In New York City there is a non-commercial radio station, WKCR-FM (Columbia University, 89.9 FM, www.wkcr.org) run by students and dedicated to presenting a spectrum of alternative programming—traditional and art music, spoken arts, and original journalism. WKCR has been on the air since 1941, which is how long they have been playing jazz. If you first tuned in on a week-day at noon, you might hear Sunny Murray, Archie Shepp, Grachan Moncur III, Dave Burrell…. That’s because the station has been committed to innovation since they first started, and that is how long they have been playing cutting edge jazz.

I picked the names above because, if you’re a jazz fan, they might be familiar. But how about Bill Dixon? I don’t remember ever hearing Dixon played on radio until the day I tuned in on KCR and found them playing him track after track for three hours! If you think three hours is a lot, I tuned in the next day and they did it again-in fact KCR played three hours of Dixon every day for a week! And that tells you what KCR is like.

In the 12 to 3 slot they have a program called Out To Lunch. Does that make sense? After all, noon is lunchtime. But that’s not the end of the story because out to lunch idiomatically also means crazy (which in jazz parlance means new and terrific). And that’s still not the end of the story, because Out To Lunch is the name of a piece by a very famous (to jazz fans on my end of the spectrum) alto sax/bass clarinet/flute player by the name of Eric Dolphy…and that is the program’s theme-crazy! Dig it?

WKCR has been playing music like that all the way back to 1941, and by now they have become legendary for having the longest continuous jazz programming anywhere in the USA (not to mention, the best). I remember listening to them as a kid on AM radio when their transmitter was under continuous threat of being drown out by nearby commercial stations. And when they moved to FM, I remember listening on a receiver I had built from a kit that I bought at a local store which years later became Radio Shack. And over the years, I have listened to WKCR until both their call letters and station address have become permanently etched into my brain, along with a lot of the greatest jazz I have ever heard.

So when I started this blog I decided to call it Out To Lunch Jazz as a tribute to KCR and the musicians who found a friendly home there when almost no other station would play their music. What better tag could I give it because it’s my intention to talk about the kind of music KCR plays and stretch the theme out to the far corners of the avant-garde jazz world?

Welcome, you out there. Let’s have some fun.




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