If jazz is dead--or safe, or in the monopolistic possession of Ken Burns--no one has told Fresh Ears host Richard Paske. Even among the impassioned and obsessive DJs at KFAI, he's something of a maverick and a fanatic. You can usually tell when you've come across Paske's show even without hearing his gentle voice or noting the day and hour (Tuesdays between 10:30 p.m. and midnight). For one thing, the airwaves will likely be bathed in Sun Ra: Paske has extended his Black History Month tribute to the experimental-jazz giant to the first Tuesday of every month--a series he calls "A Year in the Sun (Ra in 2001)." In his regular programming, the 21-year KFAI veteran and local-jazz innovator plays records that advance the idea that music, like speech, should be free. Fresh Ears offers the giddy sensation of musical rules falling away from the mother ship, whether Paske is championing Ornette Coleman, Steve Reich, or the Art Ensemble of Chicago. He is to the polite jazz air-conditioning of KBEM-FM (88.5) as Lars von Trier is to Merchant-Ivory.


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