A version of this column appears in the Friday Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
‘Backstage Jazz’ radio show takes Oklahoma listeners behind the music
The series is launching its second season at 9 p.m. Friday on KGOU, the University of Oklahoma’s National Public Radio station.
Jeremy Gossett first developed his affinity for jazz listening to Jim Wilke’s “Jazz After Hours” late-night show on public radio.
Now, he is sharing the love with his own radio show, “Backstage Jazz,” which is launching its second season at 9 p.m. Friday on KGOU, the University of Oklahoma’s National Public Radio station.
“My whole goal in the beginning was to demystify the music,” Gossett said. “That’s why I really wanted to do a lot of homework on it and really study everything about it and learn about it as much as I could from these artists. And it just all kind of fell into place.”
The show, which mixes backstage interviews and musical performances, also will begin its run in May on KCCU, the NPR affiliate out of Cameron University in Lawton.
“That was the station that I grew up with as a kid and that was where I first got accustomed to learning about jazz. They would have ‘Jazz After Hours’ on the weekend with Jim Wilke and that would be where I would learn about the music. It would be going on all night. So that was where I first began developing a real love for jazz,” said Gossett, the Oklahoma City-based producer, host and creator of “Backstage Jazz.”
Labor of love
For Gossett, the show is a labor of love and a departure from his usual day job in film and video production.
“This is my baby … and this show covers jazz everywhere that I can possibly go. There are a lot of artists that are performing right here in Oklahoma City like at the (UCO) Jazz Lab in Edmond and all that. So there’s a lot of stuff that I cover right here at home, but it’s nice to be able to get it wherever it’s happening,” said Gossett, adding that University of Central Oklahoma public radio station KCSC is slated to begin airing the show in April.
The debut episode of “Backstage Jazz” Season 2 will feature New Orleans’ renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band. As the announcer for the University of Oklahoma’s Pride of Oklahoma marching band, Gossett went to the Big Easy for the Sugar Bowl and took a detour over to Preservation Hall to record the episode.
“Since I happened to be there in New Orleans anyway I thought, ‘Well, I might as well go over to Preservation Hall since this is the band that people have been coming to listen to since the ‘60s.’ And it’s this old historic building which is just the neatest place in the French Quarter,” Gossett said.
For the second of 12 planned Season 2 installments, Gossett interviewed singer Gregory Porter, whose latest album “Liquid Spirit” recently won a Grammy for best vocal jazz album, backstage at the Chicago Symphony Center.
“He was a football player at Stanford University … and there are a lot of great stories about how he correlates football to the teamwork of working with people and playing jazz and being in the moment and in the process. So that was a lot of fun,” Gossett said.
Sense of place
Gossett developed “Backstage Jazz” with the support of KGOU program director Jim Johnson.
“I asked him ‘What do you think about this radio show that … actually covers and features the music and I don’t just spin records and talk about it but I actually talk to the artists themselves?’ And he loved the idea. It was only three years later when we actually got it on the air,” he said with a laugh.
“The process of getting all that done, from the idea to actually getting it sculpted and crafted … they provided all kinds of support and counseling and help on how the show really needed to be for NPR standards. They saw something obviously in what I could do and they gave me the chance and they opened the door.”
With his film background, Gossett wants to give listeners a visual when they hear his radio show.
“What was my goal originally to try to do with the show, beyond just have people talk and tell and give information, is to try to bring people imagery, to paint the picture like old-time radio did. We’re not just hearing people talk, we’re feeling the story,” said Gossett, who divides his time between OKC and Philadelphia, where he works for his uncle’s talk radio station, WFYL.
“Artists speak musically. Their pitch and their pace and their dynamics, all of that to me just really emotes a lot of character and who they are and their personality.”
He also set out to create a series that would spotlight performers working in a variety of styles and on an array of instruments. During Season 1, he interviewed singers Stacey Kent and Al Jarreau, saxophonists David Sanborn and Kenny Garrett and jazz fusion drummer Poncho Sanchez. He traveled to the Big Apple to record the show’s first Christmas special, spotlighting the famed New York Voices, which celebrated the 25th anniversary with the release of the holiday album “Let It Snow.”
He also showcased local talents in Season 1, which he hopes to continue as the show moves forward.
“Luckily, do we have some people like Mark Giammario and Justin Echols here in Oklahoma City that are at that level that are good for radio performances. I’m all about covering the local scene as much as I possibly can when there’s talent,” he said.
“The hope is to eventually get the show nationally distributed, and we’re at a good start considering the ratings are up here.”
ON THE AIR
When: Airs at 9 p.m. Fridays on KGOU FM, with an encore airing at 7 p.m. Sunday.
To listen on radio: Tune to KGOU FM at 106.3 in Norman, 105.7 in Oklahoma City, 103.1 in Seminole, 97.9 in Ada, 106.9 in Chickasha and 88.1 in Woodward.
To listen online: http://kgou.org.
Information: www.backstagejazz.org, www.facebook.com/backstagejazzradio or www.twitter.com/backstagejazz.