The Jazz.com Blog
June 26, 2008 · 2 comments
American Jazz fans might be surprised at how much the art form relies upon support from Europe for its continued health. Many musicians would struggle financially without the decent paydays from European festivals and concerts. (For an economic comparison between U.S. and Europe gigs, see Frøy Aagre sobering jazz diary, a recent and continuing feature in these pages.)
It is no coincidence that Jazz receives media attention in many of these countries far beyond what one finds in its land of origin. Check out how many YouTube jazz videos come from European television broadcasts. When is the last time you saw a major jazz artist on U.S. network TV?
But now we see the same dumbing down of coverage and marginalization of jazz in European media that long ago afflicted the American music scene. Tim Wilkins reports on a shocking move by Radio France to fire the four hosts who have provided most of its jazz coverage in recent decades. Read below for more details.
Those who wish to express their support for the Radio France jazz hosts are encouraged to sign the petition at www.martinepalme.com or send an email with the subject line "petition france musique" to Martine at firstname.lastname@example.org. T.G.
Jazz fans in France have been dealt a harsh blow. Four Radio France jazz hosts - Philippe Carles, Claude Carriere, Jean Delmas and Alain Gerber - were abruptly fired by the state broadcasting company. Together, they have produced the bulk of the network's jazz broadcasts since the seventies, thousands of hours of programs.
Why were they fired? Not because of the quality or popularity of their programs, which are high, but because of their ages: all four are older than 65. No comment yet as to whether jazz programs will continue on the network, only that Radio France wants to "be younger," according to chief executive Jean-Paul Cluzel. The announcement comes on the heels of the BBC's controversial decision to shake up its jazz programming last year.
Mind you, these four are no Moldy Figs. All have been tireless advocates for all varieties of jazz in many venues. In addition to his late-night show, "Jazz Against the Current." Philippe Carles (pictured left) is the author of a respected jazz encyclopedia and editor-in-chief of France's Jazz Magazine. Carriere, a pianist, author and record producer, has received many awards and with Delmas has broadcast live from jazz clubs across Europe every Friday night since 1982.
Their show captured classic live moments with Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, and Kenny Barron among others, and introduced young artists such as Brad Mehldau and James Carter. Gerber's show presents classic jazz in a narrative form, which reflects his own background as a prizewinning novelist.
In contrast to the BBC, Radio France has made its jazz programs available to listeners around the world via streaming audio on the Internet.
The first the four heard of this "age limit" was via registered mail two weeks ago, which announced their forced retirements. No mention had ever been made of it in their contracts. This is ironic, given that France's government currently encourages seniors to postpone retirement and extend their working lives.
So, should there be an expiration date on jazz? Or on the lifetime one spends gaining an appreciation of it? To be sure, jazz has never been a ticket to full employment. Critics, even in France, have no right to expect this, especially when so many master musicians struggle to make ends meet. And jazz never needs critics who consider their own opinions more important than the music.
But all four of these - Carles, Carriere, Delmas and Gerber - are public intellectuals any nation should be proud of, and France is fortunate to have had national institutions like Radio France that until now have supported jazz as a cultural treasure. It would be a shame to see this support become a thing of the past.
While the network's decision to remove the four appears irreversible, blogger Martine Palmé has created an online petition to urge Radio France to continue its commitment to jazz programs. Anyone who wishes to add their name to this petition can visit www.martinepalme.com or send an email with the subject line "petition france musique" to Martine at email@example.com.
This blog entry posted by Tim Wilkins