MOJALand Is Live! Russ and Michelle Are Back

The most talked about topic in the last few months here is the end of XM channel 72 – Beyond Jazz. I’m happy to inform you that the duo behind the station, Russ Davis and Michelle Sammartino, are back! The MOJARadio site is now live. The music is coming soon but you can settle in now in MOJALand. MOJALand looks like a nice place to hang out with your fellow modern jazz fans. When you check it out, friend me up! I’m tomorrowjazz.

Remembering XM 72 Beyond Jazz

This is the last week of broadcasting for XM satellite radio channel 72 – Beyond Jazz. When I originally decided to get satellite radio over six years ago, the primary reason was to get the jazz channels. The only jazz I could regularly get on the radio in Kansas City was a not-to-my-liking, now-gone smooth jazz station. XM’s music wasn’t even commercial free at the time. Beyond Jazz immediately became the #1 preset and has stayed there since. Russ Davis played what I wanted to hear. When I first subscribed, he had five recordings he was playing heavily – Pat Metheny Group’s Speaking of Now, John Scofield’s Uberjam, Yellowjackets’ Mint Jam, Joe Zawinul’s Faces & Places, and one other that I can’t remember. Those were all winners. In between those anchor recordings was a cornucopia of modern jazz sounds. It was the first time I heard Liquid Soul on the radio. My mouth dropped when he first played the Solsonics. This was my station.

Soon, Russ added classic fusion to the mix and I discovered the origins of a lot of modern jazz. As the years progressed, Russ added more and more songs to the playlist. I don’t know the final count it was in the thousands. Thousands of nu jazz, fusion, acid jazz, plugged-in jazz, new vocalists, jam bands…every type of contemporary jazz style you can think of. Russ had no fear of Squarepusher. He would create shows dedicated to everyone from Miles Davis to Frank Zappa to Dave Samuels to Steve Khan to … well, you name it.

Beyond Jazz was primarily responsible for my returning to the jazz web scene in 2002. I’d originally created in 1996 (then called cJazz: The Contemporary Jazz Site) and sold it in 2001. When I got XM, I couldn’t keep silent about XM 72 and had to share this contemporary jazz treasure with everyone. I created tomorrowJazz and promoted the station like crazy. I even contacted XM’s legal departure and signed legal forms so I had (wish I’d kept that). I integrated those blog posts in this new – read what I had to say then.

I drive a lot and have racked up over 100,000 miles over these years. Beyond Jazz has been my companion, a constant source of inspiration and discovery. I’ve already posted about Russ’ future plans and I’m encouraged that the story isn’t over. However, hearing great contemporary jazz when I first get in the car and having the artist and song display on my dash – that’s over for now. Thank you, Russ Davis. I will miss this station.

XM 72 Beyond Jazz Update

As I blogged about last month, my favorite channel, XM Satellite Radio channel 72 Beyond Jazz, is ending. It’s off the air on November 14. Program director Russ Davis wants you to know that he and Jammin’ Jazz host Michelle Sammartino aren’t through with the music, though. Russ is launching MOJARadio (MoJa is short for Modern Jazz). So fans of the hard-to-find blend of fusion, funk, acid jazz, techno, world jazz, new jazz singers, nu-jazz, acid bebop, hip-hop jazz, jam-band jazz, and such won’t be left out in the cold. I’m looking forward to this.

XM Beyond Jazz To End

For over six years, I’ve been an XM radio subscriber and fan of XM72 – the Beyond Jazz channel. The primary reason I became a subscriber is the ability to hear music on the radio that I can’t hear in my local market, most notably contemporary jazz and electronica. XM72 music director, Russ Davis, has been consistently kept the station a must-listen for any modern jazz (or MoJa) fan. The balance of classic fusion, acid jazz, new fusion, jazztronica, and other plugged-in jazz is like nothing you can hear in your automobile. I used to post about the thrill I got hearing Liquid Soul, the Solsonics, Marcus Miller, Jamiroquai, and other favorites of mine air on a nationwide channel.

Now, those days are over. XM laid off 80 employees yesterday. Some were on-air personalities, including 50s fan-fave Matt “The Cat” Baldassarri and Soul Street’s Bobby Bennett and Leigh Hamilton. While writing this, I just got an email message from Jammin’ Jazz (a popular show on Beyond Jazz) host Michelle Sammartino. It’s true – Beyond Jazz will be ending in early November. This fits in with the rumor that a XM-Sirius merged single set of channels will be coming in November.

Here’s the message I received from Michelle:

Hiya John,

Unfortunately i was already laid off, and Russ will be gone in early November with the channel. They cut so many people this week in programming alone… it is sad. I am sorry to see the channel going, as you know it was our passion. We are however planning to continue to work together with this music. Whether that is an online radio channel or podcasts or something. Keep checking back here and once we have it done I will post all the info here.

Sad… but one door closes… well you know the rest…


I know I’ll be writing more about this. Right now, though, I’m kind of numb.

Modern Jazz, XM, and Soul Train Thoughts

The Bad PlusI heard a cut from Dave Douglas’ new CD on XM72 on the drive home today. It was an adventurous trumpet/electronica fusion piece – exactly what I’m interested in. I thought “this is jazz today – why isn’t anyone recognizing it?”. I got home and did a search for another band I was introduced to on XM72 this morning – The Bad Plus. My first result answered my question. Newsweek has an article discussing jazz artists, specifically pianists, whose music is demanding to be heard. Go read this inspiring article and listen to the sound clips from The Bad Plus, Brad Mehldau, Matthew Shipp, and Jason Moran. Thanks to the author of the article, Seth Mnookin, for helping relieve my jazz frustration . . . Russ Davis, the man behind Beyond Jazz, XM Satellite Radio channel 72, has a weekly weekend tradition. Every Saturday, he has “Words & Music,” hourly interview segments throughout the day. This week is “The Masters of Modern Jazz Guitar” and he’s got a monster list of musicians lined up. Davis talks to Al Di Meola, Charlie Hunter, George Benson, John Scofield, Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny, Ronny Jordan, Steve Khan, and more . . . Why doesn’t the Soul Train honor jazz? Their annual Music Awards ceremony was Saturday but no jazz artists or categories were presented. Didn’t they used to have a jazz award? I thought I remember Diana Krall winning in a few years ago.