BEST JAZZ RADIO PROGRAM (2000)

KBEM-FM (88.5)

There is a public radio station in New York City, WKCR-FM (89.9), that periodically devotes 100 consecutive programming hours to the recordings of jazz's giants. These broadcast bonanzas often come when an artist dies, or on a birthday. Seventy hours of the complete recordings of the Modern Jazz Quartet's vibraphonist Milt Jackson. An annual Charlie Parker festival that lasts a full week. The Duke's 100th birthday prompted a seemingly unending orgy of Ellingtonia. By contrast, Minneapolis's jazz station, KBEM-FM (88.5) programs George Benson on its jazz-traditions shows and features vocal tracks every other song--lest the audience look for its traffic updates elsewhere. Fortunately KFAI's new music maverick Richard Paske has been doing his part for the avant-garde over the full 20 years of the station's existence. Each Tuesday night from 10:30 p.m. to midnight, this bassist/pianist culls his collection for adventurous jazz and assorted wonders. Though Paske couldn't hijack the airwaves for a 100-hour jazz filibuster that would make Strom Thurmond weak in the knees, he did pull off an impressive and comprehensive four-part Ornette Coleman tribute this winter. And this is probably the only place on the Twin Cities dial where a jazz-starved listener can regularly hear the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra, Sam Rivers, Anthony Braxton, or dozens of other free-jazz pioneers. Throw in experimental works by John Cage, Steve Reich, Gavin Bryars, Sonic Youth, and countless others, and you've got the freest music on the free airwaves.