Saturday, 10 May 2014

Moira Stuart on Sunday Nights

I used to have a Sunday night ritual. I'd retire to bed early, set the sleep timer on my radio and drift off listening to the best music show of the week. This was on Radio 2 and it was the Russell Davies Song Show. It was magnificent — erudite, informative and full of good music. Occasionally it veered down musical byways which were not my ways. My kind of music is jazz, big band and swing and what they did to the great American (and occasionally British) songbook. But even on the oddest tangents, the huge charm and intelligence of Russell Davies kept me interested and listening.

And then, just like that, the Russell Davies Song Show was gone. 

Some mad axeman at the BBC simply decided to get rid of it. It was too good to be allowed to live. I was bereft — and furious. Cue a cutting letter to the Radio Times. (They didn't publish it, of course.) 

But things change. And on Sunday nights on Radio 2, things kept on changing. After Russell Davies's departure there were further alterations to the schedule. And Don Black's late night (11pm) show has now given way to Moira Stuart.

And Moira Stuart is just wonderful. She did a fine, short, series of programs about great jazzmen for Radio 2 last year, and that has now paved the way to her regular slot. I love Moira Stuart's show. It's described in the schedules as "the best in easy listening and timeless standards." 

But it's much more heavy on the jazz than that suggests — last week she played Mark Murphy, Ramsey Lewis, Mel Tormé, Julie London and Count Basie, in addition to the Hi-Lo's and Nelson Riddle. Or how about the week before — Blossom Dearie, Carmen McRae, Horace Silver, Oscar Peterson, Georgie Fame, Billie Holiday and Joni Mitchell.

Moira Stuart has great, eclectic taste, playing famous performers alongside rarities like the Italian singer Mario Biondi or Brazil's Elis Regina. And she has introduced me to people I'd never heard of before, treasures like the Dutch chanteuse Trijntje Oosterhuis. 

Moira's knowledgeable, crediting the great jazz photographer Pete Turner with the classic cover for Wes Monrgomery's Road Song. 

She's perceptive, pointing out how Lalo Schifrin's composition 'The Wave' was a precursor of his unforgettable theme for Mission Impossible. 
And she's witty, remarking after a space age Esquivel exotica track, "You can almost see the flying saucers landing."

A wonderful show. Check it out here.

(Image credits. The LP cover images are all from the BBC web pages for various episodes of the show. Like this one. And this one. And this one. Yawn, and this one... And so is the shot of Moira herself.)

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