody disappointed.