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Online radios and all that jazz

Online radios and all that jazz
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First Published: Tue, Sep 13 2011. 11 05 PM IST

Play on: Stay tuned in and you will find your song.
Play on: Stay tuned in and you will find your song.
Updated: Tue, Sep 13 2011. 11 05 PM IST
Some years ago I saw Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue, a one-and-a-half-hour DVD on the jazz legend Miles Davis. I remember it for his phenomenal performance at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. When asked the title of what he was going to play, he said, “Call it anything”, and that’s what it is called. Miles apart, there’s another reason why I like the video: It has an introduction by the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, who was also part of the Miles Davis band. In 1970, he was just 25 years old, and you can feel the energy as he plays the organ, an instrument he said he hated. Jarrett calls the video “a micro-history lesson in jazz”.
Play on: Stay tuned in and you will find your song.
I forgot about it till recently when I heard the track—the full version—on one of the many online radios that I have running in the background on my desktop all day long. It brought back memories of watching it with friends, and to my joy, I found a video of Call it Anything on YouTube. If you enjoy jazz, the track is 38 minutes of sheer joy. My only problem with the video is it’s in four parts, which means that every 10 minutes I have to start the next. Though the music is seamless, it’s still a bit of a bother and I would love to know if there’s a simple way to merge the four parts into one.
I seldom buy CDs these days; in fact, it’s been more than a year since I bought one. I’m not an audiophile, and I’m quite happy listening to music on my PC, Mac or iPhone. Given my taste in music, I find just about everything I like on online stations. There are hundreds of choices on the Net, and over the years I have settled down to five-six stations that I visit regularly, depending on the kind of mood I am in.
For jazz, my absolute favourite is WBGO , which broadcasts from Newark, New Jersey. It’s a 24x7 station, has great music, commentary and podcasts. Accessing the station (you can listen to it on iTunes, or on the WBGO media player) takes a few seconds; the streaming is smooth and the sound quality very good. As I write this, it’s 4.30pm in Delhi, 7am in New Jersey, the “National Chocolate Milkshake Day” in the US (yes, I’m serious) and the music tempo on WBGO has gradually picked up from the late-night mellow to Frank Sinatra singing Please Be Kind.
The other radio station I visit frequently is NPR , where you find music that you may not get anywhere else. Their programmes All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts are an absolute treat. They have the All Songs 24/7 Music Channel, where they play a mix of “every song ever played during the 10 years of All Songs Considered”.
For classic rock, I prefer Absolute Radio —again, because they play my kind of 1960s, 1970s and 1980s music. For indie rock, 1980s and 1990s, I tune in to 3WK Classic Underground Radio (www.3wk.com).
You can also find both Absolute Classic Rock and 3WK in iTunes radio selection which, incidentally, is an excellent source for all kinds of online radio stations.
Sites like Pandora Radio , where you create your own station based on the kind of music you like, are popular in the US but are not available elsewhere. However, you can still access it on your iPhone, iPad or Android device by downloading the app. When you install it, it asks you for your zip code: give any US city zip code and it works.
Recently, I stumbled upon another interesting online station: Linn Radio which also has stations for jazz and classical. But I haven’t listened to it enough to form an opinion.
There are moments when you want to listen to a song going round in your head. For music by choice, I find Grooveshark a very good bet; it’s also free and easy to use. Type in the music you want, and click to listen. Slowly, you build your own library on the station: It finds similar songs to those on your playlist and queues them for playback. I have almost always found the song I want, except Miles Davis’ Call it Anything.
The trick about finding your song online is to click on various stations, stay tuned in for an hour or so, and then move on. Slowly, you’ll find what you are looking for. And the best part is—it’s free.
Shekhar Bhatia is a former editor,Hindustan Times, a science buff and a geek at heart.
Write to Shekhar at the smartlife@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Sep 13 2011. 11 05 PM IST