Growing up near Buffalo, NY, and being a musician and budding jazz fan, I of course stumbled upon Jazz FM 91, out of Toronto. The local NPR station did (and still does) have jazz on at certain times, but the Canadian station had music on almost constantly. There was the occasional BBC news break, and there were morning shows and other programs with on-air personalities you would get to know, but you could almost always tune in and get music.
The music mix on this station is interesting. They of course play what you’d expect, including the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and other artists throughout the history of jazz. There was also a fair helping of newer music, both from established artists as well as up-and-comers. And of course, they played a fair amount of Canadian jazz, including musicians based out of Toronto area. In fact, being a local station to that area and including so much of the associated goings-on, just by listening I actually felt closer to that fair city. Over the years I had traveled there to visit on different occasions, but thanks to their local jazz station I actually started to feel like I knew it on another level.
The 2000s saw me based around the Buffalo area in some capacity, high school for the first half, then back now and then from college in Rochester. I tuned to the station when I could, primarily over the air when in range but over the Internet when away. My listening waned some due in part to Rochester having a great jazz station itself, but it didn’t stop completely. Sometime in the later part of that decade I stumbled upon Stolen Moments, a show on Friday nights from 10 PM to 1 AM. It consisted of three hours of music (in half-hour sets) selected by the host, David Basskin, and began and ended with Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments, its theme and namesake. I don’t remember when it was that I first discovered this show, but I found myself making an effort to seek it out each week. I wouldn’t say I never missed one, but I almost always made an effort to tune in.
The premise of the show was to play what might be considered lesser-known or obscure tracks, maybe not necessarily outside the mainstream of jazz, but certainly ones more within the domain of someone approaching jazz buff status. Listening was a useful way to discover new artists; for instance, I first heard Hampton Hawes through this program. Often times David would play a track that was previously unreleased, or that had been released decades ago but faded into obscurity. Sometimes he had a piece with unusual instrumentation, and once in a while he’d even play a classical piece.
This isn’t to say that the whole show consisted of music never heard before. In fact, artists such as Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, and Pat Metheny came up frequently, as did Joey DeFrancesco. David would even play Steely Dan now and then, being a self-professed fan. It was this mixture that kept me listening – the show was curated. You could discover new music by listening to it, yet in a familiar setting. You got to know the host, and you knew that by listening there was a good chance you’d come upon something you liked.
This past Friday, June 15th, I tuned in as I usually did. This time, I caught the first part in my car on my way back to Buffalo for Father’s Day weekend. I didn’t catch the beginning of the show, but listened for an hour or so. At home, I caught the final hour online. To my surprise, David announced that this was in fact the last time that the show would air, before signing off by letting the theme play in its entirety.
I was a little shocked. I checked the station’s website, only to find that the block had been changed to a normal music block in the schedule. I poked around some more and found out that the station had apparently been going through some trouble, and had let several of its hosts go, including David Basskin.
I can’t really speak for what happened over there, but I am sad to see this show go off the air. I can still point Rhythmbox to their stream and hear a lot of great music, but I could get this through one of the popular streaming services, or I could just put together a playlist from my own music collection. It’s even worth searching Youtube now and then. But the show itself gave me a personal connection, one that I will miss.
Of course, it had to come to an end, and again, the station is still there. And the truth is, there are other stations out there, and other interesting shows – I hadn’t really bothered looking for an alternate. Not because I thought I’d never need one, just because it hadn’t occurred to me to listen for one. I suppose I’ll start looking, but Friday nights will never be the same.