Jun 202012

Updated. As many Boston listeners feared, WGBH has put its jazz programming on the road to extinction. What is to be done?

By J. R. Carroll.

Jazz host Steve Schwartz

“[T]he other shoe dropped…”
—WGBH jazz host Steve Schwartz
to Joseph Kahn at boston.com

And so, the twitterverse erupted:


Jazz host Eric Jackson

The notloB (hint: read it backwards) music blog has reproduced Steve and Eric’s Facebook status updates—Steve’s is positively heartbreaking, and I can only imagine the inner turmoil masked by Eric’s stoic statement. Musicians, including Phil Grenadier, Bob and Kaoruko Pilkington, Fernando Huergo, Dave Bryant, Allan Chase, Guillermo Nojechowicz, Yoko Miwa, Melissa Kassel, Jerry Sabatini, Pamela Hines, Mark Shilansky, Ken Field, Russ Gershon, Teresa Ines, Warren Wolf, Stephen Bourassa, Jason Palmer, Greg Osby, Semenya McCord, Alain Mallet, and Ben Schwendener, as well as writers Bill Beuttler, Steve Morse, and Clea Simon, broadcaster Lydia Liebman (daughter of Dave), local jazz institution “Stereo Jack” Woker, and, saddest of all, former colleague Ron Gill, all weighed in with expressions of mingled sorrow and outrage.

Local media watcher Dan Kennedy posted WGBH’s press release on his website, and from that we get a picture of what the new program lineup will be:

  • Morning Edition expanding from 6 to 10 a.m.
  • The Diane Rehm Show airing daily from 10 to 11 a.m.
  • The Takeaway airing daily from 11 a.m. to noon.
  • Boston Public Radio (local talk format with Callie Crossley, Emily Rooney, Kara Miller, Jared Bowen, Adam Reilly and others exploring local news, politics, culture and technology) airing from noon to 2 p.m. with a daily replay from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Tell Me More (NPR program hosted by Mishel Martin, examining U.S. and international news, ideas, and people; its range of topics covers politics, faith and spirituality, the family, finance, arts and culture, and lifestyle) airing from 2 to 3 p.m.
  • The World airing from 3 to 4 p.m. and then again from 8 to 9 p.m.
  • All Things Considered airing from 4 to 6 p.m. and from 6:30 to 7 p.m.
  • The audio of The PBS NewsHour airing from 7 to 8 p.m.

Regrettably, Kennedy is also the source of one of the more obtuse responses to the news, “It’s a shame, but I suspect not many people listen to terrestrial jazz radio in the age of Pandora.” This drew a number of rebukes, including this one from Mark Bulger, “. . . no, I never listen to jazz on Pandora or any other streaming radio service. I trust the decades of experience and taste of Eric Jackson to serve me up music that will surprise me, not some machine algorithm that makes ridiculous choices.”

Word spread rapidly, even prompting a tweet from the Jazz Journalists Association who, ironically, were in the midst of announcing their annual awards:

Comments came from fellow jazz broadcasters:

And local jazz venues:

And writers:

And many, many long-time listeners:

Boston musician Steve Provizer wrote on his Brilliant Corners blog, “There is a fabric that constitutes the Boston-area jazz community and these shows, especially Jackson’s daily show, were an important part of it. This is a bad blow for the local jazz community. . . . There will be pushback. It remains to be seen if a critical mass of music partisans can have any influence on a local media outlet whose mission, over the last couple of years, has grown foggier and foggier.”

What is to be done?

Steve Schwartz suggested writing to WGBH Managing Director Phil Redo at phil_redo@wgbh.org

A Facebook group has formed to protest the programming changes:


A Facebook group called Save Eric in the Evening has been set up and already has 1,618 members, and another Facebook group, initiated by veteran jazz publicist Sue Auclair, has been created at Save Jazz on WGBH now! (now up to 747 members).

On both of these pages there have been eloquent pleas from Sergio Brandao and Russ Gershon, among others.

A petition to WGBH management has been started at iPetitions

This is a devastating blow to the Boston jazz community, and the major jazz institutions of New England will need to step up.

I’ll have more to say about this in the coming days.

Updated Fuse pieces on the fate of jazz on WGBH:

The Gathering Storm

WGBH’s Radio Theater of the Absurd


Read more by J. R. Carroll

Follow J. R. Carroll on Twitter

Email J. R. Carroll

  3 Responses to “Fuse Commentary: Radio Silence for Boston Jazz?”

Comments (3)
  1. Saxophonist Donald Harrison’s comment via his facebook page regarding this travesty:

    Donald Harrison shared a link.
    3 hours ago
    To Everyone, Please do whatever you can to get WGBH to reinstate Eric Jackson, and Steve Schwartz to their original show times. The battle for jazz is everyday and we all should do our part to keep it alive. These 2 gentlemen have been on the frontlines doing a remarkable job for a long, long time in the Boston metro area. Jazz needs them and that is for sure. Donald Harrison


    • Marla,

      Thanks for sharing these words of appreciation from Donald Harrison. (I tried to friend him, but Facebook says he’s maxed out on friends.) Eric did a terrific show on Donald’s music this past Monday, and it’s sad to contemplate that these programs spotlighting individual musicians may soon be a thing of the past.

  2. I signed, with this comment:

    Informed curation and commentary on jazz makes a significant contribution to the ecology of one of America’s great indigenous art forms. Simply replicating public radio news and talk shows available elsewhere demonstrates a lack of creativity and commitment to the Boston community. Bring back Steve and Eric, and increase WGBH’s original, high-quality cultural programming.

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