Hi! We're back.
Today, we launch a new season of Jazz Night In America. We've spent our summer making a better version of the show, and we're excited to share it with you. In fact, our first episode, featuring Wayne Shorter with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, is now live.
We haven't changed much about why we're here. Jazz Night is still a partnership between WBGO, Jazz at Lincoln Center and NPR Music. It's still an hour-long public radio program, hosted by Christian McBride, that tells the stories behind original concert recordings. It's still a series of complementary and parallel video episodes that give backstage passes to those great performances. It's still a moving snapshot of the jazz scene today. It's still aimed at both the jazz-curious and dyed-in-the-wool aficionados. It still lives at npr.org/jazznight.
We're quite proud of what we did in Jazz Night Season 1. We made 36 radio programs and 29 concert films involving more than 350 musicians. But we saw Jazz Night Season 2 as an opportunity to make a Jazz Night version 2.0. We basically started from scratch when we launched this thing a year ago, and we learned a lot along the way. Here's what's different.
- We're Fully On-Demand. Though we enjoyed some successes with our Wednesday night webcasts, drawing an appointment crowd has always been hard online. Web video has become an on-demand streaming world. So apart from special live events, we'll be publishing video episodes on Thursday mornings and you can watch them on your own time. (By the end of Season One, we were already archiving most episodes in full, but now it's the main focus.) You'll also notice that the video episodes now appear next to archives of their corresponding radio episodes.
- We're Focusing On Documentary. Our audiences tell us they want to hear more of the stories behind the performances. On the radio side, we're working with new narrative styles, and host Christian McBride is doing more interviews himself. In our videos, we're taking a cue from the radio program and dedicating more time to context — about the musicians, the venues, the tunes, the fans, the larger dynamics at play — while still preserving full-song glimpses into amazing performances.
- We're Shorter And Less Frequent (Visually). We found that concert videos of an hour or more were a lot to ask of audiences — especially on-demand. So our new model for Jazz Night video episodes acknowledges that sometimes less is more. Each will run about around 30 minutes. Our focus on getting better also means budgeting more time for production, so we'll be presenting new episodes every two weeks — about 15 in all between late September 2015 and early May 2016. In between full episodes, we'll also be presenting more documentary shorts, like when Miguel Zenón explained polyrhythms to us, or when Steven Bernstein and Henry Butler showed us how they worked together. And do note this applies to video only: We're still creating 32 new hour-long radio episodes between October of this year and next.
- We're Traveling More. For Season 2, we've visited or planned trips to Panama City, New Orleans, Seattle (again), Dallas, Chicago (two episodes!), and a program featuring Christian McBride himself from his hometown of Philadelphia. More location shoots are in the works. In our search for jazz throughout the country, we've made it a point to go farther afield.
- We're On YouTube. In addition to npr.org/jazznight, we've created a new YouTube channel. We hope to create a more easily searchable video index — in fact, we've already posted many full episodes and excerpts from our Season 1 archives. YouTube also lets us create more shareable segments within full-episode playlists. And it's where eyeballs are already: Before we said anything about this in public, some of our uploads had more than 10,000 views. You can subscribe to see them all at youtube.com/JazzNightinAmerica.
To recap: Jazz Night In America is going to be better, richer, shorter, on-demand, on YouTube and less confusing. We hope it's a more rewarding experience for everyone.
So what's all this going to look and sound like? Well, in addition to our first episode, check out our Season 2 schedule, including Jason Moran, Marquis Hill and Arturo O'Farrill leading the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. And that's with more than half of the video lineup yet to be announced. Again, we'll be releasing on Thursdays, but you can check them out whenever you have time.
We still believe this music is profound — that its strength comes from experience, study and creative genius. This year, we've made it a point to illuminate its strengths better. Enjoy.