Boise State Public Radio Music welcomes Jazz and the American Spirit
"Jazz and the American Spirit" is a weekly radio show examining the great stories of jazz across America and the people who create it.
Produced by WUCF FM 89.9 Jazz & More and hosted by University of Central Florida Director of Jazz Studies Jeff Rupert, "Jazz and the American Spirit" airs Saturday nights at 8 p.m. on Boise State Public Radio Music. Episodes will re-air Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. on Boise State Public Radio Jazz.
In this one-hour weekly program, Rupert, a saxophonist, composer, record producer and recording artist himself, will tell the stories of how jazz is deeply connected to conveying the history of America, and demonstrate how jazz can tell the story better than actual words.
Beginning Jan. 14, "Jazz and the American Spirit" will replace locally-hosted "Jazz Conversations" with Troy Oppie. Ahead of the program change, Oppie spoke with Rupert about his show and what he likes to do with his hour of radio each week. You can read the full transcript below:
TROY OPPIE: Hey, it's Troy Oppie, host of Jazz Conversations and other Things here on Boise State Public Radio. My music show is coming to an end. In short, the responsibilities on the news side didn't leave me enough time to produce jazz conversations the way I wanted to do it and the way it deserves and needs to be produced. So a change has been made. Starting Saturday, the 14th of January, you will hear a brand new program to us anyway called Jazz and the American Spirit. It's produced at Wkf, the University of Central Florida's public radio station. They have a terrific jazz program down there. And the director of their big band and host of that program is a saxophone player and educator named Jeff Rupert. And I had the chance to speak with him to get acquainted, and I wanted to introduce him to you as well as the show. In a conversation, I started by asking Jeff to just break down what he likes to do with his hour of radio each week.
JEFF RUPERT: Jazz and the American Spirit really is about trying to connect the jazz recordings and the jazz live live jazz music with what it means to be an American. So often in America, we really are, I think, just maybe used to jazz being around. And when I travel the world, I find that in Japan, really all over Europe, people really feel like jazz embodies the American spirit. In other words, this idea of free thinking and being yourself within a group setting is very unique to the United States. And I think a lot of times sometimes when we try to even talk about these things, sometimes vocabulary or the English language per se might not be quite as sensitive or enlightening as the music actually can. In other words, when we hear Louis Armstrong playing with his big band in the forties or before that with the hot fives and the hot sevens, we hear this fantastic group setting, kind of like a football team or a baseball team, but yet everybody has an individual voice within that band.
OPPIE: And I'm a big band guy. I grew up playing it. In fact, I stole a line for the intro of my show that refers to jazz as North American indigenous folk music. I stole that from my high school band director long time ago, and I've used that ever since. And that that sense of togetherness and responsibility and power. I've always liked about a big band, so I've played a lot of of bigger, larger ensemble pieces on this show and done a lot of that. And you, of course, have some experience, it sounds like, at the University of Central Florida, leading that that big band. What's what's your favorite type of music? What do you try to to share with listeners?
RUPERT: Well, when it comes to my favorite kind of music, it's the music that I'm going to be playing tonight or tomorrow. I'm always looking forward to that next gig. I call it Living in the Big Room. In other words, I might spin some music from the thirties and forties or the seventies or even up through the millennium, but I think probably a lot of the music that I spend is probably been recorded between the forties and the late sixties. But that being said to me, really, anything that embodies jazz music or anything about jazz music is near and dear to my heart. The thing, the common element that we hear all the time is that fierce improvization We hear rhythm and great tone and of course, all the qualities that make for a great jazz recording.
OPPIE: I've always thought that that jazz maybe took a step back in in the seventies and through the eighties. And you're looking at me now and you're probably wondering how I know about that because I'm a little on the younger side, but I wonder where you think the evolution of jazz is, is going. And and if you feel like there's been a bit of a resurgence in jazz the last decade or so.
RUPERT: I think there's been an exciting resurgence. My drummer in my quartet is Marty Burrell. He was Bill Evans drummer for seven years and used to play with and recorded with Stan Getz. And Marty told me he's 80. And Marty says, You know, Jeff, they've been telling me Jazz is dead since I was a teenager. And yet he's made his living on it. And he has a nice he has a very nice lifestyle. But I find the thing that amazes me is I'll visit high schools all over the country and there's usually at least one, sometimes two or three jazz bands in high school. So there's all these kids that are not necessarily becoming professional jazz players, but they're fans of jazz music. Through playing in exactly what you did in your high school jazz band. And I find it to be really rewarding. For seven years I was in Maynard Ferguson's band and we used to play these high schools and there were kids coming out of the woodwork wanting to play a jazz band and hear jazz performances. So now the thing that gets me now more than ever is the resurgence of earlier jazz. My kids are my own kids are 17 and 11, and they're very interested in listening to music from the twenties all the way up through the sixties. And I think one of the big differences is now these generations of kids didn't grow up knowing these jazz musicians. My generation, a lot of those musicians were still alive. So there's a lot of folks that grew up with jazz where they were hearing Louis Armstrong or Clifford Brown or Clark Terry live, and those became personal favorites, where now the kids that are checking it out and really falling in love with the music fall in love with it for the same reasons that people might fall in love with Elvis Presley or, you know, any band that were popular bands that were popular from the fifties or even before.
OPPIE: You know, I wonder if there's an aspect of your show that that you you work consciously to kind of bridge some of that divide between older jazz fans and younger fans just discovering the music.
RUPERT: You know, that's a good that's a good question. And Troy, I just I just recorded a show it hasn't released yet on a very well known singer to musicians who was really active in the seventies and eighties and nineties. And that was a pianist named Don Guralnick, who is known as a composer, part of the Fusion movement, but was also a really swinging pianist and also was revered by a lot of jazz musicians and. Even though he was kind of aligned somewhat with the pop industry, like he was James Taylor's musical director, he was producing albums for Michael and Randy Brecker. He was producing a bunch of different great jazz albums. He's got some of his own albums out on Blue Note with just a veritable who's who in jazz. But, you know, if I look back in jazz history, Troy, I remember in the forties there was a divide between New Orleans style jazz fans and bebop jazz fans. And this traditionalist group in Manhattan brought Bunk Johnson up to New York to play. And he was Louis Armstrong said, Well, that was my mentor, was punk. Johnson He hadn't had a trumpet. He needed false teeth. This this traditionalist group got him false teeth. They got him a trumpet. And they were very excited, like thinking, okay, we're going to hear the roots and how it all started. Well, they were aghast when he started playing pop music. At the time of the forties, he's playing the music of Cole Porter, the Gershwin brothers, Irving Berlin. And they said, What are you doing? Why aren't you playing that music? He used to play in New Orleans. And Bunk said, Well, in New Orleans we always played pop pop music. Jazz is an attitude. It's not a style. And I think I kind of approached this show in the same way.
OPPIE: Well, I look forward to hearing it. Each Saturday night is when it will air here on Boise State Public Radio. Jeff Rupert is host of Jazz and the American Spirit from Wkf, University of Central Florida in Orlando. Jeff, thanks for spending a few minutes with us tonight and we look forward to joining you each week.
RUPERT: I can't wait. I'm really excited. Thanks so much, Troy.