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A Young Person's Guide to the Jazz Bastard Podcast

A Young Person's Guide to the Jazz Bastard Podcast
Patrick Burnette By

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Tension makes the podcast work. You’re wrong–I’m right–that creates tension. —Michael Caldwell
Dr. Michael Caldwell, a lecturer in humanities at San Diego State University, and Dr. Patrick Burnette, a lawyer's helper in central Indiana, or, as they are known on their podcast, "Mike and Pat," have been discussing jazz in public since December 5, 2012, when episode one of the Jazz Bastard Podcast went live.

Since that time, they've published over 165 episodes (along with a couple "specials") totaling over 200 hours of content, and discussed over 700 albums in depth. Their goal is simply to "talk about jazz" as honestly as possible, discussing what they think works—and doesn't—about recent releases as well as catalog chestnuts, crate- digging discoveries, and established classics. They figured an interview would be the quickest way to cover the podcast's start, goals, and ethos, so they enlisted an old friend to help...

Central Scrutinizer: When did the idea for a podcast talking about jazz first arise?

Mike: We'd talked about starting one for five years before it finally happened. My ex-wife used to make fun of us for talking about doing it but never following through. We discussed the idea of podcasting by email, during visits—but nothing came of it. Then one day, you finally said "that's it," and it began.

Pat: Yeah, that was back at the end of 2012. I'm a famous procrastinator so it's not surprising it took so long. I think what happened is that the infrastructure for putting up podcasts finally became idiot-proof enough that I could see how to do it. We use Buzzsprout, but there are a number of providers out there now. I needed someone to handle the backend so all we had to do was record and post the podcasts, and Buzzsprout's done a great job of that. All About Jazz has been kind enough to feature the podcast for the past couple of years, which is much appreciated!

I always thought there was a need out there for a podcast about jazz like podcasts about video games, sports, other topics—one from the fans' perspective and informal—not solely a promotional or educational tool. Not reverential or "white-glove."

CS: What (briefly) is your history with jazz? How did you get interested in the genre?

Mike: Evil companions.

Pat: (laughs) Low and evil companions, indeed.

Mike: Jazz meant very little to me growing up. I played percussion in concert band and learned some basic theory before quitting. My brother played trumpet in jazz band for a while. He would dig out Maynard Ferguson's album Conquistador and play the 33 rpm LP at 45 or 78 rpm to make the music even more manic and supersonic than it already was. We wore the record out doing that. Maynard sounded like a chipmunk.

Also, a guy in my high school class, Gene Smith, was a really great saxophonist and exposed me to jazz as well. He went to North Texas State and got into one of the "O'Clock" bands—I don't know which one. A ferocious player.

In college, sophomore year I became your roommate and the brainwashing truly began.

Pat: For my part, I picked the saxophone in fifth grade because it was shiny and had so many buttons (and I didn't know how to buzz my lips to play brass) and then I went looking for recordings featuring saxophone. Most of that turns out to be jazz. When I got to junior high school, the principal found out I liked jazz and loaned me maybe a dozen of his records from his college days—Dave Brubeck, Dave Pell, Jimmy Forrest—and I taped those and listened to them a lot. Things just grew from there.

Back in high school and college, I just naively assumed that other people might like the music I liked and I shared it all the time, but I eventually figured out that many people find jazz somewhat inaccessible and got more self-conscious about talking about it as I aged. So, the podcast gives me an outlet to talk about what I love without inflicting it on people who don't like or understand the music and don't want to listen to me ranting about it.

CS: Why is the podcast called "The Jazz Bastard"?

Mike: This is your fault. It has nothing to do with me. The main bit on the sound bumper at the start, by the way, is taken from the Alexei Sayle's show. Alexei's show was like a working-class, Marxist Monty Python. He was bald and a bit rotund, and his show opened with someone asking "who is that fat bastard?" You just stole that bit and spliced in "jazz" for "fat." Listeners, that's Pat's voice, by the way, saying "jazz"—don't blame me.

I get more grief from people who listen to the podcast and ask me "what is a 'jazz bastard'?" They want to know—is it some kind of club you have to join? I tell them absolutely not. Where did the name come from?

Pat: Two reasons. Assonance—the vowel sounds match nicely...

Mike: Oh for God's sake! Really?

Pat: It's a beautiful echo. I should have been in advertising—I missed my calling.

Mike: You really thought about that?

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