“Jazz From The Archives” Is On Notice

Over the past several years, I have occasionally alerted Rifftides readers to Jazz From the Archives radio programs created and hosted by Bill Kirchner. Exploring the work of important jazz artists, Bill brings to the shows his skills as a writer and producer and his insights as a big-league saxophonist, arranger and composer with intimate knowledge of the music and its makers. Now, for what appear to be slight financial reasons, the Newark jazz station WBGO is making it impossible for Kirchner to continue his contribution, which he has performed as a public service. In an e-mail message with the salutation, “Dear Friends,” he explains:

As most of you know, since 2002 I’ve been one of the hosts of “Jazz From the Archives,” which is produced by the Institute of Jazz Studies and airs every Sunday on Kirchner, sopranoWBGO-FM from 11 p.m. to midnight ET. To date, I’ve done 117 shows, most of them devoted to artists-many living, some deceased-who deserve wider recognition. In nearly all cases, the music that airs on these shows would not otherwise be heard on the radio, on WBGO or anywhere else.

This past fall, for reasons related to my health, my wife and I moved from New Jersey to NYC. Thus, it’s no longer possible for me to commute to WBGO’s Newark studios to record these shows. I therefore have asked Thurston Briscoe, the station’s Program Director, if the money paid to a WBGO engineer to record my shows can be reallocated to pay another engineer closer to my home. This amounts to a mere 18 hours a year for 12 one-hour shows-I’m fast, efficient, and low-maintenance.

I should add that I do these shows without any financial compensation, and that WBGO’s only cost is to pay an engineer to record the shows and do light editing. The station essentially gets these shows for next-to-nothing.

Thurston BriscoeMr. Briscoe has made it clear that he’s not interested in making accommodations so that I can continue as a host. I therefore regret to inform you that I must cease doing “Jazz From the Archives.” I’d like to thank my fellow co-hosts for their good vibes, and the many worldwide listeners to my shows who have been so kind with positive feedback over the past eleven years.

If you find this state-of-affairs unsatisfactory, you might consider sending an e-mail to Thurston Briscoe: tbriscoe@wbgo.org. If you do, please cc me at kirch@mindspring.com.

Kirchner’s increasing physical limitations make it impossible for him to negotiate several public and private transit transfers to get from Manhattan to the station in Newark. WGBO has limitations, too, the fiscal crunch faced by all public radio operations. Still, perhaps a bit of creative budgeting and fund-raising could take the station past this minor roadblock and save a valuable program.

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  1. says

    Below is an email I sent this morning to Mr. Briscoe. If a fund is set up to help keep Bill on board please include my name. My email is MarlynMason7@aol.com.

    Dear Mr. Briscoe,
    For jazz fans worldwide it’s very unfortunate news about Bill Kirchner having to discontinue from hosting “Jazz From the Archives”. Doesn’t it stand for something that he offered his services without compensation for so many years? Eleven, to be exact. Why you would not be generous in return and make it possible and easy for him to continue, especially with his current physical challenges, is beyond me.

    I wish you would rethink your position, Mr Briscoe, and find it in your heart to make accommodations for him . This is not right nor is it fair. If I’m a bit harsh I mean to be, in the hope that you’ll come ’round and do what is right and fair.

  2. says

    At this moment, the number of messages to Mr. Briscoe approaches 60–from all over the world. I’m deeply touched and grateful.

    Just to be clear, “Jazz From the Archives” continues–just without me. It’s been aired on WBGO since, I believe, 1979.