Weekly AUDIO NEWS for July 9, 2003

Jazz Artists Awards - At the Annual Jazz Journalists Association ceremony last month the 400 members chose awards in 40 different categories. The awards have been made for seven years, recognizing the contributions of numerous musicians, journalists, and jazz business and community figures. This year new ground was broken by the JJA hosting simultaneous awards programs in Israel and across the U.S.

Cecil Taylor received the Lifetime Achievement in Jazz award, and Wayne Shorter the Musician of the Year award. Pianist Jason Moran was the Up ‘n’ Coming Musician of the Year and Andrew Hill was the Composer of the Year. Arranger of the Year was Maria Schneider and Combo of the Year was The Wayne Shorter Quartet - whose “Footprints Live!” CD on Verve was voted Album of the Year, with Shorter himself as Tenor Saxophonist of the Year. The Big Band of the Year Winner was the Dave Holland Big Band, and Trumpeter of the Year was Dave Douglas. Greg Osby received the 2003 Alto Saxophonist of the Year Award and his label, Blue Note, was the Record Label of the Year. His label mates Joe Lovano and Marian McPartland were also nominated, and presented his award. Osby has been occasionally sitting in with the band of the original Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. [His latest CD is reviewed in the JAZZ section of this issue.]

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme on Impulse! was voted Reissue of the Year and the Columbia Legacy Charlie Christian, Genius of the Electric Guitar was the Historical Boxed Set of the Year Winner. George Wein and Patricia Nicholson Parker tied for the Events Producer of the Year Award.

Downturn of Commercial Classical Stations - The once-thriving group of commercial classical FM stations across the country in major cities is now down to just a few. Such outlets in Miami, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Diego, Chicago and Tulsa have bit the dust in recent years, leaving most of those cities with no classical radio station at all. Chicago's other classical semi-commercial station, WFMT, has long been regarded in broadcasting as the most cultured radio station in North America.

But WFMT too has been affected by cutbacks and belt-tightening. Though the longtime fine arts station reads announcements from commercial sponsors on the air (no recorded jingles please) they are a non-profit operation owned by the local PBS outlet. A former staffer accuses WFMT of diluting their unique product, and two popular program hosts were let go. The station no longer broadcasts either the Chicago Symphony or the Lyric Opera. Another indication of the downturn is that WFMT has followed the example of other commercial classical stations such as KDFC in San Francisco and KING in Seattle in automating its programming from 6 PM to Midnight. Surprisingly, though a commercial station, it runs on-air fund drives about every 17 weeks just like public radio stations. Its manager states “You can’t generate a lot of commercial revenue when you’re broadcasting Mahler symphonies.”

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