Jazz and Kansas City have a long and cherished history together — from the legendary artistry of saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianist Mary Lou Williams and bandleaders Count Basie and Jay McShann to the contributions of guitarist Pat Metheny and singers Kevin Mahogany and Karrin Allyson.
The music has traveled around the world, bringing to folks who’ve never set foot on American soil the sheer exhilaration of swing. Preserving and nurturing that homegrown sound has long been a priority of the Mutual Musicians Foundation, off Highland near the historic 18th and Vine district. And now the MMF is bringing that sound within earshot of even more listeners than before — through community radio.
“The station started streaming digitally on KOJHFM.org in August 2016,” said general manager James McGee. “And then we went to the terrestrial FM broadcast in December 2017.” According to MMF, it’s the first radio station to broadcast from the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District in more than 80 years.
MMF’s efforts to get the station on the air go back to about 2012, McGee said. “So it’s been a pretty long process to get to this point.” The studio is located at the Foundation.
The station has “an 80 percent jazz format. The other 20 percent is made up of, or will be made up of, community radio and talk radio — themes and issues that will revolve around the community, and give the people of the community a voice. Those are some of the platforms we’re looking to create.”
The programming will include after-hours jam sessions at the MMF on Friday and Saturday nights. KOJH will begin live broadcasting the late-night Jam Session in July 2018, McGee said.
“We’re broadcasting 24/7,” McGee said. “Right now, what listeners will hear online is one set of programming, and what they’ll hear on the FM station — which is more localized — is another type of programming.
At present, the FM station — 104.7 — offers pre-programmed music only.
“You’re not going to hear disc jockeys, you’re not going to hear any talk,” he said. “That won’t come until a little bit later.” The plan is for the radio and internet versions of KOJH to deliver the same content.
The station is owned by the Mutual Musicians Foundation Inc. and its mission includes an emphasis on educational and cultural content. As community rather than commercial radio, the station supports itself financially through fundraisers, McGee said.
“We also rent the building for private parties,” he said.
KOJH FM aims to be an outlet not only for the storied sounds of legends such as Parker and Basie, but also jazz as it’s played and enjoyed in Kansas City today.
“The music that we play has to either be jazz, or influenced by jazz,” McGee said. “When you’re talking about that, you’re talking about going from John Coltrane to James Brown. Soul, funk — all of these things have elements of big band and jazz.
“We even include some of the newer artists who are in the hip-hop genre, but have more of a jazz feel, like Yasim Bey and Kendrick Lamar. You’ll find them in the rotation, too.”
Tune your dial to 104.7 FM for the KOJH FM broadcast; go to www.kojhfm.org for online programming.