JJ 11/79: The Word From Transylvania

An excerpt from Steve Voce's column It Don't Mean A Thing, on BBC radio's dealings with jazz. First published in Jazz Journal November 1979


There appears to have been an inordinate amount of wooden stake pulling out going on lately. Jim Gobdolt, who was fashionable about the same time as the semi-colon, has returned to edit the 100 Club’s nice little magazine, Stanley Dance thunders back to try (one assumes) to convince us that Red Richards is not the heavy-handed player that I’ve always thought him to be, Alexis Korner has returned to the Beeb with a record programme and here, banjophiles and Max Collie not withstanding, I go again. Let’s outlaw long sentences like that one for a start.

Peter Clayton still presides over ‘Jazz Record Requests’ and ‘Sounds Of Jazz’ with Keith Stewart (Keith also produces ‘The Best Of Jazz’ and has done these many years). ‘Sounds’ has recently been rejigged so that the two live sessions appear at the end of the programme, whilst the first half of the programme is usually devoted to a fairly substantial interview between Clayton and whichever American musician happens to be in town. Peter’s interviewing technique has improved enormously over the last year or so, and he manages to extract a continuous flow of interesting talk from such normally not voluble people as Bob Brookmeyer and Joe Newman.

I must admit that I usually miss the first part of these interviews (“The top”, I believe Peter calls it) because I am in the loo. At the end of Alexis Korner’s programme, which precedes Peter’s each week, he makes some unctuous comment about the fact that Peter is to follow. Peter, swift to pick up on Radio Uriah Heep, comes back with some similar nepotic unguent suppository about Korner. I can’t believe that I am the only listener whose bowels turn to water at this ceremonial changing of the lard. Mr. Korner has the charisma of a lemur, so his end of it is not for comment. But, knowing Keith Stewart to be a man of absolutely impeccable taste, I can only assume that the ritual is forced upon him from above. It’s rather like the disc-jockey who writes little links complimenting himself on being a wonderful chap who presents a great programme and then has the announcers read them as though they’ve just been inspired to think of them spontaneously.

The best of the Beeb cons goes back many years to the famous broadcaster (not Jim Logdobt) who was preparing a piece on Lester Young. All the links and music had been timed, and it was only minutes before the programme went out that the producer noticed the Count Basie’s Harvard Blues was being used for its solo by Prez. ‘But that tenor solo’s by Don Byas!’ the producer protested. ‘Oh. Is it?’ said the famous broadcaster. ‘Well, for the purpose of tonight it’s by Lester Young.’ And as such it was broadcast.