WGSU show revives campus jazz culture

Many people see jazz as an antiquated music genre, but freshman Alex McGrath sees it as an art form that’s still evolving. His passion for jazz resulted in the production of a jazz show on WGSU called “Point of Departure” this semester with a goal of making the genre more accessible.

“I wanted to do a show that was not only jazz, but also explanations about the songs,” McGrath said.

McGrath is a jazz musician himself, playing both piano and guitar.  He slowly moved away from rock music to jazz during middle school.

“I like its ability to be political and abrasive. The idiom itself is open to so much. It’s defined by its freedom,” he said.

McGrath’s music teachers and general experience as a jazz musician shape the show. His familiarity with the genre provides him with a deep understanding that he strives to share with listeners.

“For a lot of the stuff I play, I have a long history with them since I was a kid.  I’ve picked out a lot of songs I love,” McGrath said.

“Point of Departure” lasts an hour with a mix of contemporary and older songs from various artists. They are grounded on the basis of content and tone rather than a particular era. McGrath approaches the music as a genre that’s still developing rather than from a historical standpoint.

The show airs about 10 to 12 songs, with McGrath talking about either a specific track or a certain group of songs directly after. He delves into the artists’ backgrounds along with placing music in a timeframe so listeners can better understand the context of each song. He also works to provide a better framework for the actual music by explaining the songs with his understanding of music theory.

“I try to make [jazz] more accessible because there’s definitely some stuff that can be intimidating,” McGrath said.

He enjoys going through jazz music and finding connections between different eras, something that he didn’t think about as much before he produced the show. Some artists you’ll hear are John Zorn, Derek Bailey and Thelonious Monk. Even if you’re not familiar with jazz, McGrath does his best to ensure that listeners aren’t overwhelmed by such a rich genre.

“Point of Departure” airs Saturdays at 6 p.m.


Correction: The original version of this article stated that "Point of Departure" airs Saturdays at 10 a.m. The show airs Saturdays from 6-7 p.m.