A broadcast to be aired for the first time in nearly 20 years of a concert by Ella Fitzgerald will act as a potent reminder of the singer whose influence on singers as varied as Dianne Reeves, Jane Monheit and the teenage newcomer Nikki Yanofsky remains profound. The broadcast on Monday by Jazz FM also recalls the heady days of the launch of Jazz FM itself.
The great jazz singer, who died in 1996, was flown over to the UK by the fledgling station for its launch, and a concert with the singer joined by the Count Basie Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall on launch day, 4 March 1990.
In a blaze of publicity including national press attention, the honour of introducing Ella to the stage fell to station DJ Chris Phillips, then in the early days of his broadcasting career. Jazz FM was Britain’s first specialised jazz radio station, broadcasting on 102.2FM, and had just completed test broadcasts. The station recorded the concert, which will be remembered as Ella Fitzgerald’s last appearance in Europe, and broadcast it nine months later during Christmas 1990. It has not been aired since and Monday’s broadcast at 6pm also marks its first broadcast on DAB.
Jazz FM only became a DAB station less than two years ago, after its previous owners the Guardian Media Group in 2005 changed the station’s name to Smooth FM, effectively mothballing the name for three years. The station posted Rajar figures of 408,000 listeners per week in its first quarter results for 2009, a figure which has since risen to 463,000 in the latest results.
– Stephen Graham