During my final few months at 87.7 I had occasion to exchange emails with Hermene Hartman. It was obvious to me in her emails that she was a genuine fan of jazz and an enthusiastic supporter of local artists. She referred me to a number of Chicago musicians, such as Fred Nelson, Zemrah and Reginald Torian, who turned out to be ideal additions to the playlist for our Sunday night show, “Chicago Music.”
Hermene Hartman, for those of you who don’t know, is the President and CEO of the Hartman Publishing Group, Inc. You’ve probably heard of her famous weekly publication, N’DIGO, which happens to have the largest circulation of any African American newspaper in the country.
Well, imagine my surprise when I came across Miss Hartman’s blog, which she posted this past Monday. I’ve got the link here, but I’ll save you the mouse click by reproducing her blog in its entirety. The title of the piece is “Where is Chicago’s Smooth Jazz?”
WNUA left us. And now 87.7 Smooth Jazz is gone. I was sorely disappointed when public radio took jazz off the air too. A city as stellar, as smooth, as sophisticated, as Chicago deserves a Smooth Jazz station. It was one of my favorite stations, because I am a jazz lover. It was my radio of choice at work in the office. Not too loud, not too beat aggressive, not too distracting, it was just right, playing nice music to work by. On the way to work I listen to WVAZ. I alternate between WVAZ and WVON in the afternoons. The blend was right. The shows were right. I loved Ramsey Lewis program Legends. Rick O’Dell had a wonderful program on Sunday nights that was really catching on as he played Chicago music exclusively. What a treat.
When WNUA went off the air, I was crazy. What happened? The advertisers seem lucrative and placed right. Clear Channel made the decision to take smooth jazz off and add Spanish. A decision, I am sure, reflective of a growing population and greater revenues. And now, 87.7 is replaced with hard rock. Please.
I thought 87.7 got it right, with a wonderful blend of jazz and rhythm and blues capturing a significant audience. It wasn’t pure jazz. It was fusion. It wasn’t old school exclusive it was mixed. It was just right, right in the pocket. Great sounds to hear Marvin Gaye along with George Benson. Just right. Aretha and Sinatra never hurt nobody.
As I search for a new jazz station to listen to, I realize there is no jazz station in Chicago. Why?
Chicago is too great, not to have a jazz station. Somebody hear me in radio land. Do you miss smooth jazz in Chicago?
Miss Hartman has it exactly right, doesn’t she? I don't think any of us could have put it any better.
Oh, by the way, Miss Hartman also writes for the Huffington Post, whose description of her goes like this: “Hermene Hartman is one of the most significant and influential Black women in American publishing.” What good fortune to have someone like her on our side!
Now, we just need someone to hear her plea—which is our plea: “Somebody hear me in radio land. Chicago is too great, not to have a jazz station.”
~Rick O’Dell (FmAm1@aol.com)
Our Smooth Video of the Day: It's a medley of songs you know, a little taste of “Chicago Music” favorite Joan Collaso.