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Meet Marta Ulvaeus

Tessa Souter and Andrea Wolper By

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Sweet Basil and, more recently, Cornelia Street Cafe; I loved Cornelia Street, and I'm heartbroken that it is gone. There are so many wonderful music spaces that have disappeared over the years: Sweet Basil, Tonic.

How do you discover new artists?

I get suggestions from friends and listeners; and I informally serve as jazz music director for KCSB-FM in Santa Barbara, for which I review, add, and report new jazz releases and airplay. I listen to the radio. I read jazz journals and read reviews.

Vinyl, CDs, MP3s, streaming?

I'm a vinyl and CD gal. I exclusively play physical media on my show. I love the way I can change up my flow as the spirit guides me. I always bring much more music that I can possibly fit into two hours.

Tell us about your history as a DJ.

At U.C. Davis, a roommate who had a show on KDVS invited me to join her. She showed me the ropes and, after one mandatory training session, I was on the air. My first show focused on female artists of all music genres for the first half, and jazz of all stripes for the second half. KDVS had an amazing vinyl library, and the station had listening rooms, so I would spend hours combing through the collection, listening from A to Z. I titled my show "Roots to the Source," which was inspired by my discovery of Lester Bowie's LP, "From the Root to the Source." The music has many roots that dig deep down into the creative source. I featured the more adventurous artists, who were exploring new directions and sonic textures. This was during the time that so-called "smooth jazz" was gaining public attention—that was NOT what you would hear on "Roots to the Source!"

From time to time, guitarist Henry Kaiser would come to Davis to perform at the Palms Playhouse (an amazing venue that is a story unto itself), and he'd often go on KDVS with folk DJ Jim Veit to publicize the show. One time, Jim asked if he could have some of my airtime for that purpose. Of course, I said yes. Henry, who had his own radio show on KPFA in Berkeley, looked through the records I had pulled for my show, and asked me to sub for him on KPFA. At that point I was studying Applied Behavioral Sciences with an emphasis on ethnomusicology, and after we'd been friends for a while, Henry, who also taught a course on world music at Mills College in Oakland, asked me to give his class a seminar on "Women in World Music" one day after subbing on his show. That was the day that I knew I wanted to be an educator.

There were two shows on KPFA in Berkeley that influenced me deeply: Jim Bennett's "Forms and Feelings," and Art Sato's "In Your Ear." I ended up doing several shows on that wonderful station, as well as my show on KDVS, until I moved to New York in 1994.

Now you do a show on KCSB in Santa Barbara.

My show, now called "Bright Moments," is on Sundays on KCSB-FM. Odd riffs and blue notes in deep time. After I moved to the Santa Barbara area in 2001, I became an elementary school teacher, and I took my students on a field trip to radio station KCSB. I had met the station's director, Elizabeth Robinson, when I'd served as KDVS's general manager in the early '90s. She welcomed my class and encouraged me to get involved with radio again, and I've been doing a weekly show there since 2002. It feeds my soul to immerse myself in the music.

Do you have a favorite jazz anecdote?

I was doing laundry at a laundromat in Davis in the early '90s, and I saw a notice posted on the community message board. It was a call for auditions to form a band. The author of the message was none other than the late, great John Tchicai, who had just moved to Davis to be near his daughters. I tore off his phone number and contacted him to invite him to be a guest on my show. He visited my show on KDVS, and we developed a beautiful friendship.

The Knitting Factory West Coast tour came to the Palms Playhouse, and one of the bands was the Jazz Passengers. John Tchicai attended the concert. It was such a delight to see the look of thrilled surprise on the faces of the musicians when they recognized John's face in the audience!

If you were a professional musician, which instrument would you play and why?

Bass clarinet. I love the woody and somewhat melancholy tone.

What's your desert island disc?

Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch.

What do you think keeps jazz alive and thriving?

People supporting the artists by attending live performances and purchasing new music. Artists being encouraged to continue taking creative risks by being supported by the local communities. Media support via print, radio, television, and film. This country needs to do more to support the arts at every level—local, state, and federal.

Finish this sentence: Life without music would be...

Unimaginable.

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