Just as dreams provide a radically different perspective on our waking lives, so the late-night hours permit us to see our daylight lives in a fresh and revelatory light. That’s why late-night radio should sound distinct from daytime radio, and that distinction has been a guiding principle of “Now’s the Time.” Perhaps, like me, there was a period in your life during which you found yourself, long after dark, the only one awake in the house, tuned to the radio. I have adolescent memories along these lines – listening to Earth Radio in Davis, the old KSAN in San Francisco, KLRB in Carmel, KUSF, KTIM in San Rafael. If your experience was like mine, a dee-jay mixed a late-night musical tapestry for you that made you feel like part of a select coterie of cognoscenti. Maybe it was King Crimson, or Sun Ra; maybe it was something else. That’s the spirit I’ve tried to capture on “Now’s the Time” – the sense that the late-night hours afford us extra space for contemplation and reflection, for open-eared experimentation, for bittersweet regrets and clear-eyed hopes. I don’t know exactly why you might have been awake in the middle of the night, but I have been delighted and honored that you stumbled upon this radio broadcast.
The reason is simple: My day job has become sufficiently busy that I can no longer do the show.
The run of “Now’s the Time” has been short – just shy of two and a half years. During that time, I have felt so delighted to have that weekly late-night pause when I could meaningfully sequence the most varied jazz-and-not-only-jazz records. I have been even more thrilled to speculate that you were listening, though I know that the late-night audience is small. A “select coterie of cognoscenti,” I wrote above – very select in my case. Like so select that it would likely have been more efficient to just have you over to my house and play records for you there.
The central pillar of the “Now’s the Time” musical edifice is Miles Davis, who was featured with a particular album every month. The program was constructed from all of the musical dimensions that radiate outward from Miles.
Jazz, of course, in Olympian quantities. From Arthur Whetsol playing trumpet in the 1920s Duke Ellington band, to Coleman Hawkins shouting “Oh, play that thing!” in the 1930s Fletcher Henderson band, to Marie Bryant singing “The Sunny Side of the Street” with Lester Young in 1944. The golden age of the 50s and 60s, of course: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor… mind expanding astral jazz of Sun Ra, the Pyramids, Marcus Belgrave and Alice Coltrane. Plenty of solid fusion (for lack of a better word), including the Brecker Brothers, Eddie Harris, heaping helpings of Herbie Hancock. All the way to exciting new releases from 2013-14 by Donny McCaslin, Naked Truth, Terri Lyne Carrington, Robert Glasper, Geri Allen, the French National Jazz Orchestra, Eric Harland, Mark Taylor…
Over time, hip hop emerged as the second major vertex of the program: Nas, Digable Planets, Jay-Z, Madvillain, De La Soul, Ugly Duckling, People Under the Stairs, PM Dawn, Pete Rock, Lords of the Underground, Mos Def, Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, A Tribe Called Quest, plus new records along the way from Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, Run the Jewels, Shabazz Palaces, Kendrick Lamar, Amerigo Gazaway, Kool A.D.…
And of course, old and new R&B, adventurous music from Africa and Latin America, the occasional classical selection.
Throughout, there were the artists that emerged as the veritable Now’s the Time Hall of Fame, whose music recurred regularly, providing a latticework of connectivity and familiarity for long-time listeners: Miles, naturally, and Herbie Hancock; but also Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, Sly & the Family Stone, Meshell Ndegeocello, the Roots, Ambrose Akinmusire, the Wu-Tang Clan (including solo discs by Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, GZA), Al Green, Shirley Horn, Augustus Pablo, Betty Carter, the Souljazz Orchestra.
Most nights there was a poem. Throughout 2014, I chose one Latin American poet a month, and read the poems in Spanish and English alike: Gabriela Mistral, Jorge Luis Borges, César Vallejo, Coral Bracho. There were jazz poems by Jayne Cortez, Quincy Troupe, Sun Ra and Amiri Baraka. There was Yeats!
There are jazz programs on KUSP that have been airing for decades, some with the same knowledgeable hosts they had decades ago. “Now’s the Time” is but a blip on that long-term calendar. But I have never stopped feeling honored and delighted to be a momentary blip on that sonic timeline. I’m grateful to you for listening. And to many members of the KUSP family who helped me out: Steve Laufer, Geo Warner, Johnny Simmons, J.D. Hillard, Mike Lambert, Larry Blood, and Terry Green notably among them.
I’ve wondered frequently over the last couple years whether anyone was listening. KUSP’s Johnny Simmons was recently quoted in the Good Times, saying “I don’t know what ‘community radio’ means anymore. Everything is everywhere. People don’t want a record show anymore. They want what they want and can download it onto their iPad. It’s a changed world.” A bittersweet benediction for this particular “record show,” perhaps. But it was great fun while it lasted.