Internet Radio Review: JAZZRADIO.com
Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.
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Ask a group of jazz aficionados what the best music in the world is, and the answer's unanimous: jazz. Ask them what kind of jazz is best, and the unity will start to break down. Hard bop, swing, Third Wave, traditional, blues, jazz vocals — each have their supporters. When it comes to jazz, one size does not fit all.
JAZZRADIO.com recognized that fact early on, and developed an Internet radio service that caters to virtually every jazz subgenre. A quick glance at their main page reveals no less than twenty-three different channels of highly specialized jazz programming. Some revolve around a particular instrument, such as saxophone, trumpet or piano. Others cover different genres, such as Bebop, avant-garde, or Latin jazz. In essence, if there's a particular artist that you enjoy, be it Miles Davis or even Kenny G., you'll find a channel where that artist is right at home.
JAZZRADIO.com provides two different levels of service — free and premium. The free service is a great way to sample the channels, although it is somewhat limited. The free channels stream at 64Kbps, so the audio quality is adequate, but not great. When I'm listening on my laptop, or through inexpensive earbuds, the sound is just fine, but when I switch to higher audio quality speakers or headphones, the difficiencies become apparent. The free stream also has commercials that generally air between every fourth or fifth track. If you're used to listening to broadcast radio, it's a pretty light spot load, but it still detracts slightly from the overall vibe.
If you're really into jazz, then the premium service can be a worthy investment. The cost is $4.95 a month, or $45.00 a year. The premium version has no commercials, and according to the website,streams at "CD quality." The premium stream is actually at a maximum bitrate of 160Kbps, so that's something of an exaggeration, but still very good sound quality for a streaming Internet radio station. And it's at a high enough bitrate that a good home audio system could do the music justice. With the premium version you can access all the channels, and can do so remotely (good news if you have Internet access at work).
Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of the programming for each of the channels. Here's a brief overview of some of the tunes played on the various channels:
The Be-bop Channel
- Milt Jackson: In a Sentimental Mood
- Oscar Pettiford: Montmatre Blues
- Miles Davis: How Deep is the Ocean
- Erroll Garner: September Song
- Snooky Young: Rosetta
The Avant-Guard Channel
- Sun Ra Arkestra: Children of the Sun
- Saxophone Summit: Alexander the Great
- Keith Jarrett: The Windup
- Jimmy Giuffre: Mosquito Dance
- Pat Metheny & Ornette Coleman: Word from Bird
The Smooth Jazz Vocals Channel
- Diana Krall: The Look of Love
- Walter Beasley: Love Calls
- Kelly Sweet Raincoat
- Rod Stewart: You Go To My Head
- George Benson & Al Jarreau: Let It Rain
We might not all agree on what type of jazz is the greatest, but thanks to JAZZRADIO.com, we don't have to. It's all there to enjoy.
How To Listen:
Accessible through most wireless music players
iTunes: In the iTunes Radio menu, the various channels of JAZZRADIO.com are listed under Jazz