« Previous | Main | Next »

Jazz Programming

Roger Wright Roger Wright | 10:56 UK Time, Monday, 8 June 2009

jazz.jpgIt is good to read the thread about jazz programming begun by 'kleines c' on the messageboard.

I don't know what it says on Wikipedia, but there is certainly no uncertainty at Radio 3 about the future of jazz programming on the station! Our service licence states our ongoing commitment to include it as part of our overall programming and there is no desire to change that.

Of course for those who love jazz and want more there will never be enough. For those, on the other hand, who regret that the Third Programme ever started to include jazz in its programmes in the early sixties, five minutes a week may seem too much. We have loyal listeners to our jazz output and the combination of our jazz programmes and those on Radio 2 creates a distinctive contribution to the jazz scene in the UK.

Western classical music remains the main focus of Radio 3 as more than 90% of our music output.

It has been a concern recently to a number of listeners that our popular Saturday jazz zone has had to move around to accommodate our opera schedule. I can sympathise with them but with our commitment to broadcasting the Metropolitan Opera there is not much we can do, not least when Wagner's lengthy Ring cycle is on offer! It is a difficulty which is posed by our unique commitment to live performance. So thanks to our jazz listeners for their patience. Luckily now with listen-again our listeners need never miss their best loved programmes.

The essence of public service broadcasting is to take audiences further and I know that some of our jazz audiences carry on to listen to Opera on 3. I remember with great pleasure the letter from a listener explaining that he had come to Radio 3 for our world music output and now finds himself a regular Composer of the Week listener.

So the joy of discovery is a key part of our station strategy and the range of our music and speech output is one means of delivering it.


  • Comment number 1.

    I should perhaps point out, Roger, that I was quoting directly from the Wikipedia entry to BBC Radio 3 on the Jazz Programmes messageboard:

    "The future of jazz on Radio 3 is uncertain, with reports that Radio 2 may take up more jazz programming[72] and in an interview with The Times in May 2009, Wright categorically stated that the BBC would not start a new jazz station in light of concerns to retain the BBC's jazz output.[74]"


    Wondering whether 'The Times' had misrepresented you, Roger, I decided to start a discussion on the topic:


    Jazz and World Music are both hard nuts for Radio 3 to crack, so to speak, although perhaps you need to give both genres a little more thought, Roger.

  • Comment number 2.

    ..i mentioned on your blog Mr Wright what my thoughts were about jazz on r3; as thay are also posted all over the kjazz message bord forthe last year or so i am not going to repeat them here.

    But please note that this jazz buff, on the whole loathes opera; stays up late on Friday & Saturday, not Sunday and Monday; and prefers a serious and authoritative approach to jazz, as r3 once had. Let me be clear, this jazz fan is very disappointed and strongly disapproves of the changes you have made to jazz programming.

  • Comment number 3.

    Strangely, as the Controller, you do not seem to be aware of what happens on your own station. Saturday afternoon jazz has not been "moved around" it has been frequently cancelled this year. It is not possible to listen again to something that has not been broadcast. The 2 hour Saturday afternoon programmes form the ONLY jazz on Radio 3 that someone like myself who has to work for a living can ever listen to, not being awake until 1 o clock on Monday and Tuesday mornings when you have kindly scheduled the only other programmes. Why should a 150 opera being broadcast in New York automatically take precedence? And your "commitment to live performance" does not ever include any jazz concerts. Not to mention the Mendelsson, not even live but you still axed the " popular Saturday jazz zone" without a second thought.

    Your contempt for jazz is clearly shared by the rest of the BBC - there is no longer a regular jazz programme on R2 for example, this existed for 40 years but was discontinued last year after the death of Humphrey Lyttelton, who was not replaced. Jazz Record Requests and Jazz Library are decent enough programmes, but the former obviously is governed by what people ask for and the latter is time constrained so that tracks are generally not heard in full. On the whole of the BBC's 5 music stations there is not a general jazz record programme with an knowledgeable presenter playing an interesting selection from the whole of the 100 year history of recorded jazz. Simple really, surely this is not too much to ask for for a couple of hours a week before midnight?

    Pretending that Radio 3 care about jazz is a sick joke.

  • Comment number 4.

    Here I am just moving 2posts to this Jazz specific blog....

    01 Jun 2009, aka calum_da_jazbo wrote:

    I have listened to r3 since the mid 1960's, the last few years of the Third Programme and since 1967, r3. It was the jazz programmes that initially drew me to the station; but over the years it has formed part of my life and listening, and helped me discover much new music.

    I find that many recent initiatives, the Beethoven & Bach weeks especially have been most welcome. I must also congratulate you on the SOny Award, since r3 is a family friend in my house.

    But as a serious jazz fan I am just straight out appalled at the recent decline in quality and type of programming. With the exception of Jazz Library, any critical analysis has departed with the demise of Jazz File. The editorial authority of Jazz Line Up and Jazz on r3 is often laughable. The new schedule puts these programmes into the dark hours; and if you think that r3 does a good job by making them available on Listen Again, and that the jazz fan can use the internet then I have to say that the Jazz FM stations available on the web, based on 12 or 24 hour output local stations in the USA put r3 to shame.

    07 Jun 2009, Rooooosta Sings.... wrote:

    Yes, I would definitely go along with Calum da Jazbo....his view of whats been happening with jazzoutput is accurate....we have been banging on about JLU for a couple of years now....usually somewhat rudely....but it is a dud and so is its production staff....What R3 could do is just PLAY more JAZZ....rather than gimmics and magazine format....The BBC Jazz Orchestra/Band is a dud too....if you want to give work to musicians , then there are plenty of combo's about that would fit the bill for sessions....
    By the way I HATE WEEKS/WEEKEND of one composer....

  • Comment number 5.

    I am King Kennytone, a harmless jazz enthusiast.

    Well Roger, I am sorry the way things have gone. Back when I was a young king kennytone, back before the capital Ks so ter speak, the beloved & holy BBC had hep & informed jazz presentation, cats like Charles Fox, & across the bored (ahem) a more open & innovative EAR for such as AMM, Cardew all that kinda stuff to ...

    I'm afraid the erudition & insight of the old presenters has been replaced by slack-jawed golly gosh magazine type presentation


    time to maybe question the farming out of this VITAL music to such fizzy 'cross-platform' franchises as the dumb-ass Somethin' Else Productions

    Their day has gone
    For many of us, it never was a day, just a LONG DREARY fade into trivia

    cough cough etc

    I can't go on..




    love xxx
    King Kennytone

  • Comment number 6.

    Well, yes, I support all the comments made so far, but would add that jazz's place on radio 3 is due to its consideration as a SERIOUS music, and Alyn Shipton at the moment is the only presenter who lives up to this with his ability to be informative and entertaining at the same time. The ingratiating but ultimately intelligence-insulting 'hooray Henry' method of presentation has spread to the many 'classical' programmes, to which I've been listening less & less this century, mainly for that reason. If I wanted inane chitchat I'd turn to radio 2 (sorry) or some commercial station.
    Flexibility of programming is needed too, so that it isn't the jazz programmes which get axed every time an extended opera HAS to be broadcast live (or does it?) As for 'listen again' not every listener has access to a computer & the facility does not always work.
    Also the service should not be aimed only at seasoned jazz listeners, but should be a source of information and education especially to those in the remote provinces who have little chance to hear any live music. Charle Fox was incomparable in this respect. The next best successor I thought was 'Impressions' in the 1990s with its mixture of live music, records and informed news. BBC could again with a little care be a forerunner in this field. For example some broadcasts from the archives (as in 'Mining the archives') would be of interest to many people, and would entail little enough expenditure.

  • Comment number 7.

    I would certainly endorse the excellent idea of exploiting the archive; and the return of a programme like Jazz File, which was variable except in its resolute seriousness - and at least one could debate issues via the messageboard - as we do with Alyn Shipton. Admirable though his Jazz Library programme is, we have recently endured an excursion into Joni Mitchell even here.

    Jazz is a serious music, with a canon, and an avant gard and a mainstream and a retro tendency, all of which should be intelligently represented on r3. Public Service arts broadcasting should not be this poor.

    Speaking from a sense of grievance, why can not the Opera be a web service instead of Jazz on Saturday. It is a minority taste, albeit plutocratic and eats public money quite incommensurate with its audience.

    Here are some themes for weekends devoted to Jazz:

    The Big Band Era (Dance Hall, Concert Hall, Cathedral)

    The Bebop Revolution (The emergence of the Jazz Artist)

    Miles and/or Trane (Jazz developments since the 60s, Fusion, Free Jazz, Modalities and Mysticisms)

    Europe and the UK (The explosion of free music)

    I am sure my mates on da bored could come up with a dozen more. But it is my bet that no one in r3 has eeven considered such an idea for Jazz.

    And by the way, can you use your BBC Committtee presences to get your colleagues to stop using Miles Davis as a soundtrack to documetaries and reality tv. It has taken decades for Rachmaninov to recover from the commercial trivialisation hiis music suffered. Just lay off Kind of Blue and last night Sketches of Spain. Mindless vandalism of great art.

  • Comment number 8.

    Your Service License states....blaa blaa blaa....it does not mean you are going to do it well or even have the intention of doing it well....it does not mean that the money will be well spent in fact a great deal has been farmed out to a company....Sunfinelse Productions ....who have their own agenda....their own list of friends and hangers on....When Oh when does their contract come up for renewal....

    It's not a difficult job....play jazz....C20....C21....yap a bit....then play some more jazz....jazz of all styles....PLAY JAZZ....

    Please inform us....when does the SOMETHINGELSE contract finish....

  • Comment number 9.

    I agree with much of what the other posters have said.

    1. It used to be that there was significant jazz broadcasting on Radio 2. Now, virtually all of the BBC's serious jazz output on its national stations is on Radio 3. Therefore you, as Controller of Radio 3, are in charge of the vast majority of the BBC's national jazz output - a whole 5 hours a week. How do you justify the decision to broadcast 60% of the jazz on Radio 3 very late on a Sunday night / Monday morning or Monday night / Tuesday morning, at a time which is impractical for those of us who work standard 9-to-5 Monday-to-Friday hours to listen to?

    2. I can cope with Jazz Record Requests being moved to make way for a long opera. But, as Tony points out, it has frequently not been moved but been cancelled. Radio 3 prefers to scrap 20% of its jazz output for the week rather than broadcast an opera as a delayed relay instead of a live broadcast. Why?
    It's not as if the classical evening output is always broadcast live: in fact, Radio 3 made a conscious decision to reduce the number of live classical broadcasts when it decided to start the main evening concert broadcast at 7pm rather than 7.30pm. I'm a regular attender at the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's Glasgow concerts. When Radio 3 broadcasts them, it is frequently several days after the concert. Since it is regular BBC practice to broadcast performances after they have taken place, why can the transmission of the Met Opera not be put back by a hour when it would otherwise disrupt one of the few Radio 3 jazz programmes?

    3. Why does Radio 3 rarely if ever broadcast a jazz concert as its main evening concert? I'm not asking for a regular weekly session, merely the broadcasting of the occasional concert by major figures so that jazz lovers throughout the UK can hear them. In the next few weeks we have visits to the UK from Ornette Coleman (at the Meltdown festival) and Chick Corea (at the Glasgow Jazz Festival). Later this year Sonny Rollins is playing at the BBC-sponsored London Jazz Festival. Will any of these performances be the main evening concert on Radio Three? If not, why not?

  • Comment number 10.

    What a good point about there never being a jazz concert on the main evening concert.

    But we don't really get the concert experience from R3 anymore. What we get is yet another music program with dumbed-down chat and yet more chat. The only difference is that the music was recorded at a live event.

  • Comment number 11.

    Calum's idea of 'The explosion of free music' would be a fascinating follow-up to BBC Radio 3's unholy trinity of 'Free Thinking Festivals' in Liverpool over the past three years, Roger.

    Jazz Programmes are one genre of music in which Radio 3 could do so much more, Roger, and so much better. This short discussion on 'The Radio 3 Blog' is crammed full of excellent ideas for the Controller of Radio 3. Tony's own guess is that absolutely nothing will happen.


    Roger, you still have the opportunity to prove tony wrong.


  • Comment number 12.

    Live, or is that 'live' concets would be an excellent initiative, and not presented by Somethin Else.


    The presence and performance of a great European artist has gone unnoticed by r3, so far as I know. When will r3 acknowledge the major jazz scene in Europe; after all Through the Night thrives on European connection - why not jazz?

  • Comment number 13.


    this lays out the key problem eh?

    r3 as a PUBLICLY FUNDED PUBLIC SERVICE ARTS RADIO STATION should have the courage, wit and basic nous to be non-commercial

    the point of jazz on r3 is to treat it as it deserves, as a serious music, too difficult, too abrasive, just plain wrong to the ear, for the many, never more than a 5% taste (J Dankworth said summat like that)

    this argument is identical to the legitimisation of the large amounts of taxpayers £££££££ spent on opera, another small audience art form (let us not be adolescent about class here, opera appeals to all sorts of people, just as jazz does)

    it takes huge investment in virtuosity, courage to perform in an unresponsive world, and economic sacrifice to be a jazz artist; r3 currently is pretty disrespectful of the efforts of serious jazz artists, and so are jazz buffs snearing at earnest failure and mistaken compromise by young artists; it takes a long time to find your way and voice in jazz - if the process hasn't killed or damged you ...

    the world is, alas (i loathe it mostly), a better place for opera; but it also a better place for jazz - let us have a parity of respect Mr Wright - we can argue about the budgets later ....

  • Comment number 14.

    Still waiting....


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.