Jazz pushed aside in Boston’s public radio wars

ERIC JACKSON of WGBH-FM conducted the only interview of Dizzy Gillespie that the trumpeter wanted a copy of. Jackson hosted an annual on-air commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. that brought listeners to tears. From Duke Ellington to Joshua Redman to any new horns on the block, Jackson was the undisputed champion for jazz in Boston, a cultural treasure whose calm, college-professor voice explains backstories that further illuminate the music. Alas, such richness did not protect him from being the latest casualty of Boston’s public-radio battles, as WGBH takes on its talk-oriented rival, WBUR.

Jackson’s show, a weeknight staple from Mondays through Thursdays, is being moved to weekends. In addition, a Friday night jazz show with Steve Schwartz was cut. Since Boston considers itself a brainy town, WGBH’s desire to be a champion in high-end talk is understandable. But its decision to cut the airtime of Jackson and Schwartz diminishes Boston’s prime-time jazz programming — and makes the airwaves less cosmopolitan relative to other big cities. Jazz, as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis said, “is music that really deals with what it means to be an American.” Thankfully, Eric Jackson is not completely disappearing from the airwaves. But in de-emphasizing jazz, WGBH diminished its soul.

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