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KGIL Drops Show Tunes, Seven Deejays in Switch to All-Jazz

March 15, 2000|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

KGIL-AM (1260) is undergoing a major transformation that will see its name change to KJAZ later this month, and its format make the formal transition to all-jazz by April 1. Earlier this week, the station quietly dropped the show tunes that had provided its core programming block.

Heading up the station's new team as program director and one of its new on-air personalities will be resonant-voiced Lawrence Tanter, who has spent 30 years in broadcasting, 28 of them in the Los Angeles market.

Recasting the station's musical underpinnings will pit KJAZ against Long Beach-based public radio station KLON-FM (88.1) for the area's jazz listener base. The decision was cemented by parent company Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters' ability to purchase the KJAZ call letters from a station in Northern California for $50,000.

Saul Levine, president and general manager of KGIL--and of his flagship, classical station KKGO-FM (105.1), which for 25 years was a Southland jazz institution until its switch to classical in 1989--said Tuesday: "As of now all the deejays [are] gone. We'll gradually phase in the permanent jazz format."

Seven deejays have been let go.

"We decided to return to our roots because of public demand," Levine said, adding that Mt. Wilson FM, which under his ownership also operates stations in San Diego and San Francisco, "has more experience programming jazz radio than any other radio station in the United States."

At the same time, he acknowledged the move was also driven by a need to attract more advertising revenue, which has been increasingly hard to come by with KGIL's predominantly 55-plus audience.

Nor did KGIL fare well with listeners. The station, which Levine has owned since 1993, has undergone a series of format changes ranging from all-news to all-Beatles in search of an audience and advertisers. In the most recent Arbitron ratings quarter, KGIL was tied for 34th place in the market, while among 25- to 54-year-olds it dropped to 47th.

Though the station is already playing jazz, the formal format shift will be guided by Tanter, who has done programming and broadcasting at stations that included KJLH-FM (102.3), the old KAJZ and KBJZ-FM, KLITE-FM and KUTE-FM. He is equally well-known as the longtime public address announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers. Even given Tanter's history, KJAZ must overcome the AM stigma in a landscape where FM, as KLON is, is still considered to deliver superior sound.

"Our strategy is to start up and turn this station around, and to create a new identity," said Tanter. "I want to build [KJAZ] as an elegant, sophisticated station that appeals to adults who enjoy good music. And to combine artists in the genre of Miles Davis, Stan Getz, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington with exciting new artists like Joshua Redman, Cassandra Wilson and Diana Krall."

Meanwhile, Levine sought to differentiate KJAZ from KLON and easy-listening jazz station KTWV-FM (94.7), more familiarly known as "The Wave."

"We don't see ourselves in competition with KLON," said Levine, "because we are going after a more mass-appeal audience with straight-ahead acoustic jazz that is not on the radio today. And we each have our zones of influence. KLON takes a more serious, traditional approach on the one hand, while on the other KTWV is for some people who like jazz a little bit."

At KLON, President and General Manager Judy D. Jankowski insisted that she was "thrilled" with the addition of KJAZ. "It shows the vibrancy of jazz in Southern California. Competition is healthy. Another jazz outlet will make jazz stronger."

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