Monday, April 02, 2012

Jazz Decades


The  description below comes straight off the 89.7 WGBH website. I find it exceedingly accurate.
"Jazz Decades features traditional jazz, big band, and swing from the 20th century and earlier, including recordings from as early as 1890. Host Ray Smith has been the voice of Jazz Decades for more than 30 years, culling his programs from the more than 90,000 titles in his personal collection."
I'm bringing this up today because I found an amateur recording of Ray Smith's program from 1984. This is exactly what yard sales are for. The playlist is a mix of standards, dixieland, traditional jazz, ragtime, crooners, big band, and some tracks that I must concede qualify as smooth jazz. Presented in this format it's the first time I've ever had to contend with the possibility that smooth jazz and jazz have any audience overlap at all. Back in 1984 the abomination known as smooth jazz was in it's ascendancy. Today the radio format is on the verge of extinction. Because of that change, the playlist for Jazz Decades has changed substantially in the quarter century since this recording was made.
Ray Smith WGBH 7/24/84


The recording has a bit of warble. But the tape happens to be a genuine Radio Shack Realistic low noise Type-I, 90-minute cassette. In other words, it's a cheap piece of crap. I actually broke it once rewinding. Thankfully the levels are high enough I can filter off the noise. There are several mic breaks on this tape, but most of them are partial. The taper had deliberately stopped recording to maximize the tape time dedicated to music.So I've included a few of the longer truncated breaks along with the few full ones to give a better feel for the early years of the program. I also include the ad for the Newport jazz convention because it's back from when it was known as the JVC Jazz Festival. It was very cool to find it. That also corroborates the date. The fest only used that name from from 1984 to 2008.

Jazz Decades is still on air at WGBH, Sundays at 7:00 PM but only through their audio archive. Smith Ray first began producing Jazz decades in 1958 on 105.7 WKOX in Framingham, MA. The original program ran from 10:00 AM to Noon. Following it's purchase by Fairbanks Communications in 1972, WKOX flipped to a rock format and, Smith moved the program to WGBH. (WKOX is now WROR) Ray picked up drumming in the 1960s and appears on a few disparate albums. He retired in 1997 and continued to produce the program from his residence in Hilton Head, SC. Ray Smith died in at the age of 87, in 2010. More here.

*Note to researchers. There is another jazz drumming Ray Smith who owned a record shop in the UK. More on him here.