“I do get complaints,” says KSDS assistant music director Chad Fox, who expanded the station’s night-time programming last year to focus on nontraditional jazz that might sound like noise to the uninitiated listener. Fox calls the nightly series Progressive Nights.
“Recently, I played John Coltrane’s ‘Ascension’ [a 38-minute piece of free-jazz intensity], and I got an e-mail or a call from somebody, and they were livid — so pissed off that I played it! I don’t know...I think you have to have open ears when you listen to this music, and as a matter of fact, I’d say that at least 85 percent of our listeners have been very positive.”
For more than 25 years, adventurous listeners have tuned in to KSDS Jazz 88 on Thursday evenings, from 10 till 12 to catch Miff Mole’s Free Time, a show with virtually no precedent in the country. But that’s about it when it comes to music on the fringes, even on Jazz 88, which allows every DJ the freedom to program their own show.
“I drew inspiration from him,” says Fox. “And about the time I started at the station , I learned about [experimental concert promoter] Bonnie Wright, and I started doing research on what she’s been doing in the community, and I felt like I needed to contribute something. So, I went to Claudia Russell with the idea of expanding our coverage of creative music Monday through Thursday, and she was onboard from the get-go.
“What Progressive Nights is, really, is an extension of Mole’s Free Time; it’s almost an homage to his show. So we put together the idea, and we had a rough patch at first — not every DJ in that time slot was really passionate about the music — but things really started to gel when we got Tony McGee to take the Tuesday-night slot — he’s really raised the bar — and I’m doing Mondays and Wednesdays.