Our collective champion returns to the winner's circle because, well, it blows the competition away. KBEM plays some great music (and some crap), as does the redoubtable Leigh Kamman on MPR's The Jazz Image, but both tend to neglect jazz with even the slightest connection to the avant-garde (by which we mean nearly any avant-garde of the past 40 years or so). Fresh Air Radio's nighttime foursome covers the bases from swinging and bluesy to free and spacey, from Cannonball Adderley to John Zorn (and they really play both!). On Monday's One Final Note, Scott Hreha plays cerebral modern jazz and improvised music, focusing on new releases from independent labels. Proof of the form's vibrancy is presented weekly. There's roots-music polymath Larry Englund with the swinging and bopping Rhythm and Grooves, on which a robust tenor sax or bluesy vamp is always close at hand. There's Emel Sherzad's International Jazz Conspiracy, emphasizing the avant-garde and offering interviews with local artists and in-depth previews of upcoming concerts. And there's Janis Lane-Ewart's The Collective Eye, which ranges from straight-ahead to far-out and excels at showcasing vocalists. All the hosts are knowledgeable and passionate, yet willing to let the music do most of the talking.


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