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MOJA Radio Celebrates its Fifth Anniversary

Russ Davis reflects on the service’s origins and progress

Randy Brecker and Russ Davis

In May of 2014 MOJA Radio, the online service I call “The World’s MOdern JAzz Radio Channel,” turns 5 years old and I just felt like it was time to take stock of where we came from, where we’ve been, where we are and where we will go as we proceed in the ever-evolving world of jazz in the 21st century as heard in cyber-world. To simply be actively involved in programming and presenting this area of jazz and still be thriving is pretty astounding. I sometimes feel like a jazz musician who has chosen to express himself in a personal way and just let the chips fall where they may as opposed to crafting something that might get me more work in the jazz arena as it exists today. It isn’t that brave an endeavor really. I’m simply doing what I know how to do and building on something that began for me way back in the 20th century. I hope you’ll indulge me as I tell this story.

The beginning was 1978 in Atlanta where my bosses at WQXI-FM (AKA 94-Q) commissioned me to create a Sunday night (7 PM-Midnight) “jazz” show to complement the album rock format that the station presented the rest of the time. I was a bit confused as I told them I wasn’t a “Jazz expert” and not very conversant with the more straight-ahead forms like bop, hard bop, free and other related genres. My mother had raised me listening to the big bands she loved in the 30’s & 40’s and that was cool, but a bit out of date and the sound quality was not up to par with what could be programmed on the air. Plus I couldn’t quote chapter and verse on that music either. At this point in jazz history the Fusion Era was in full swing and this was a music I knew and loved. I remember hearing Miles Davis’s “Right Off” from the album Jack Johnson, the electric shuffle featuring John McLaughlin’s chunky guitar and Herbie Hancock on organ, and thinking “if this is jazz today then I’m a Jazzer!” Contemporary jazz artists like David Sanborn, George Benson, Joe Sample and the Crusaders, Bob James, Pat Metheny and others were starting to move the music toward a more mass appeal and accessible sound and style. My bosses simply said “Do Something!” So the program Jazz Flavours was born with a blend of fusion and contemporary that seemed to strike a chord with the Atlanta audience. For 10 great years the program flourished, expanding to a nightly show and achieving great ratings. Anyone who knows about jazz from 1978-1988 will remember how Chick Corea, Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Herbie, Metheny, Sanborn and so many others were hitting their stride and leading the way in creating an engaging and popular form of improvised music.

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