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Ed Bradley: Journalist and Jazzman

By Published: February 23, 2004
"I could never make a living on what they paid me at WDAS. I made $1.50 an hour, tops. Maybe by the end I got up to about $2 an hour. I was teaching school during the day and working at the radio station at night. I had come to a point where I had to make a decision to do one or the other. I was also doing some journalism. Looking down the road, I didn't see a promising future as a jazz disc jockey. I could have a lot of fun, but I wasn't going to be able to live the kind of life I wanted to live. And I didn't think I could do that as a teacher either.

"Financially, I wanted more than that. Emotionally, in terms of what I wanted to see in my life and in the world, I wanted more than being in a fixed place everyday. I didn't realize it at the time, but I realize it now. What was driving me was that sort of wanderlust. If you're a teacher, you go to the classroom every day. If you're a jazz disc jockey, you go to the radio station every day. I have a wanderlust to see different places, travel the world, do things like that. That's what made me go into journalism."

Bradley probably thought, with his career blossoming and his plate full with the success of "60 Minutes" that his days of radio were long gone. Not so.

"I got a phone call one day from Gordon Davis, who was on the board of Jazz at Lincoln Center. At that time, I think he was chairman of the board of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He said, 'I'd like to talk to you about coming to serve as a board member and I'd like you to do a radio show for us.' I'm not fond of boards, but I thought this was a good one. I thought it was some way I could give back to this music that has given me so much. So I said OK. I was so naive, I thought what I would do was show up once a week, bring some records and play them," he said, chuckling. "It turned out to be a very different kind of radio show, but one that I love doing."

So Bradley plans to continue for the foreseeable future, and NPR or no NPR, he has confidence in the viability of the Lincoln Center program. In general, despite radio's disrespect for American's wonderful art form, Bradley thinks jazz music is in good shape.

"I see the music as vibrant," he said. "Go to the record store. There's a wall full of historical stuff. Every album John Coltrane made and didn't make. Same for Miles Davis. They put out anything that is available. But you also see plenty of new material by young artists.

"I went to see Illinois Jacquet last night and his big band. Some of his musicians look like they could have been in high school. I would say most of the musicians in his band are in their 20s. I think it's an alive, vibrant art form."

Visit Jazz from Lincoln Center on the web.

Photo Credit
In studio by Murray Street

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