Every weekend, I listened. It was a time when I was discovering jazz, and each weekend these two ladies, for two hours on KCUR, played traditional jazz and discussed the musicians and the music and then played more.
Ruth Rhoden and Ginny Coleman were not polished broadcasters. Not even close. They were two jazz fans who played the music they loved on the local public radio station at a time when local public radio stations filled weekend hours with volunteer programming.
I learned about jazz and jazz musicians while listening to Ruth and Ginny. I know I’m not the only one.
Ruth Rhoden passed away last week. She was 85 years old.
Nobody was more supportive of Kansas City jazz and jazz musicians than Ruth and Ginny. Need time to promote a new jazz album or jazz event? You had it. Each year I was involved with the jazz festival, Ruth and Ginny offered as much of their show as we cared to monopolize to promote it. I was their guest several times.
But make no mistake, their interests and their show were focused strictly on traditional jazz. I recall being on their program in 1989, the year Pat Metheny – not traditional jazz – was to headline the festival. I arrived at the station, and suggested one cut to Ruth from Pat’s current CD that would fit their show. Both Ruth and Ginny were enthusiastic while on the air. But when the show went to a break, and the microphone was dead, Ginny looked me in the eye and asked, If this is a jazz festival, why didn’t you book jazz?
(Answer: The other headliner and the most of the local acts would satisfy their more traditional tastes. Pat’s jazz was better known and would draw a larger crowd. We needed both.)
I don’t know what Ruth thought. She said nothing. She was far too polite to grill a guest.
Ruth Rhoden was one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure to know in KC’s jazz community. My condolences to her family.
Congratulations to KC trumpeter Hermon Mehari, back this week from Sydney, Australia, where he placed second in the Jazz Improvisation Competition of the International Trumpet Guild.
You can find his name (badly misspelled) on a list of contest winners here. You’ll find his photo with the other finalists (and further evidence that Australians apparently can’t spell either Hermon or Mehari) on page 9 of the pdf here.
Further proof (not that any of us around here needed any) that Kansas City is home to some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians.
An interesting article on TheRoot.com discusses how jazz musicians make money. Without mentioning specific income, they talk to three jazz musicians, each from a different generation, and reveal how each earns a living. The article is here.
A discussion in the comments of a post on this blog, several months back, pondered just what is the market share for jazz CD sales today. This article offers some distressingly sad facts:
“In 1999 the Recording Industry Association of America said that jazz sales were 3 percent of all recording sales. By 2008 they were 1.1 percent. In 2000 Soundscan reported that 18,416 jazz albums were sold; nine years later, fewer than 12,000 jazz-genre albums were purchased.”