The last AM radio station I worked for used to broadcast “Block Programming”. That is, different types of programs were aired at set times of the day. There was Farm Market Information in the early mornings and at noon. In mid-morning we had the “Kitchen Klatter Show” for homemakers. During the early afternoons was an opinion-discussion show called “Voice of the People”. The rest of the weekday hours were filled with country music.
Weekends were a variation of this lineup, there were more sports and news shows. Then on Sunday afternoons we aired the “Polka Party” and “Swingtime 78”. It was the swing show that brought me enormous pleasure and greatly enhanced my love of music.
As the station’s music director, I was given great freedom to choose the content of all the music portions of the station. This was certainly a dream job. Best of all, I was given some freedom to create, from scratch, new shows. It is what I miss most about broadcasting.
“Swingtime 78” was entirely my brainchild. The program featured music from the Big Band Era and the Jazz that was massively popular. There is a huge catalogue of artists, performers, and songwriters, documenting popular music from the first half of the 20th Century. The program focused on records from the 1930s, 1940s and what was big during World War Two, because there is so much of it.
I visualized a time machine journey for each show. I tried to recreate the ambience of the golden age of radio. Older listeners were given music from their youthful years. Younger people liked the show because there had been a short “rebirth” of Swing in global contemporary culture that introduced them to the genre. The Swingtime show was not only a nostalgia trip for the World War Two generation but was an ongoing education for younger listeners, and myself.
Of course Jazz is not limited to Big Band or Swing. This music covers a wide variety of styles, artists, and subgenres. Before the opportunity to create “Swingtime 78” arose, I already enjoyed some of the Cool Jazz of the 1950s and 1960s. Progressive and Fusion Jazz found its way to my personal turntable quite often, too.
Once in awhile, I crave very early New Orleans Jazz, the “underground music”. The black music of the 1890s into the 1920s is harder to find, but this antique artform is utterly fascinating to people who love history.
Jazz is a large category that is full of subgenres and sub-subgenres. To investigate Jazz, is to embark on a lifelong mission. Even my foray into the subgenre of Big Band made me feel very much like a dilettante. All I can do is encourage my friends to sample various types of Jazz and play music from the genres they find enjoyable.
All things said, maybe we shouldn’t categorize Jazz music.