BBC /JRR – The Guardian in praise of Geoffrey Smith

The Guardian has given over its third editorial to a complaint that the highly knowledgeable, ace presenter Geoffrey Smith (above) – who doubles as Country Life’s opera critic – has had to give over his 5pm spot today ….to opera from the Met.

I take the view that the damage was done before…. I was very disappointed when Jazz Line-up was moved permanently from Saturday afternoon to the horrible time of around midnight on a Sunday/Monday.

The full text from the Guardian follows :

“Teatime tonight will be lacking something important for the thousands for whom part of the evening ritual is Jazz Record Requests on Radio 3 at 5pm. Unhappily, in recent months the BBC has been messing JRR about, running it at unsettling times such as 8pm, halving its outings, or even, as today, dropping it to accommodate opera. This has ruined the pattern of a programme that has been running for 45 years. The formula could hardly be simpler. There is a knowledgable presenter: the first was Humphrey Lyttelton, who so often in life seemed indispensable but in this case was not, since Steve Race and the late Peter Clayton kept it going in the same spirit. It is now in the care of the quirky American former jazz drummer Geoffrey Smith. He plays what the listeners ask for, and fortunately the listeners ask for everything from the most obvious Armstrong and Ellington to artists you have barely heard of. He tells you a bit about the group and the context, but he does not blather on. The result is a dependable mixture of artists and music you know and others you might wish to explore. Last week it offered a characteristic mixture of Ellington, Beiderbecke, Oscar and Ella along with names you may have needed to note down. Today, in its place, comes The Valkyrie live from the Met in New York. Wagner fans, who can feel as deprived as any jazz fan, will cheer. But having got the mixture right for so many years, the BBC should bend every sinew to see that JRR stays in its rightful place.

UPDATE: Alyn Shipton has written to me :

“The continuous jazz programming on Saturdays goes back before Jazz Lineup to Jazz File, and it has continued after it with Jazz Library. There’s been a “jazz zone” as R3 calls it on Saturday afternoons from 4pm for around 10 years. Normally it’s still 2 hours.
Jazz Library is off next week to make room for JRR.

Categories: miscellaneous

8 replies »

  1. Fooling about with JRR is nothing new, sadly. At the start of the 90s it was sometimes shunted off to mid evenings – 8.45, 9.15 and on one occassion I seem to recall about 10.30. Yet that frightful “world music” rubbish never seems to get interferred with or truncated.

  2. I agree – the BBC is just shunting the Jazz programmes around on Radio 3 as though they are second class citizens. Monday is an awful time for Jazz on 3 – Friday was much better; it melded in to the weekend very nicely. Here, it is as though it has been relegated to a difficult-to-fill time. And the messing about with Jazz Record Requests is plain annoying – for a programme of serious worth, status and heritage it is disappointing that the BBC feels it can treat its scheduling as an afterthought. Jazz Library and (the slightly reactionary) Jazz Line-Up (I couldn’t believe the asinine comments about free jazz the other week!) were also well-scheduled weekend regulars. Now it is dispersed and all-over-the-place. Let’s see the full range of Jazz accorded the high degree of respect it merits on Radio 3, instead of seeing it slip through the mesh all over again.

  3. Chris Hodgkins of Jazz Sevices has forwarded me this letter sent to the Guardian:

    <>Dear Sir,

    With regard to the leader article, “In praise of…Jazz Record Requests”, in today’s Guardian (11th April 2009).

    The BBC’s track record with regard to jazz has always left plenty of room for improvement. Humphrey Lyttelton’s Best of Jazz made a brief return with Jamie Cullum and then sank beneath the airwaves.

    Now Radio 3 cuts Jazz Record requests so that an opera can start an hour earlier. In its typically careless fashion the BBC has ignored the fact the RAJAR figures for 2005 showed that Jazz Record Requests had a weekly reach of 180,000 with a market share of 2.40% whilst Opera on 3 had a reach of 144,000 with a market share of 1.70%.

    This insouciance towards jazz seems to be ingrained in the BBC’s corporate culture. I had cause to write to the Controllers of BBC’s Radios 1,2,3,4,and 6 on the 5th February 2009. I received a reply on the 2nd April 2009 form Roger Wright and from the rest; not even a post card saying wish you were elsewhere. Jazz Services has recently published a report by Mykaell Riley and Dave Laing on Jazz in the Media (available at http://www.jazzservices.org.uk). One of the conclusions of the report was that,”Despite the growth of interest in jazz, as evidenced by increases in festival and club audiences, the structural position jazz vis-a-vis classical music in the press and on the air remains an inferior one.”

    The BBC’s treatment of Jazz Record Requests is a primae facie example of this structural position.

    Yours sincerely
    Chris Hodgkins
    Jazz Services Ltd<>

  4. In a single ill-advised shift, Radio 3 has devastated the Saturday afternoons of a far-flung community. Tea with Jazz Record Requests at 5pm was a shared weekend communion with other jazz-lovers and evidence that someone in the Corporation still understood the music’s cultural resonances. I suppose that someone has retired and the programme’s been shunted by those who couldn’t care less. At least the Guardian understands.

  5. This is just another example of corporate disregard for people – for the the presenter and the audience. It's also to do with ageism, which is rife on the BBC. They've bumped Shipton now Geoffrey Smith – oddly, if Humph hadn't been so old (!) they'd have bumped him too!

  6. Time to re-engineer JRR? Give it broader appeal, give it a new title, but, of course, give it a stable, accessible slot on BBC Radio. Frankly, the name Jazz Record Requests has the fusty ring of the dark ages – it will be a turn-off to the majority of younger listeners – those under 45 years of age. Rethink the programme so that it will attract listeners from ages 10 to 90 plus, but don't make if the exclusive domain of the over 45s. Granted Geoffrey Smith is a fantastic presenter and there are few more knowledgeable and erudite in the BBC – same applies to Alyn Shipton. However, every other JRR programme had this listener reaching for the off switch. It was either focusued on early jazz or 'contemporary', rarely did the two meet in an acceptable combination – and frankly an over-rich diet of the former got my goatee. So, instead of being a comfortable fireside, pipe and slippers retreat, bring it up-to-date – make if more interactive – reach out to people who want to hear some of the great, current CDs (like the ones reviewed on London Jazz) as well as 'undiscovered' gems and obscure archive recordings and maybe make the programme 2 hours instead of one hour – perhaps two presenters and some knowledgeable chat between tracks, not just 'from Marge' for 'George' in Berkshire; it has the air of the dreadful old 'Radio 2' and frankly that is the kiss of death – if the jazz community want JRR requests to survive in any form it needs a complete rethink so that it becomes the permanent fixture and a flagship for the music in all its forms.

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