Jazz Yarns Radio Waves

Message from Home: A Tribute to Brother Jack McDuff
This WILL-FM special produced by Paul Wienke, co-founder of the CU Jazz and Blues Association, and narrated by local actress Lisa Gaye Dixon is a musical tour through more than 40 years of McDuff recordings. McDuff worked with some of the most famous names in jazz music, influencing countless young artists. "McDuff was to the organ quartet what Art Blakey was to the hard bop quintet," says Wienke. Local blues singer Candy Foster who recalls that McDuff scared club owners half to death by waiting until the last minute to show up for a gig. "He'd always make it, but he was the spontaneous type. Go with the flow. Easy come, easy go. But when he got started, he didn't want to stop. They had to turn off the lights and shut off the electricity to get him to stop." McDuff played at the Amvets and later at the Elks Club on Chester Street in Champaign. Hear this special program by visiting WILL's web site: www.will.uiuc.edu/fm/programs/mcduff.htm

The Essence of Jazz: Conversations with Illinois Artists: University High School students interviewed 13 local jazz artists during the planning stages of Jazz Threads. Three of those interviews were heard on WILL-AM's "Side Tracks" in June 2003 (Don Heitler, Vicki Capo, Jordan Kaye). Listen to this edition of "Side Tracks" by visiting WILL online: http://rms01.cites.uiuc.edu/ramgen/will/sidetrack/sidetrackjun03.rm

Cecil Bridgewater, jazz trumpet player, composer, arranger, educator
My uncle Pete did a radio show for many, many years on WDWS, and then he changed to another station. He has an extensive collection going back to 78s and 45s, and of course now CDs and tape; he has lots of interviews and things that he's done with people like Duke Ellington.

Rich Warren, radio host, Nonesuch Concerts
When I first came to the U of I as a student, I made a beeline for WPGU radio and of course I wanted to do a folk show. Then I started noticing that there was no jazz show on WPGU, and I had been very fond of listening to Evonne Daniels, famous jazz DJ, on an all-jazz station called WSDM. So during my first year at WPGU they made me director of special programming and I immediately created three other shows besides my folk show: a jazz show, an underground music show which was really hip in those days, and a soul music show. I got to know Morgan Usadel at Discount Records when I tried to sell him advertising. He said: "Well I hear you're playing jazz, but you don't have much of a library. Let me help you out." So he told me that lots of people returned albums to Discount Records claiming that they were defective when they rarely were. He'd select the best ones and give them to me to play either on the jazz show or the all night program. So every week I'd come away with a box of records from Discount Records and we'd play them. I'd say if anyone was responsible for good music on the radio back in the late sixties and early seventies in Champaign-Urbana, there's nobody more than Morgan Usadel, who not only got the record companies to sponsor the jazz show, but he got the companies to sponsor our classical programming and even some of our folk programming.

Paul Wienke, WILL producer and program host, vice president of the CU Jazz and Blues Association
I did a jazz show on WILL for about two years; it was called "The Rights of Swing"—all big band stuff with my own twist, I considered Sun Ra, Toshiko Akioshi, and Carla Bley big bands even though they were more the avant garde side of things. I didn't limit my programming to the standard repertoire; I wanted to expand things a bit. A little later on, we (WILL) started doing things in the Gregory Hall Auditorium. We had lines that had been there for years and years, so we had to do a little work on them. But we broadcast the events live and also taped them for later use. I liked to do multiple things on that show, four or five bands each time. We'd have a high school big band. Once we had kids from Decatur come with their big band, and the Millikin College faculty, the Easter Illinois faculty. One night we had Russell Cheatham with a variation of Sorgum. We had Guido Sinclair and a Kevin Kizer group and the American Music Trio. One time we did a show—I think it was a live broadcast—at the Union in the ballroom. It was a jazz poetry show. Jamie Hutchinson was the master of ceremonies for the poets and it was tremendous. He wore this big top hat, and there was a band to back them up. They would alternate with Jeff Helgesen's Quartet, first the quartet, then the poets would come back. It was a lot of fun.

Jeff Machota, WEFT jazz host, past president of the CU Jazz and Blues Association
WEFT has always played a role in promoting the local music, all the jazz happening in town. People don't have the expendable income to buy lots of CDs every month, even the hard-core listeners, though it's easier now with CDs and being able to download stuff. So WEFT provided a great service by playing jazz, by announcing gigs, and by having live music in the studio. And a number of musicians have hosted the jazz shows over the years. Jordan Kay did a show for a long time. Tom Paynter does a show now; Kevin Kizer used to do a show; Tim Green did a show for awhile. And they learned a lot because when you have to program two-and-a-half or three hours, you listen to the music in a different way. And WEFT's great too because a lot of people can't make it to club gigs with music from 10pm to 1am at night. Radio keeps people in touch with what's going on and gives them an opportunity to hear stuff that they might not necessarily go out to hear.

Paul Wienke, WILL producer and program host, vice president of the CU Jazz and Blues Association
When Terry Masar told me that Nature's Table would be closing, I talked to Dan Simeone, WILL's station manager, and suggested that we should do more for the local musicians who wouldn't have a venue anymore. That was the start of the "Jazz Live" series on WILL. We recorded the final three days of Nature's Table. They did shows starting at about noon, and going until 2am. Guys came from all over the place to play, from Chicago and all. It was exhausting. I'd get there about 8am to get all of the mics in position. We were using the back room by the ovens for our recordings studio, our control room. It was unbearably warm in there and they were baking bread next to us the whole time. But there was some great music and I got good recordings of it. The "Jazz Live" series ran for eight years, and we started out with the recordings from Nature's Table. Then we started doing things at the Blind Pig. I tried to get a lot of recordings during the summer. Some days, I would do a lunchtime event at the boathouse in Urbana, then I'd do happy hour at the Blind Pig, and then I'd go over to Zorba's and do the night show. So I would get three recordings in one day. I was out recording all the time. But a lot of places were interested in letting me record, because they would get free advertising when we announced their venues on the air. I just loved doing it. I had a great time with it.

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