Saturday, June 30, 2012

fritz the nite owl




fritz peerenboom, he of the rich superbly modulated baritone  voice, has been a columbus ohio legend for near 50 years.

first there was his long running afternoon jazz show on 1460 WBNS radio.
then came a long long stint (20 yearsish) as oncamera host of WBNS tv Nite owl theatre with some of the most lowkey, self effacing humor and graphics  i've ever enjoyed.

then came a long stint hosting a jazz show on a local radio station. that now has ended.

fritz the nite owl just goes on and on....
BULLETIN---Currently, Studio 35 Cinema & Drafthouse's power has been knocked out by the storm. The show will be canceled if it does not return by 9pm. Please stand by for further details...

tonight, june 30, fritzy is appearing at studio 35  cinema movie pub in columbus at 1130pm.
they have about 40 beers.
i may just roll down the highway to columbus.
 yes, i'm going.

The death of smooth jazz

BY ERIC LYTTLE | Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2010 12:00 am
Fritz Peerenboom felt a little stir-crazy rattling around in his Upper Arlington-area home watching July cede to August. That entire weekend had seemed…uncomfortable, this nagging feeling constantly tugging at him like he was a man trying to quit smoking. The idle moments seemed to need filling.
For the previous 19 years—nearly 1,000 consecutive weekends—Peerenboom, better known to Central Ohio TV and radio audiences as Fritz the Nite Owl, had devoted his weekends to Nite Owl Jazz. The radio show had aired live Sunday nights from 9 p.m. to midnight since 2002 on WJZA, Columbus’s Smooth Jazz 103.5, and for a decade before that on CD101.
The weekend routine had become as much a part of him as his trademark oversized Nite Owl glasses or his velvety-smooth, jazz-cat-cool “Greetings, good groovers” delivery.
Every Saturday, he’d sequester himself in a cluttered downstairs corner of his home and devote four hours, give or take a few minutes, to some intense jazz listening: playing the 10 or so new CDs he’d received in the mail that week, making little notes about this track or that, reading the PR bios of the new artists that accompanied the discs, and sifting through the piles of CDs he’d received in weeks past looking for songs he hadn’t yet played. All the while, he’d be systematically organizing the songs into a show.
“I never wanted to have two saxophone players back to back, or two piano players,” Peerenboom said. “And I never wanted to have two songs with similar tempos back to back.”
Once the basic structure of a show was in place, he’d let it rest for a while, diving back in on Sunday mornings to make a little tweak here or there if needed and type up a final playlist. Then he’d nap, like clockwork, from 4 to 7, to be sharp for his 9-to-midnight gig.
“I had complete creative control,” he said. “I had the same number of breaks, the same number of commercials. I was one of the last deejays on the planet to walk into the studio with my case full of CDs under my arm.”
But last weekend, there was no gig. Nor the weekend before that. On Friday, July 30, at about 4:30 p.m., WKZA switched formats virtually without warning, becoming WNND. As the “new Rewind 103.5,” it began playing an upbeat, if not memorable, mix of Top 40 pop hits from the 1980s.
Fritz said he got the phone call at about “5 ’till 5” that afternoon from program director Dan Trapp, “basically telling me that I didn’t have to come in that Sunday, or any Sunday after that.”
“It was just so surprising,” said Peerenboom. “There wasn’t any indication of any change coming. Things seemed to be running smoothly. There was no dark cloud on the horizon that I could see. I figured, ‘I’ll be doing this until I get hit by a truck.’”
That truck came. It was called business.
“We tried, we really did,” said Alan Goodman, president of the Columbus Radio Group, which managed Columbus’s Smooth Jazz 103.5, as well as Sunny 95 and Mix 107.9.
“We were one of the last smooth jazz stations to bail on the format. But it’s been in trouble for a while. There’s been a shift in the industry, where the quantity of listeners became more important than the quality of listeners. The radio stations that have lots of listeners, regardless of how long they listen, will be rewarded, and the stations whose listeners listen passionately aren’t rewarded. The ’JZA listeners weren’t button-pushers.”
And by Arbitron standards, getting programmed into the button-pushers’ car-radio rotation is the golden ticket. “Have I gone to a format that will perform better (by Arbitron standards)?  I hope so,” said Goodman.
And just like that, Columbus lost its only commercial jazz radio station, and Fritz the Nite Owl—whose career has spanned more than 50 years and included radio and television, with the iconic Nite Owl Theatre—was out of work.
“It just would have been nice to get a little warning,” Peerenboom said. “It was just so sudden. Every Saturday and Sunday for the last 19 years revolved around putting that (radio) show together. And then, it wasn’t there. That weekend, it was like when you’ve driven a manual-shift car for years and you switch to an automatic. There’s just extra stuff you feel like you should be doing.”
Admittedly, the death of one smooth jazz station may not spell the death of jazz in Columbus. Many of top local jazz players in town admit they didn’t even listen to the station. To them, smooth jazz is kind of the step child of straight jazz.
Straight jazz is Gordon Ramsay. Smooth jazz is Rachel Ray.
The history of jazz radio in Columbus is relatively easy to chart. There was WBBY, a more traditional jazz station that began broadcasting oldies in 1969, becoming the second station in Central Ohio to broadcast in stereo a year later.
It switched to a jazz format in 1978, and lasted another 10 years or so before a family rift among the station’s owners finally spelled its doom. But even in its final days in the late 1980s, WBBY began moving away from the Blue Note and Prestige jazz of the 1950s and ’60s toward a more contemporary format. It, too, caught flak for it.
A story about the station’s troubles in a 1986 edition of Columbus Monthly magazine included a prophetic quote from Tim Hodges, the station’s former program manager. “Attempts to homogenize” jazz programming, he said, will “defeat their purpose in the first place” and alienate the jazz listeners who make up the station’s reason for existence.
After WBBY’s death, a number of other stations picked up jazz segments, including Mike Eiland’s jazz show on QFM-96, as well as Fritz the Nite Owl’s show on CD101.
Columbus regained a fulltime commercial jazz station when WJZA adopted its smooth jazz format in 1998, under former owner George Scantland. Saga Communications, doing business as the Columbus Radio Group, bought the station in 2003 for $13 million.
From the beginning, many an old-guard jazz fan turned up a nose at the seemingly manufactured smooth jazz sounds. But if the station didn’t grab WBBY’s former listeners, it found some new ones. After all, Rachel Ray has plenty of fans, and so does smooth jazz. Some of its primary practitioners are among the most popular acts in all of popular music, including Kenny G, Dave Koz, Yanni and even acts like Michael Buble or Sade—which blur the line between jazz and adult contemporary. Which may be part of smooth jazz’s problem—its dependence on the tried and true.
“Everybody comes (to the music) for (its) tempo and texture,” said Bill Harman, a Columbus resident whose smooth jazz show, Harmonic Lounge, played on WJZA as well as on stations in Florida, California and Pennsylvania. “But you have two types of listeners—let’s call them P1s and P2s. The P1s really support the music. They want to hear new music, different music, things from artists that they haven’t heard before. Then there are the P2s, who can’t tell one artist from another.”
dave brubeck
you'll never know

No comments: