Hunker down and listen up
Plenty of jazz to be enjoyed at home
With the city of Boston and the rest of the country cut off from live performances, jazz on the internet and showcased on cable are great ways to get through the next few weeks (or months) of social distancing. And not just as an endurance measure, but as a time when you can explore the artistic dimensions of jazz in the intimacy of your home.
Locally, thanks to Tessil Collins and Eric Jackson, WGBH offers “Jazz 24/7,” a streaming internet service. This online music service has programming day and night featuring playlists compiled by Jackson, the venerable Boston DJ, while Collins weighs in with “The Jazz Gallery.”
Collins and Jackson, long-familiar to the Boston jazz scene, offer a total of eight programs, beginning at midnight and going … 24/7. Recordings feature music from a catalogue stretching back to the early days of jazz up through the current scene, from Ella to Esperanza.
Jazz can also be heard at “Real Jazz” on Sirius — you don’t need a car, but you do need a subscription. (Prices vary, but you can get a free preview.) The sub-scription includes more than 100 other shows, too.
“Real Jazz” has a few of the most knowledgeable DJs in the business, including Rhonda Hamilton, Mark Ruffin and Eulis Cathey.
Hamilton, a graduate of Boston University’s College of Communication, was for many years a host on legendary WBGO radio, 88.3 FM, that aired out of Newark, New Jersey, and only recently signed on with Sirius.
Hamilton can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ruffin is on from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Cathey plays music at varying times, typically from 6 p.m. to midnight. Each DJ has eclectic tastes informed by decades of immersion in music that they love and about which they are deeply informed. You are as likely to hear Sarah Vaughan as 29-year-old Jazzmeia Horn, and interspersed with the tunes, the mellow voices of the DJs have nearly as calming an effect.
What’s great about “Real Jazz” is the vibe that you are in a musical classroom, in which you feel the art and learn while doing so.
In addition to its daily schedule, “Real Jazz” is home to a couple of unique weekly shows.
“A Night at Dizzy’s Club” is a show that features performances from the club, which is located five stories above Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Live perfor-mances, now archived, feature Wynton Marsalis leading the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The show airs from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
“The Lowdown: Conversations with Christian McBride” is one of the best and most fun music programs ever to air on radio. The always-upbeat McBride, one of the jazz world’s best standing bass players, pairs up with musicians to perform songs, and between interviews he and his guests play musical games. You see sides of famous musicians that you may never have known existed. McBride’s humor takes center stage, but his musicianship is the backbeat of the show. You can hear this lively program from noon to 1 p.m. each Saturday.
In addition to “Jazz 24/7” on WGBH and “Real Jazz” on Sirius, stalwarts of the online musical experience, Bandsintown just launched a new Twitch channel on March 20, “Bandsintown Live,” that will air “live stream performances from incred-ible musicians across all genres.” First up is Black Coffee, the great South Afri-can DJ (real name: Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo) whose selections defy cat-egorization and call to mind hip-hop as well as jazz. The first show aired at 1 p.m. on March 20 and can be heard in the archives.
Add visuals: Great jazz also streaming on premium cable
“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” is a two-hour documentary that first aired on Net-flix in 2019. Intimate footage and exquisite versions of Davis’ body of work make the movie a must-see. Viewers gain deeper understanding of this man’s artistry and struggles and his ultimate place as one of history’s finest musicians. The roots of his influence, both on him and by him, are made evident. Not just a mas-ter of the trumpet, Davis, as a composer, changed the world of music, no matter the genre.
“Chasing Trane” is another gem, also on Netflix. The movie, which first appeared in 2017, features interviews with giants of the jazz world who poignantly describe the loss they continue to feel, having known the man. Coltrane’s amazing talent at playing the saxophone and his work as a composer are the focus. His spirituality emerges as the engine of his extraordinary success in pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
So, don’t assume that life indoors, broken off from routines and live music, is an abandonment. Take the time to absorb the unique ways that jazz, even via the internet and cable, can bring us closer together.