Old and New Media: An Unlikely Pair

Since starting Lubricity a couple of months ago, I’ve started to get the lay of the land as far as where people are at in dealing with jazz over the internet.  It’s really just starting to become useful as a way of connecting with others and discussing what’s going on with our various experiences in jazz today.  Writers and fans are weighing in, musicians are trying to generate buzz for their work, and other people still have absolutely nothing to do with it.  Jazz is still finding its footing on the internet, but it hasn’t figured it all out just yet.

More recently, I’ve started working with Josh Jackson as an intern for his weekly new music show at WBGO, The Checkout.  WBGO gets a lot of flack from many modern jazz purists, claiming that it skews its programming too much towards tried-and-true music from the past at the expense of newer, more adventuresome artistic endeavors.  Of course, there is a grain of truth in the criticism, but my boss Josh Jackson is the perfect counterexample; The Checkout is evidence of that. 

Radio has been around for a LONG time, and that tradition gives it a lot of assets that are very hard to find in the online community.  For one, the production values of everything that they put together are fantastic.  For decades, they have had to hang their hat on the quality of the audio emanating from their transmitter, and so they put some really fantastic-sounding pieces together, regardless of the content.  The other thing that WBGO does very well is know its audience.  They have spent years poring over Arbitron data and they know who listens, and when.  Their presentation is smooth, the commentary is interesting, and they know how to say what they need to say.  The radio-model for jazz presentation may lack some of the edge of the avant-garde, but it also does an amazing job of filtering out the noise.

Some examples of recent Checkout features: Bela Fleck interviewing Toumani Diabate, Gilfema +2 in studio, and a voyage into Chris Potter’s iPod.  Those are just a few of the awesome segments sitting there waiting to be clicked — the site is chock full of interviews, music and other goodies that make it into Josh’s weekly show (Tuesdays at 6:30 if that’s how you roll.)  Full show podcasts are also available.

The Checkout is still figuring out how to get heard online.  There is an amazing archive of interviews, music, commentary and full-length podcasts available at the website, but not many people are listening yet.  It’s interesting to see how these two media are converging, and the different assets that they’re bringing to the table.  As far as I’ve found, though, nobody has done a better job of blending high-quality audio production with new jazz in a way that is interesting, engaging and accessible.  We’re just starting to experiment with Web 2.0-type stuff like Twitter (@checkoutjazz) and Facebook (become a fan) — so if you dig it, spread the word.

So I guess the moral of the story is: check out The Checkout!  And watch this space to find out if it turns out that the Old and the New can get along together to showcase this music.  I’m certainly going to be working hard to try and make it so!

About Alex Rodriguez

Jazz Writing, Engaged Buddhism, Improvised Music
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