One of my year-end rituals, as far as this fine publication is concerned, is moving all my work from my computer's hard drive to a ZIP disk. I'm not starved for storage space. The drive is only 3GB big, and in the three years I've had it I haven't even taken up half that space. It's the economy of home PC use, I guess. I don't download or buy every piece of software that looks cool or may seem useful. I only use my home computer for writing and communicating over the Internet. Just don't ask me where I've offloaded the pictures I copied from the Perfect10 web site or Breastsamillion.com.
I sometimes revisit past columns or reviews, and a story I relayed to you in my December, 1999 column provided the subject matter for this one. I was attending the Liquid Soul concert in the Bomhard Theater at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. My girlfriend Laura and I were seated in the theater, taking a break from dancing. I was flipping through my notepad when a large guy smoking a plastic-tipped cigar plopped into the seat next to me. I looked up from my notes, my brows knotted. Here's a guy sucking on his little Tiperillo, sitting next to me, and violating state law. The Bomhard is a theater. No Smoking! Says so in the program and on the little signs on the walls next to each door.
He misread my look and said, "Oh, is my cigar bugging you?" It wasn't the first clueless thing he said to me in our short conversation that night. He then began telling me that he was from Chicago and getting ready to open a promotion and advertising agency. He also said he wanted to start an all-jazz radio station.
I told him flatly that it wouldn't work, and why. There isn't a large enough jazz audience in Louisville.
His rebuttal? He waved a flabby arm toward the full crowd in the Bomhard. "There's an audience for it here."
Okay, you tell the people you want to buy time on your station that you have an audience of less than 1000.
His second rebuttal? "If people know it's there, they'll listen."
Sure, and we'll mow down a field of corn, build a ballpark, and wait for Shoeless Joe to fade in from nowhere. James Earl Jones might show up, too.
Commercial jazz radio has been attempted before, with predictable results. The 100-point-something smooth-jazz station switched its format not too long after it had been on the air. WFPK stands alone as the only station in the city with any sort of jazz programming (unless you have DMX capability with your cable, then you have your choice of all sorts of jazz - standard, big-band, smooth, vocal, progressive, all-sax, all-trumpet, all-drums, all-too much).
Two things may change that: low-power FM stations and Internet radio. One of them is controversial, frightening to both commercial and public broadcasters. The other is a daily reality.
Next month, a short dissertation on each. And how they may save jazz.
BELATED CODA: We extend our sympathies to Todd Hildreth in the loss of his brother Chad "Sparky" Hildreth. He died on November 20.
"Jazzin'" columnist Tim Roberts doesn't want you smoking next to him in a theater, and why would you light up in a theater anyway, you oaf? He invites you to send your jazz-related dispatches to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to his attention to the editorial offices of Louisville Music News.