JazzBoston Launches JazzBird Radio App
Posted 4/23/2013

JazzBoston has launched a unique computer application to aggregate and zero in on jazz radio programs from all over the world.

The New England jazz advocacy group made the announcement at a press party with a live band at Scullers Jazz Club on April 2. The only radio music app devoted exclusively to jazz, JazzBird is a joint effort of JazzBoston and Audibilities LLC. It provides up-to-the-minute schedules for a carefully curated collection of shows streaming live from broadcast and Internet stations worldwide. Shows are handpicked by a small but expanding listening panel in Boston, arguably the world center of jazz education. The list of hosted shows has risen to nearly 250. Twenty 24-hour jazz stations are also listed.

The JazzBird LITE version is free. The full version ($2.99) adds features for multi-taskers who want to listen to jazz while they text, email, web-surf or play games. The full version also has a sleep timer for listening in bed and a switch to turn off ads. Both are available for iPhone and iPad.

“I’m thrilled to announce the launch of this app,” said JazzBoston Executive Director Pauline Bilsky. “Most important from JazzBoston’s point of view, the app’s graphical interface gives prominence to shows created by stations in the greater Boston area.” (These appear at the top of the list for each time slot, in yellow highlight, with a “B” icon.) With more than 100,000 downloads anticipated in the next year, JazzBird promises to build local, national and international audiences.

The initiative signals a major step forward in the Boston jazz community’s Campaign for Local Jazz Radio, launched last July in response to NPR affiliate WGBH-FM’s drastic slash of its weekly jazz programming from 80 hours overnight to a mere 9 weekend hours. Veteran jazz journalist and “Boston Boy” Nat Hentoff hailed the campaign as a “historic jazz regeneration.”

In addition to the launch and live music performances, a panel discussion moderated by “ˇCon Salsa!” host José Massó traded ideas on promoting music. Pitching in were radio personalities Ron Della Chiesa, Eric Jackson and Steve Schwartz, all with long histories at WGBH; Tyra Penn, singer and Worcester radio host at WCUW; and jazz impresario Fred Taylor, Scullers’ entertainment director.

Bilsky’s invitation to the event, via letter and press releases, voiced a wide appeal to radio station program directors, DJs and marketing folks: “Having even one original jazz show in your programming mix could gain you a spot that will help build your local audience and promote your station to listeners worldwide.”

The event drew interested parties from far and wide. Willard Jenkins, for example, came up from Maryland; he has contributed to XM Satellite Radio and National Public Radio and currently hosts a jazz radio program for Washington, D.C.’s WPFW (Pacifica Radio). “I was impressed,” reported Jenkins, “that when I mentioned WPFW’s programs, the curators wrote it down and soon got back to me [to say] that we were to be included.”

Jenkins said he was pleased that the panel’s practical focus on the benefits of jazz radio avoided indulging in a “bitch and moan” session about “the dwindling jazz radio universe.” Fred Landrum, radio host at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s WMBR-FM, enthused about what jazz radio means to him and detailed fresh program ideas. Others who represented regional jazz radio stations in New Hampshire and Connecticut spoke up.

JazzBoston (a signal force since 2006 in unifying the notoriously fractious Boston jazz community) and the Campaign for Local Jazz Radio had previously joined forces to encourage local stations to boost the music. Three major points were: 1) to add jazz to the program mix; 2) to increase existing on-air jazz hours; and 3) to include announcements of jazz events in daily events bulletins.

For information about JazzBird and JazzBoston activities, go to jazzboston.org.

Fred Bouchard

To download the free version of JazzBird LITE, click here.

From left: Phillip Landrum, Steve Schwartz, Fred Taylor, Tyra Penn, Eric Jackson and Ron Della Chiesa (Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo)


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