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An Open Letter to Smooth Jazz Radio Program Directors

First, I would like to thank you for taking the courage to bring the smooth jazz format to your station. With other radio stations in the area sounding alike, I like the fact that your station knows there is an audience for music above what is being played on the radio. It seems that radio statons either play rock, country or contemporary and not realize that there are people older than 30 who don't want to hear news and talk all day and can't relate to music that was done before the 1950's. You realize that there are performers who are recording great music, but have not had a chance to have their music aired on the radio and you are playing it.

However, I would like to let you know about some things that I would like to see changed. First, just as you promote the great instrumentalists by playing their songs on your station, also try to play more of the great vocalists. One of the reasons why I turned to your station is because I don't want to hear Michael Bolton, Phil Collins, Linda Ronstadt and other singers. They are already heard on other stations in the area and show that whoever selects the music is not what I call musically mature. When a person is musically mature, that means that the person has grown up from what 25 year old people like and knows what songs and artists will stand the test of time and bring an emotional attachment to the person. Smooth jazz has always been a kind of music that has emotion through not only how vocalists sing but how instrumentalists bring out their feelings through what they play.

There are many great vocalists in smooth jazz. People like Michael Franks, Brenda Russell, Basia, Slim Man, Kenny Rankin, Gabriella Anders, Michael Tomlinson, Diana Krall, Will Downing and others are trying to expand the smooth jazz format by providing great interpretations of not only classic songs that are familiar to people, but songs by new writers. They would like to get the same chance as instrumentalists to get their songs out to the public.

Second, you do not need to bring back music from back in the 60's and 70's to get new listeners. Some of today's smooth jazz performers have made cover version of songs such as "Grazin' in the Grass" and "Let's Stay Together" that will be able to get people who have heard these songs before get a new slant on these familiar melodies with a new attitude. In one case, I heard the "Theme from 'Shaft'" by Isaac Hayes on your station. It has no business being there. The song doesn't have a place here unless one of the smooth jazz performers puts its own signature on it. A perfect example is Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman." Saxophonist Richard Elliot's version has for me become the difinitive version of that song. It is even better than Michael Bolton's excuse for the song that he recorded a few years ago.

From reading the newspaper, I heard that some adult contemporary stations have had their lowest ratings ever. I feel that the reason for that is that many of the artists heard on adult contemporary radio have not released any new material in years. When they don't bring out new material, the format gets stale. That is why smooth jazz stations are more exciting because they feature the artists that are recording new material and are continually going on tour to perform it for their fans. That is why your station is very important and will continue to be important for many years to come. By treating the listeners and performers with respect, you will continue to grow for many years to come. You don't ever have to sell out.

With the audience ages 25 to 34 diminishing and the audience from 35 to 54 increasing, a person like you who maybe in his or her late 20's or early 30's has not realized the great spectrum of the smooth jazz idiom. Hopefully by talking with other listeners at some of the remotes or events you have, you will listen to what we have to say and take it as constructive opinions about how your station can get even better and be around for a long time to come. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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