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One of my introductions to jazz was Ted O’Reilly’s “The Jazz Scene” on CJRT FM in Toronto. I tuned in to this show for years, starting as a teenager.  And while I would sometimes just have the show on in the background while I worked on my homework or read; I would often devote my full attention to listening to O’Reilly’s selections.

I got a first-class jazz education listening to this show. Apart from the music itself, what I loved most was O’Reilly’s introductions. He was meticulous about listing every single musician who took part in the recordings he played. He wouldn’t just mention the lead players or the star on the track; he would name everybody, even in a big band performance.

And he would also give recording dates and locations, and usually a few thoughts on the music, or maybe a historical note about the recording he was about to play. To this day, when I hear music on the radio and the host doesn’t tell who is playing, beyond, say, the name of the band, I always think, “Hey! What gives? Who’s on this track?”

Some people complained about O’Reilly’s music selections, but I remember liking what he played. I don’t think there’s been a radio host ever that didn’t have some people complaining about the selections.  I know O’Reilly was considered by some to be a bit conservative in his taste, but I thought he played quite a wide range of jazz. He would play recordings that went back to the 1930s or even earlier, and he would feature the latest recordings.  He played a lot of hard bop, and he would occasionally play stuff that was pretty avante-garde.

I particularly enjoyed the opening music for the show, which was a track called “T.O,” played by the Boss Brass. What an exciting way to begin the show! I can still hum that tune to myself.

“The Jazz Scene” would begin each night at ten o’clock and was so interesting that I would often make it to the end of the show, which was at one in the morning.

By Rob Tilley

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