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On The Radio: Music in the air on Jazz 24/7

Scott Haas
On The Radio: Music in the air on Jazz 24/7
Tessil Collins in the studio. PHOTO: SCOTT HAAS

Music is in the air. Get on the internet, tune into “Jazz 24/7” on wgbh.org, kick back and relax. Thanks to Tessil Collins, you can stay cozy and within your budget by listening to first-rate jazz for free.

Voted Non-Terrestrial Station of the Year in 2017 by JazzWeek, “Jazz 24/7” brings you the best in recorded jazz, news about jazz throughout town, and articles about the music and performers. With four writers creating online content, and music playing every hour of the day and night, you have one less reason to leave home in the dead of winter.

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Jazz 24/7:

Drawing upon his 20 years at Madison Park High School in Roxbury, where he taught communication-arts-radio/TV production, as well as his role as executive producer of his own internet site, Sun-Music.net, Collins, who retired from teaching in 2011, took his passion for music and made it available to anyone with internet access.

“So much of music that’s played on terrestrial radio is depressing and repetitive,” he told the Banner. “Even the jazz on Sirius is programmed by the musical directors rather than the DJs. But I can play pretty much everything I like. And so can Eric.”

Eric is Eric Jackson, the man who arguably is responsible for playing the best jazz on Boston radio over decades, whose ability to educate and entertain listeners is nonpareil, and whose deep voice is instantly recognizable.

“Eric is on 12 hours each day,” Collins explained, “with his automated playlist airing 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., noon to 3 p.m., 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and midnight to 3 a.m. His show goes live on terrestrial ra-dio, 89.7 WGBH, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from 9 p.m. to midnight.”

Remarkably, Collins said, Boston does not have what he calls “an urban radio station,” and jazz and other genres of music heavily influenced by jazz aren’t heard much over the airwaves.

“You have WERS,” he said, “and like other college radio stations, a lot that’s played is influenced by whatever class is there at school that year — what’s played is based on student populations.”

In order to fill that gap, Collins has worked closely with WGBH to carve out a niche over the past five years to create what is today a mini-universe of jazz music.

There is the website, the live radio shows by Eric Jackson, and numerous community-based partnerships that are reciprocal, supporting everyone involved in them.

“We have partnerships with Harvard Arts, the Cambridge Jazz Festival, Scullers Jazz Club and the Celebrity Series of Boston,” he said.

This spring, in collaboration with several partnerships, Collins is helping to highlight more jazz throughout the city.

“In mid- to late January, we’re posting a documentary on the website about the jazz performances of 25 bands that played in a festival on the Esplanade along the Charles,” he said. “It was wonderful — they all played the same set simultaneously on the last Saturday of September.”

In February, it will be “Live from Scullers” via the website, with pianist Justin Kauflin on Feb. 1, and on Feb. 21, Warren Wolf, playing vibes.

For April, during Jazz Appreciation Month, Collins is working on an event to honor the drummer Roy Haynes, who went from Roxbury to world fame, playing with Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Stan Getz and John Coltrane. Along with his illustrious brothers Vinny, a well-known photographer, and Michael, pastor emeritus of 12th Baptist Church and a former state representative, Roy Haynes is legendary, and at age 93, he is still performing.

“I came up as a live jock,” said Collins. “So live or automated, I’m always a music guy!”

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