It was a bright sunny day in the late 1970s. I had just wrapped up my first year as a Radio Shack District Manager. In appreciation, the company had swapped out my modest black Ford Granada for a creamy white Cutlass Supreme coupe with a maroon velour interior. And a fabulous stereo. I’d turned around the Bronx and Westchester District, and was riding down Park Ave, the tony thoroughfare running more or less down the middle of my new turf — Manhattan. All that was missing were some crisp, cool tunes. I switched on the radio to my favorite FM station, WRVR, which played all jazz all the time. Miles and Coltrane, Grusin, Marsalis. Yes!
Actually, no. It turned out that was the day WRVR, virtually without fanfare, dropped jazz and became a country music station. Country music in the Big Apple? You’re right, it didn’t last long, but all jazz radio was gone, too. At least in the greater New York area. Oh sure, I could find jazz “hours,” Sunday morning jazz on AM, and once in a while, a clear channel AM jazz station from America’s heartland. And New York has jazz brunches, jazz clubs, and piano bars featuring jazz. But it wasn’t until Internet radio became reliable that I could find another all jazz station.
There’s a good one in Seattle, KPLU 88.5 FM, whose tagline is “NPR News and All That Jazz.” Good stuff, professional DJs, but jeez, those public radio appeals, appeals, appeals. Can’t I just pay my money and listen?
Well, not to KPLU, but now there is a way. It’s Yahoo’s LAUNCHcast. And you don’t even have to pay your money ($3.99 by the month, $35.99 annually), unless you want to eliminate advertisements. The LAUNCHcast tagline “Music that listens to you,” tells most of the story. This is personalized Internet radio. You start out by telling Yahoo! what genres (I like jazz, classical, some country, big band, etc.) and artists you’d like to hear. That’s what LAUNCHcast plays. As they play, you rate the songs, albums, and artists to change the probability they’ll be played in the future. You won’t hear genres you don’t like. You can skip songs that turn you off. And you can tell LAUNCHcast never to play a song, album or artist again. And it won’t!
There’s more to it, of course. But I’m not doing a commercial here, although I do need to mention one more feature I like. By downloading and installing Yahoo!’s free Music Engine — also a great way to play LAUNCHcast and play/transfer/burn all the music on your PC — I can painlessly buy a copy of a favorite tune for $0.99 (less if I were to subscribe to Music Unlimited).
Now you know how I got my groove back. Got introduced to Diana Krall and Chris Botti. Found Mickey Finn and his Honky Tonk Piano. Caught up with Charlie Mingus, the Marsalis family (and you think the Jacksons are hyperactive!), and Stephane Grappelli. And fell in love with Ella all over again. Thanks Yahoo!