As we celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month this April, WGBH and Jazz 24/7 is paying homage to the club’s 30 years of bringing America’s music to the fans of Boston. At a time when going out to listen to live music has paused, the recording of our broadcasts becomes more important.
[WATCH TONIGHT AT 8: WGBH Facebook Watch Party with Grammy-nominated jazz duo The Baylor Project from a previous Live From Scullers performance]WGBH appreciates jazz music 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and looks forward to broadcasting new “Live From Scullers" broadcasts. Hosted by Eric Jackson, the monthly live shows are part of his Friday night Eric In The Evening jazz program.
"Live is extra special. People get to hear a different experience than listening to a recording. For some people who might have never heard live music before, they want to be a part of that experience."
Eric Jackson, "Dean of Boston Jazz Radio"
Back when radio ruled the airways, live broadcasts were an important bridge between jazz and popular culture. Artists could expect these broadcasts to reach huge audiences, hopefully catapulting their careers or perhaps just placing their names on the unfolding map of jazz. For fans who couldn't physically travel to hear Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club, live radio could magically find them seats near the bandstand.
Over the years Jackson can bear witness to how audiences react when hearing an artist, or type of music, for the very first time.
"Live concerts expose people to new music, encouraging them to want to hear more live jazz," said Jackson. "I love watching and interacting with these audiences."
Interaction takes the form of Jackson personalizing the acts, conducting brief interviews with musicians featured on Live From Scullers.
"For example," Jackson added, "while many might have listened to John Coltrane's music for years, they might have never heard his actual voice before."
Shaping the quality of "Live From Scullers" audio feed is Locomote Media's Sam Kopper, whose lime green school bus remains his signature mobile recording studio. Providing a neutral acoustic space, the bus provides the right distance and dynamics to engineer the performances.
Bundles of analog audio cables, or "snakes," have been replaced with a single fiber optic connection that plugs directly into the bus's digital mixing environment. Inside, a budding engineering talent from the Berklee School of Music is busy learning the craft of translating the dynamics of live music for radio broadcast.
For Kopper "the person mixing is another performer on the stage," focusing on the challenge of ensuring the music sounds "as spontaneous, exciting, and special for people listening in their living rooms, as it is for the audience in the venue."
Creative direction comes from Jan Mullen, Scullers General Manager and Artistic Director, and Tessil Collins, the Managing Producer of Jazz 24/7. While Muller's extensive career within the jazz industry continues to bring a remarkably array of musicians to Scullers, Collins selects acts that best support their goal of broadening the appeal of jazz for old and new radio listeners alike.
Tuning in each month can mean hearing anything from Afro-Cuban and Latin rhythms, to world-class vocalists and some of the best instrumentalists in contemporary Jazz. For Mullen, the collaboration is a great fit. "It just makes perfect sense," she says. "It lends a certain credibility to both of us and that can only mean positive things for live jazz performances."
"This is an example of the types of local partnerships that 89.7 is doing on the music side of the house," adds Collins, noting that the partnership is unique "because we share a common audience," acknowledging that "for WGBH, it shows that we're committed to jazz and other music genres flourishing in this city."
A sentiment shared by Phil Redo, General Manager for WGBH 89.7, who hopes "listeners feel a certain pride that a station that is not primarily a music station, remains committed to music in this very real way."
Regardless if you're new to Boston or already used to shoveling snow in April, Live from Scullers remains the place to be, whether you like to experience Jazz from a seat at the bar, or hear the music brought right to your radio or mobile device.
Michael Ambrosino writes about music, culture, and technology and is the producer and host of Dialectics on 33third.orgThis articles was originally published in 2019, and updated slightly with new information. Scullers Jazz Club, like all music venues across Boston, is closed due to coronavirus (COVID-19) health concerns.