Saturday, December 4, 2010


KMHD and the Future of Jazz Radio

New direction from Program Director Matt Fleeger spikes interest, listenership

By Kyle O'Brien

Matt Fleeger ended up as the Program Director for KMHD because of skateboarding.

"Skateboarding got me into jazz," said Fleeger at his office above Willamette Park in the newly carved out KMHD section of the Oregon Public Broadcasting building.

Fleeger, an avid skateboarder since his youth, cites the groundbreaking skateboarding video, "Video Days," as his inspiration to learn more about jazz. The soundtrack for the video features the sound of John Coltrane behind skateboarders doing fancy tricks. That, and the fact that Fleeger saw the indie punk band Fugazi's guitarist wearing a Coltrane shirt, convinced him that jazz was indeed cool.

"I went to a store and bought "Blue Trane," he said. That launched Fleeger into jazz, which brought him first to San Antonio from his native Pennsylvania, and last year to Oregon to be the man behind the jazz at KMHD.

Fleeger continues to skate, but after jazz wove itself into his life, he knew he had to pursue the music.

….continued in the December 2010 Jazzscene ….


Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
Hard Drive (Bethlehem)

-Shawn Kirkeby, host of Hard Choices
Sat, 11am-1pm
Art Blakey, when asked about his music being labeled hard bop, insisted, "I don't know what they are talking about. All we try to do is play music, basic music. How are you going to swing if you don't swing hard?”

Hard Drive: Out of This World and The Next World Too, featuring the second formal group of Messengers, swings hard and aims high. After all, Sputnik, the first satellite, was launched into space by the Soviet Union in just a week before the session in October of 1957.

Art Blakey and his energetic Messengers sent a business-as-usual message to the jazz audience with trumpeter Bill Hardman, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin and bassist Spanky DeBrest, guided by the experience of pianist Junior Mance and Blakey's steady, voracious drums.

The group's enthusiasm and comfort with one another is evident in seamless solo exchanges in Jimmy Heath's For Minors Only, and in DEO-X, Hardman's composition built on a tonal scale opened by Blakey's clear and creative stick sounds. As Hardman said about Blakey: "When he's there, you don't have to worry about anybody being behind you. Even if it were just him, with no piano or bass, it would be pretty cool.”

Griffin later reflected, "We had more fun than anybody. A ball every night." His two compositions, Right Down Front and Krafty, are well-interpreted highlights of the session.

Hard Drive may not be the powerful Moanin', recorded a year later for Blue Note with names like Golson, Morgan and Timmons. Nor does it contain a future leader like that of the 1980s lineup that produced Wynton Marsalis, who reinvigorated hard bop.

It is, however, an intoxicating teacher-student session, all the way through to the last composition by Philadelphia pianist Leon Mitchell. His Late Spring showcases this talented group of musicians, who shared Art Blakey's desire to swing hard.