Friday, December 18, 2009

Taking a Jazz Holiday

I know I used a Louis Armstrong photo at the top of my last post, but can you ever really see enough of that smile?

In case you didn't know, AccuRadio (AccuJazz's daddy) is well-known for its obscenely extensive Holiday music programming. In fact, said programming was even featured on Chicago Tonight, the nightly news program of Chicago's PBS affiliate, WTTW.

Being around so much Christmas radio cheer, I've naturally tried to think of ways to get AccuJazz in on the fun. Last year, I created an AccuJazz channel called "Swingin' Christmas." It was essentially AccuRadio's "Holiday Jazz" channel minus the smooth jazz, and it garnered lots of listeners. This year I thought I'd take the Holiday programming idea one step further and offer a whole lineup of new channels as a sort of gift basket to you, our faithful listeners. Thus, "Jazz Holiday" was born.

Before even creating any new channels, I took the time (and the company's credit card) to beef up our collection of Christmas jazz, hand-picking some choice tunes from the Amazon mp3 store and contacting record labels and artists who released Christmas albums this year. "Swingin' Christmas" is a much better listen this year than it was last year, with new CDs by Carla Bley, Hot Club of San Francisco, Typhanie Monique and more, as well as new-to-us CDs by Willie Pickens, Ramsey Lewis and Harry Allen among others.

For the first batch of new channels, I followed up on some listener suggestions I got through Twitter and Facebook and created three Swingin' Christmas subchannels: Christmas Vocals, Christmas Instrumentals, and New Christmas Jazz. Interestingly enough, there have been many points in the last week when I've noticed that the vocal and instrumental subchannels have each had more listeners than the main channel.

Now we're going to roll out some pretty awesome Non-Christmas channels, starting with one simply called "Best of 2009." This is not merely a compilation of my favorite music from 2009 (though I hope to create that channel in the coming weeks); the playlist is based on the results of over 20 critics' lists, including the JazzTimes critics poll. I compiled the results in a spreadsheet, awarding "points" based on how many lists selected an album and whether it was on the top or merely an honorable mention.

Vijay Iyer's Historicity was the top scorer, by far, with Steve Lehman and Darcy James Argue tied for second. Other high achievers include Joe Lovano, Henry Threadgill and Allen Toussaint. I programmed the channel based on the results, so it's very likely that you'll hear Vijay Iyer and a little less likely that you'll hear Bobby Broom, whose wonderful Monk tribute only appeared on a couple of lists. If you want to know what's been going on in jazz circa 2009, this channel is the place to start.

The rest of the Jazz Holiday roll-out includes a channel playing music from 2010 Grammy Jazz Nominees, a Decade: 2000s Channel, and one more surprise next week! I hope these gifts of music brighten up your season and help you discover some new favorite jazz artists. Please keep checking back for the updates, and have yourself a very, very happy Holiday!

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