A Note of Thanks

30 Years of Jazz à la Mode

A special celebration of Jazz à la Mode’s 30th Anniversary is taking place on Sunday, November 16, at the Community Music School of Springfield. The occasion is giving me cause to reflect on some of what’s gone into making a success of jazz on New England Public Radio for three decades. My former colleague John Montanari, who also doubled as my boss for 29 years, offered very generous thoughts this week on how I’ve contributed to its longevity. Click here to read his comments.

Meanwhile, I’ve written this note of thanks to my colleagues and others who’ve made a difference to my work and the course my professional life has taken. It’s included in the program that will be distributed at our sold-out event on Sunday.

My gig basically involves CD’s, a microphone, and an On-Air light. But there’s a complex world of behind-the-scenes transmitter, studio, and computer maintenance; underwriting sales; membership services; and mission-driven management that make the joyous and plaintive sounds of jazz come through your radio speakers every night. Thanks to the staff of New England Public Radio for making what I do possible, and to the individuals I work with directly who keep my end of the boat afloat: Bart Rankin, Cara Foster, Cathleen O’Keefe, Pete Chilton, Katie Wright, Chuck Dubé, Georgette DeFriese, and John Voci.

Thanks also to our CEO and General Manager Martin Miller for maintaining a vision of public radio as a community service that here in Western New England includes news, classical music, and jazz; to Joan Rubel, former WFCR General Manager, who instituted daily jazz programming in 1984; to my former colleagues John Montanari and Helen Barrington for supporting my autonomy as a jazz producer; to Peter Sokolowski and Bex Taylor for paying late-night dues as Jazz à la Mode subs; and to Vanessa Cerillo and Ken LeBlond for shepherding Sunday’s celebration through to completion.

Special thanks to my Jazz Safari colleague Kari Njiiri for 30-plus years of music, mirth, and meshugas. Here we are on October 24, 1984 in WFCR’s former Amherst studios. We played records and reel-to-reel tapes and used rotary phones back then.

Kari Njiiri and Tom Reney, WFCR,1984; photo by Michael Gordon
Kari Njiiri and Tom Reney, WFCR, 1984; photo by Michael Gordon

Thanks to UMass-Amherst faculty members who guided me as a student and encouraged my interest in jazz history: Fred Tillis, Archie Shepp, and Joseph Skerritt, and the late Billy Taylor, Horace Boyer, and Max Roach.

None of what I do would be conceivable without the support of listeners who contribute to NEPR, and the musicians who create this music. I’m grateful to everyone who’s ever made a record I’ve played on Jazz à la Mode, and to the countless musicians who commit themselves to the rigors of jazz with little prospect of major financial reward, and none of paid vacations. I’m especially pleased that so many outstanding players will come from near and far to perform on Sunday.

Sunday’s lineup includes Paul Arslanian, piano and music director; Steve Davis, trombone; Charles Neville and Grant Stewart, tenor saxophones; Jay Hoggard, vibraphone; Cicci Santucci, trumpet; Peter Sokolowski, flugelhorn; Tony Davis, guitar; Khalif Neville, piano; Nat Reeves, Avery Sharpe, and George Kaye, bass; Jon Fisher, Claire Arenius, and Billy Arnold, drums. Thanks also to pianist Jim Argiro and bassist Jason Schwartz for playing the opening reception.  

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