The Jazzcat

Veteran Jazz DJ at 88.1FM KKJZ James Janisse Signs Off

by on Mar.09, 2006, under News



The jazz DJ walks the plank; listeners scratch

their heads

James Janisse


The March

7 firing of 14-year veteran KKJZ broadcaster James Janisse has

generated strong reactions in the L.A. jazz world. Both the deep-voiced

African-American DJ and station manager Sean Heitkemper have declined to

comment on reasons for the dismissal, but musicians and fans have plenty

to say.

“I think James is as vital a part of the local jazz

community as was the late, great [DJ] Chuck Niles,” says saxophonist Chuck

Manning. “Without him, KKJZ may as well be broadcast from


The reaction among African-Americans has been been

especially angry. The eminent bassist and composer John Clayton, who has

appeared on many station fund drives, calls Janisse “the most soulful jazz

programmer that KKJZ had going.”Saxophonist and bandleader Dale Fielder

goes further: “If you listen to KKJZ, you'd think black people don't play

jazz at all in L.A. And now the firing of the only black program host in

L.A. jazz radio? The other DJs don't play local black artists.”Jeffrey

Winston, co-director of the World Stage in Leimert Park, calls the

dismissal “catastrophic and clueless. As a charismatic MC at countless

venues, Janisse is a tireless ambassador for jazz.”Veteran drummer

Washington Rucker adds, “We need to protest this, even if it means

picketing the station.”

Station manager Heitkemper, however, asks

listeners to check out Janisse's replacement, John Phillips: “He is

African-American, a veteran, knowledgeable about jazz and a longtime

member of the Southern California Jazz community” arriving via the San

Diego jazz station KSDS.

To many, canning Janisse is just KKJZ's

latest misstep. There has been a trend toward safer programming: “How you

can go so many days without playing Charlie Parker?” asks bassist Trevor

Ware. The chatty but jazz-lite morning hosts brought in recently have been

unpopular with the longtime audience. And bassist John Heard gets livid

about the failure to announce the names of session players: “If all jazz

stations were run like KKJZ, no one would ever know who Red Garland or

Scott LaFaro or Elvin Jones was”. KKJZ has long defended the programming

and format changes as necessary in today's radio market.


revealed in the Long Beach Beachcomber and amplified in All

About Jazz L.A., the station has taken a financial hit as a result of

a previous firing: A December L.A. Superior Court decision awarded a

former program director $780,000 for revenues lost when he was improperly


As of now, the only evidence on the KKJZ Web site that

James Janisse ever existed is in the playlist. Toward the end of his shift

on the morning of March 6, Janisse played some Darek Oles, some Modern

Jazz Quartet and some John Coltrane. Then he signed off, apparently for


But he'll still be around. Longtime promoter Ozzie Cadena

says, “Being cut from a station is just part of being a jazz DJ” it

happened to all the best, from Symphony Sid to Chuck Niles. The great

ones, like James, always wind up back on their feet”. And you'll see him

this summer. Michael Dolphin, co-producer of the Central Avenue Jazz

Festival, says emphatically that Janisse will again emcee the fest, to

which KKJZ will also be invited as a sponsor.

What would happen if

James Janisse walked onto a stage draped in KKJZ banners? Now, that would

be interesting.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15

March 2006 )

Leave a Reply

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...