‘Jazz as a Lifestyle’ the Goal of 24-Hour BET Channel


After a two-years-plus delay, Black Entertainment Television will, on Monday, finally debut its 24-hour jazz channel, BET on Jazz: The Cable Jazz Channel.

The channel, available only in selected markets, will highlight its initial offering with taped performances by Joshua Redman, Eliane Elias and others. Distribution in Southern California remains in negotiations.

The full-run BET on Jazz will be composed of six-hour slots, including BET’s current “Jazz Central” show, plus other segments with such titles as “Classic Concerts,” “Jazzy Vocals,” “Jazz Moods” and “Jazz Discovery.” These shows, featuring artists from Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove to Fourplay and Muddy Waters, will be repeated four times daily. Cable subscribers currently receiving BET can watch a six-hour sample of BET on Jazz on Monday between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.


Jefferi K. Lee, president of BET Networks, said that the launch delay of BET on Jazz was primarily caused by a lack of channel capacity in the cable industry.

“Many cable operators are maxed out as far as the number of channels they can carry, and so growth has been halted,” Lee said. “Additionally, regulations are being worked out that will determine how operators are able to charge consumers for new channels.”

To sweeten deals with distributors, Lee said BET is offering the channel free to carriers for two years. “It’s going to cost us millions,” he said. “But jazz is one of the most underpublicized art forms, and we want to change that. We want to come to jazz as a lifestyle, offering both an information service as well as entertainment.”


Evans Extravaganza: In what might be likened to the discovery of a great archeological treasure, more than 80 hours of tape recordings made “live” at New York City’s Village Vanguard by the legendary pianist Bill Evans have been discovered.

The recordings--made on a monoaural Uher portable tape recorder between 1966 and 1980 by an ardent fan named Mike Harris--are currently in the hands of Orrin Keepnews, the renowned producer of Evans, Sonny Rollins and others, who will oversee an October/November release by Fantasy/Milestone Records.

“I haven’t gotten around to serious listening so that I might make intelligent comments about this music,” Keepnews said. “But I would say that even though the full details of exactly what, and how much, will be released haven’t been set, this is a major discovery. There’s some absolutely great stuff here.”


Evans, who died in 1980 at the age of 51, is accompanied on these trio performances by all-star casts that include bassists Eddie Gomez, Marc Johnson, Teddy Kotick and Arnie Weiss and drummers Philly Joe Jones, Joe LaBarbera, Eliot Zigmund and Jack DeJohnette.

According to Bill Traut, the lawyer-manager who handled the deal, Harris visited the Vanguard each time Evans played there from 1966 to 1980. Harris and his wife, who lived in Eaton, Conn., got a front-row table and placed the recorder, hidden inside his wife’s oversized handbag, between the piano and bass. “Apparently, Bill never knew,” Traut said. “Only Vanguard owner Max Gordon did, and he told Harris, ‘You’re on your own.’ ”

Harris made the tapes for personal use, Traut said, but after Evans’ death he began to consider releasing them, actively pursuing it in 1992. Many parties had to be contacted and negotiated with, Traut said. Among them were Evans’ widow, his last manager, Helen Keane, and the other musicians involved in the sessions. The quality of the recordings was not immediately known.


New Clubs: Cafe Du Monde is the Westside’s newest jazz room. The small, brick-walled spot at 2736 Main St., Santa Monica, offers music Fridays through Sundays with no cover charge. Tonight at 9:30, Miles Ahead featuring saxophonist Terrance Martin plays. Saturday, hear pianist John Rangel’s trio, also at 9:30 p.m., and on Sunday it’s spirited saxman Dale Fielder’s trio from 3 to 7 p.m. Upcoming artists include Poncho Sanchez on Feb. 8. Cafe Du Monde has a two-drink minimum. Call (310) 396-7717.

In the Valley, first-rate mainstream jazz music can be heard six nights a week at Monty’s Steakhouse, 5371 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 716-9736. On Mondays through Wednesdays, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m., catch talented pianist-singer Ronnell Bright, the former Saran Vaughan accompanist and composer of the tune “Sweet Pumpkin.” Thursdays through Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., the lineup features drummer Danny Pucillo’s trio, with the delightful Bud Powell-based stylist Claude Williamson on piano and the durable Ernie McDaniel (bass). Pucillo also invites guest wind and brass artists to play. Playing tonight and Saturday is cornetist Bill Berry. Thursday through Jan. 20, hear the ace altoist Lanny Morgan. No cover, no minimum.