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Jazz Heaven

| April 28, 2006 | 1 Comment

Jazz singing is like pornography, in that you know it when you hear it,” quips local singer Kurt Elling during a conversation with Al Jarreau and Ramsey Lewis on an episode of the new weekly TV series, “Legends Of Jazz.”

Such uninhibited talk is typical of the new show, which brings together jazz greats such as Dr. Billy Taylor and Dave Brubeck for a half-hour of conversation and live performance. Hosted by local jazz legend Lewis and co-produced by WTTW-Channel 11, it’s the first nationally televised weekly jazz program to hit the small screen in 40 years (the last weekly show – Ken Burns’ excellent documentary series nonwithstanding – was 1962’s short-lived “Jazz Scene USA,” produced by Steve Allen and hosted by Chicago’s Oscar Brown, Jr.).

The brainchild of Lewis and director Larry Rosen, the 13 episodes began airing last month, and the pairings include bluesmen Robert Cray and Keb’ Mo’; Eddie Palmieri and Dave Valentin; tenor saxmen Benny Golson, Chris Potter, and Marcus Strickland; and Hammond B3 organ virtuosos Joey DeFrancesco and Dr. Lonnie Smith. Artists perform separately before jamming together at the end. Archival footage gives context to their performances and conversations.

There’s also a radio version, and a tour is also planned (for more see www.legendsof jazz.net).

The final episode features 2006 NEA Jazz Masters award winners Chick Corea, Tony Bennett, and late conga player Ray Barretto performing at the 2006 International Association For Jazz Education conference in New York City.

“We’re thinking of taking the ‘Legends’ idea and doing similar things for Latin music and blues and other types of music that don’t get a lot of exposure in the mainstream, but where there are a whole lot of people who love the music,” says Rosen. We nominate Steve Cushing to host the blues series (his WBEZ-FM (91.5) show, “Blues Before Sunrise,” airs Saturday nights at midnight).

Catch “Legends Of Jazz” Fridays at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 p.m. on WTTW, and Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on Merrillville’s WYIN-Channel 56; it airs through June 24th. The HDTV version airs Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The radio version airs Sundays from 7 to 9 a.m. and 10 p.m to midnight on WNUA 95.5. Lewis is also the morning drive radio host at WNUA.

BLOG WARS: We love seeing Steve Dahl and #strong>Kevin Matthews swipe at each other on their respective blogs. Dahl recently accused Matthews of stealing several bits from him, including his shopworn and sexist top newsbabe contest, his erstwhile “Is it wrong?” refrain, and long-running Eddie Schwartz impersonation. “Kevin Matthews heard my impersonation in the late ’80s, bought a foam rubber fat suit, and went on tour with ‘Ed Zeppelin.’ I always just looked the other way, because basically I like Kevin, and most of the time, he was just reprising an old bit that I was already tired of doing,” writes Dahl. “Stealing all of those choice bits from Johnny B. (‘The Friday Song’), others and myself only served to send Kevin straight back to Grand Rapids and Radio Hell.” Matthews countered by claiming Dahl fakes the number of hits he gets on his Web site. “Sick and tired about hearing about his battle with the bulge as he woofs down free food brought in by a local establishments? Tired of his on-air routine of either begging for free merchandise, 10-15 second gaps of dead air or hearing the forced laughter of Wendy and Buzz who just want to keep cashing their paychecks? Bored of him sucking every, last, measly bit of material out of failed promotion at Comiskey Park that happened a quarter of a century ago? Well, judging by his ratings and the Web site stats, you sure as hell aren’t alone!” I sense a partnership in the making. For more see www.kevhead.com/ thankssteve.asp and dahl.com/weblog/ 3_29_06.asp.

ODDS N SODS: Speaking of stealing, we recently heard WCKG-FM (105.9) Howard Stern replacement Shane “Rover” French flogging a Dahl bit from more than two decades ago. Perhaps it’s time to oust the ratings-losing carpetbagger and put Garry Meier back to work . . . Part of French’s failure is due to the overwhelming welcome given to WLUP-FM (97.9)’s Jonathon Brandmeier since he returned to the airwaves last fall . . . Newsweb Corp-owned progressive talk station WCPT-AM (850) celebrates its first anniversary with an appearance by Air America star Al Franken on May 8th at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted. For more info call (773) 838-0223. No word yet if Tom Davis will make a cameo appearance . . . It’s not uncommon to find New York Times articles respun a week or two later in the *Chicago Tribune*. That’s not the case with an April 2nd NYT “Style” section piece by Cindy Chang about Hanzi or Chinese character tattoos that don’t say what the wearers think they do; the Tribune-owned L.A. Times ran a similar story by Christine N. Ziemba on March 19th. But the Chicago Tribune scooped them by two years with freelancer Junko Hamaguchi‘s April 6th, 2004 pictoral called “Character Study.” Funny, Chang and Hamaguchi used the same “love hurts” example. More at echo.colum.edu/back/winspr02/intensecity1.html and at www.hanzismatter.com . . . Oprah Winfrey‘s addition of the “Oprah & Friends” radio channel on XM Satellite Radio to her TV, film, and magazine empire makes her the de facto Queen Of All Media. Meanwhile, male counterpart Howard Stern has been complaining because not enough people have been signing up to get his show on Sirius, which has far fewer subscribers than XM. Uh, maybe if it were free, Howard.

– Cara Jepsen

Category: Media, Monthly

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  1. Robert Kaiser says:

    Wasn’t there a weekly show called “Just Jazz” in the late sixties or early seventies in chicago directed by Robert Kaiser, who later hired Oscar Brown Jr. to host “From Jumpstreet” while at WETA in Washington D.C. in the 1980’s?

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