RADIO: KUNV general manager talks about shift in jazz format

Jazz has gone either jazzier, jazz-lite or jazz-less depending on which side of the jazz divide you’re on at KUNV-FM, 91.5.

“We have definitely changed our daytime programming,” says KUNV General Manager David Reese, whose station has shifted toward the smooth jazz sound, though he prefers to avoid that term. “We’re much more a contemporary mix of jazz. We’re trying to stay away from calling it ‘smooth jazz’ because Oasis had it for so many years.”

That’s Oasis as in KOAS-FM, 105.7, which tossed that format overboard a little more than a year ago for a “rhythmic adult contemporary” sound.

“It’s been so tough to work with just straight-ahead jazz because we don’t get enough of them to become members,” Reese says. “In the daytime, we thought we’d broaden the base, offer a more contemporary style of jazz and see if that doesn’t pick up some additional membership for us.”

Listeners — some of them predictably unhappy, others pleased, Reese says — have noticed the difference the last couple of weeks as programming is more Chick Corea than Charlie Parker during the day, with locally produced mainstream jazz programs returning in the evenings from 8 to 10, followed by syndicated jazz shows overnight until 7 a.m.

“Certainly the Oasis had an audience, and if I get half the audience the Oasis had, I’ll probably have twice the audience I had with straight-ahead jazz,” he says, noting that last October’s on-air funding drive fell short of the goal.

“We’ve been struggling for years and we tried to tell our listeners that. We can’t continue to do it as our expenses go up every year and our income is either static or declining. If I just looked at the total number of bodies out there listening (to mainstream jazz), there are enough to support it. But it’s not free, it’s member-supported, and we couldn’t come up with a compelling enough reason, or maybe they thought it would be here forever.”

However, noting that the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has a strong jazz studies program and many jazz musicians live in town, Reese says he’s hoping traditional jazz will hang on at KUNV.

“We want to keep it on in the evenings and maybe our daytime can support it,” Reese says. “Time will tell if we made a good move or not.”