James P. Johnson’s Last Rent Party

James Price JohnsonI’m glad to say that I haven’t neglected James P. Johnson on my show, over the years I’ve done my very small part in keeping his music and his memory alive. His music is his real memorial — he really was one of the giants who helped form and develop jazz — but there are are other, more physical memorials that show that we remember those who came before, and it turns out that James P. Johnson lies in an unmarked grave in Queens. Scott Brown discovered the location of the grave last February, and last week Smalls in New York held a benefit to raise money for a headstone. Billed as “James P. Johnson’s Last Rent Party” it ended with 5 hours of solo piano by 12 pianists — you can read
Ben Ratliff’s New York Times review of the concert online: Raising Roof and Headstone for Pioneering Pianist. There is also a NYT blog piece by Corey Kilgannon about Johnson’s and other early jazz greats’ modest graves Giants of Jazz Rest Modestly in

Alain to the Rescue

The supplies of new music to the jazz drawer at NUR have dried up lately — things are beginning to get a little stale musically. Whoever undertook to be jazz music director for the summer seems to have dropped the ball; apparently there are piles of CDs awaiting someone to process them so that the rest of us can play them and you can listen to something new… Luckily Alain has come to the rescue and has started to do what’s necessary, so the drought should be ending soon. Thanks Alain!

Radio Station Field Trip

Jennifer Waits (who, according to her profile, has been doing the college radio thing almost exactly as long as I have) has a blog, Spinning Indie, which covers college radio and independent music. She has an ongoing series of posts detailing her visits to college radio stations. I’m a little late to the party, but a few months ago she apparently visited WNUR, so those of you who want more views of the station and more details about the whole enterprise and where it fits in the pantheon of college radio can take a look.

I get a brief mention, and there’s a reference to my musings on the station’s old and new homes that I wrote a couple of years ago when we moved into our current studio.

Farewell Tony

Dezso ‘Tony’ TolnaiWNUR is all student run and all the on air staff are volunteers — students, alums (like me), and other hangers on from the local community. The only exception to this are the technical staff: the chief engineer and the technicians who maintain the transmitter and equipment work for Northwestern. Not surprisingly the FCC requires people who know what they are doing, and who have the licenses to prove it, handle the details of keeping the transmitter safe and legal. Since I started at the station Tony Tolnai has been the chief engineer (and much else besides); he actually started in 1985, the year before I came to WNUR, but as far as I’m concerned he has always been there as a benign guiding force. He has been in charge of keeping our old equipment functioning, and the planning of two new studios and the moves into them (see here for a little the story of the moves). Here’s a brief, if somewhat out of date, profile of Dezso ‘Tony’ Tolnai, Director of Media Technology for Northwestern’s School of Communication (or School of Speech as it was always known), and WNUR’s long time chief engineer from the October 2002 edition of the [Northwestern Observer Online](http://www.northwestern.edu/univ- relations/observer/stories/10_31_02/tolnai.html).

Tony is retiring after serving us long and well; we’ll miss him.