Smooth Operator

Smooth jazz lives on in St. Louis — on the Internet

After writing a column about locally based online radio stations ("A to Z," December 7), A to Z received additional tips about Internet-based area enterprises that eschew the traditional airwaves.

Up first is Riverfront Radio (www.riverfrontradio.com), a Live365 station whose primary focus is local rap and hip-hop artists (including Ruka Puff, 2 Many Stylz, Lojic and Tucker Booth). It also features rock bands (DriverSTL, Dean Evans Band) and pop artists.

While there's no shortage of rap and rock stations on local commercial airwaves, two scene veterans are using the Internet to fill one glaring genre vacancy. With the lack of a smooth-jazz station on commercial radio after the former WSSM (106.5 FM) went off the air last April (see "Radar Station," April 20, 2005), former WSSM employees Terry Fox and Jason Church have launched "The Oasis," a.k.a. "The Planet's #1 Smooth Jazz."

"After meeting so many people around town that loved that station, the music and what it offered, I felt that St. Louis was craving a new smooth-jazz listening experience," says Fox, the station's owner-operator. "I set out to create just that."

And a new listening experience it is. The station, accessible at www.foxmusicmachine.com, offers two high-quality streams (one dial-up, the other broadband) and a playlist that boasts "three or four hundred" artists, according to music director Church.

Fox — who brings to the turntable thirty-seven years of radio experience, including six years programming online smooth-jazz and classic rock stations for MTV networks — began working on the concept of "The Oasis" last summer. Test listenings of the streams took place in September and October, with a launch earlier this month.

Besides smooth-jazz standbys like Kenny G, Sade, Dave Koz, Steely Dan and Michael Bublé, the station also dabbles in John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Grover Washington Jr. — musicians, in other words, who commercial smooth-jazz stations might not necessarily program.

"A lot of folks that listen to our format have that curiosity, that want for more and new and different," Church reasons. "They're not just your average listener that can stand for the same eight songs in rotation over and over and over again."

Fox and Church also stress another goal: to focus on the St. Louis scene — by posting local concert listings on their Web site, by soliciting advice and feedback from listeners, and, in the long run, by bringing "major acts" to town.

"This is a station for the smooth-jazz lovers and the jazz lovers of St. Louis," says Church. "This is something that we want them to take pride in, to take ownership of. It's going to be very interactive. That's our goal. We're here to listen and to provide that product that they want and need.

"The other great part about doing this Internet-style station is we don't have any sort of a corporate overseer that's going to tell us what we can and can't play," he adds. "The advantage to that for the listeners is that we can pay closer attention to what they're telling us."

Fox and Church also want to show their more far-flung audience — listeners have been tracked from Germany and the UK — what local artists have to offer. To that end, they conduct on-air interviews and play local music. They encourage local artists to send in their music for consideration.

"There's so many, many great talents in our city," Church says. "Tim [Cunningham, saxophonist] for one. Also Farshid Etniko, Kim Massie — people like that. All sorts of people that haven't been discovered just yet."


Although April's Coachella Festival in Indio, California — whose headliner is Depeche Mode — seems far away, you can re-live the first six years of the festival at a local screening of the documentary Coachella. The event is at the St. Louis Mills Stadium 18 (5555 St. Louis Mills Boulevard, Hazelwood; 314-227-5503) on Tuesday, January 24, at 7:30 p.m.

 
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