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South Carolina Public Radio Introduces New Music Program, "ColaJazz Presents"

Jazz is the focus of the new SC Public Radio Program "ColaJazz Presents"
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Jazz is the focus of the new SC Public Radio Program "ColaJazz Presents"

SC Public Radio's new jazz series "ColaJazz Presents" will feature the music of world-class South Carolina jazz musicians interspersed with interviews with the artists themselves.

Jazz is a familiar ingredient in the musical culture of South Carolina. Many jazz artists past and present have hailed from the Palmetto State. South Carolinians now will have the chance to hear many of the state’s best musicians on the new program, “ColaJazz Presents,” which premiered this week on South Carolina Public Radio.

Host Mark Rapp started the non-profit foundation ColaJazz to support and grow jazz in and around the Midlands. He said the show’s purpose is to feature the “phenomenal talent” in South Carolina.

“We want to showcase these artists, bring attention to them, because where the arts thrive, so do the communities,” said Rapp. “We have a thriving, thriving music scene, an incredible jazz base, and we just want to show everyone in South Carolina just what we have here.”

The show’s writer and Executive Producer Shari Hutchinson said the idea for the show resulted from a series of Internet concerts put on by Rapp in reaction to the disruption musicians experienced in their careers because of COVID-19.

“And so when the pandemic struck, he immediately went to work with a series called LiveStream, offering weekly jazz concerts, videos, so that not just the artists could work, but jazz fans could have a weekly dose of jazz that they might get in a live venue.”

The artists also earned a bit of money during the pandemic by the concerts’ allowing fans to donate to the musicians to help support them through the time when public performances were cancelled for musicians of all kinds because of the coronavirus. But Hutchinson, who also produced the popular national radio show Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, not only enjoyed the performances, but was inspired by them.

“I thought, ‘wow, this is really high quality. It’s video and great audio, and this is already all recorded. Wouldn’t this make a great radio or TV show?”

“ColaJazz Presents” will feature a different artist each week, with music taken from the LiveStream performances. Rapp said interviews with musicians will be featured along with the music to “do a little bit of a deep dive with each of the artists. So we’re gonna really get to know the folks creating the music.”

Rapp listed a few of the artists who will appear on the program: pianist Shannon Pinckney, British clarinetist Pete Neighbour, Shannon Hoover, Charlton Singleton (a member of the Grammy Award-winning Charleston group Ranky Tanky), and long-time Columbia jazz icon Dick Goodwin. “And the list goes on, it’s really exciting.”

Hutchinson wants the audience to realize that “jazz is alive and well in South Carolina. And it is world-class. We have some amazing artists that are native, and that have migrated into the state. It is a very vibrant jazz scene.” Rapp sees the “biggest value and important thing to the listener is that it makes folks excited about where they live.”

Rapp shared his producer’s enthusiasm for home-grown talent. “It’s an amazing state that we live in,” he enthused. “And we’ve got artists living here and producing work here, and swinging hard and playing jazz that I think is gonna give people more reason to be excited to call South Carolina home.”

“ColaJazz Presents” will run for 13 weeks and will air Sundays at 8 p.m. on SC Public Radio.