STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Do you know Melissa Aldana? Taylor Eigst? Papo Vazquez?
Opportunities to get introduced to them, and others on the jazz scene, come every third Friday of the month from 3 to 5 p.m. on Montgomery County Community College’s www.montcoradio.com, with the “Jazz Straight Up” show, hosted by Ambler resident Jeff Allen. He gets behind the mic. next on June 17.
“It’s not just Miles (Davis), it’s not just (John) Coltrane, it’s not just Al Di Meola. Last year, a couple times, I did tracks from a couple Frank Zappa albums. Sometimes I do a progressive, historical show,” he said, mentioning past shows on “be-bop through cool jazz,” and one on the history of Cuban jazz.
Allen’s background in broadcasting goes all the way back to the mid-’70s, radio newscasting in Detroit.
So what drew him to hosting a show on Montco Radio? According to Allen, he was approached by the internet radio station’s senior producer and technical services director, Matt Porter, about doing a music show. The state of the art studios on MCCC’s Blue Bell campus were also pretty enticing. “They’re superb facilities, and I’ve worked at several radio stations, both commercial and public,” Allen said.
“Three to four years ago, I decided to end my career which was not in radio. All of my knowledge on how you did radio was really old. I knew I had to get re-educated,” said Allen, who studied in the college’s communications program, and also does some of Montco Radio’s newscasts.
In addition to music (courtesy of show “sponsor” Siren Records in Doylestown) and commentary, Jazz Straight Up occasionally features in-studio performances, live jazz recorded on location (for which Allen enlists an engineer, Brent Hoyer), and conversations with local jazz artists. Allen claims he was the first Montco Radio on-air host to bring musicians into the studio to play live, and said he enjoys showing the students the creative content possibilities of radio.
One of Allen’s favorite interviews on Jazz Straight Up was done toward the end of last year with saxophonist/flutist and Drexel University professor Lynn Riley. “She was such a good, articulate interview,” he said.
Jazz Straight Up’s theme song, “Hip is What,” is a custom creation by area composer/musician Stefan Geoffrey. “I almost always open my show with a song called ‘What is Hip?’ (originally by Tower of Power). My tag line I use when I sign off is: ‘Be safe, be well, be hip’,” Allen said.
For more, visit www.facebook.com/JazzStraightUp.
An independent audio producer, under the company name Jeff Allen Radio Productions, Allen produces syndicated public-radio-friendly feature stories that are sometimes aired by various stations and networks. In honor of the centennial of the National Parks system this year, Allen has an ongoing podcast project — a series titled “Stories and Legends of Our National Parks.” “At seven minutes (per episode), it fits well into the NPR broadcast cloud. A lot of it is interviews,” he said, noting that he dedicates a lot of time tracking down park rangers, volunteers, historians and scholars.
So far, five National Parks have been profiled. Check out www.nps-stories.com, and take a listen to the theme music, which was also composed by Stefan Geoffrey.
The series has even led to an offshoot Jeff Allen Radio Productions video and audio project spotlighting Carpenters Hall (which is part of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia), Allen said.
On social media, the pages to go to are www.facebook.com/JazzStraightUp and @RadioJeffAllen on Twitter.