Alexander Zonjic Set To Host Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards
January 2, 2005 – Congratulations to Alexander Zonjic for being nominated for three Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. The flutist who is the “Artist Of The Month” on Smooth Jazz Now is up for Broadcaster Of The Year, wind instrumentalist and his “Seldom Blues” CD is up for Album Of The Year. No matter what the outcome Zonjic will have a busy night, he’s slated to host the event which will be held at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts on April 10th, 2005. Read the new interview with Zonjic from December 2004.
John Beaudin – Hi Alexander, how are you man? Congrats on being nominated for three Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards.

Alexander Zonjic – Hey, come on tell me how I can get all my fans to vote for me. (laughing)

John – Well, you’re up against me as “Smooth Jazz Broadcaster Of The Year” so I’m not sure I should be fraternizing with the competition. (laughing)

Alexander – (laughing) Well, we’ll certainly get our databases at the radio station to vote that’s for sure. We’ll make it as exciting as possible for everyone.

John – Mary Kirk from The Wave in Hamilton and I were talking today about the fact that this awards show is finally happening in Canada since it took so long to get the format going.

Alexander – Well, it has taken a long time but in all fairness it didn’t happen overnight here in the U.S either. We went through all the different hybrids like N.A.C. and The Wave’s sound so really there have been so many different derivatives of Smooth Jazz so it’s going to take longer than a minute.

John – I was just listening to your “Passion” CD and you know what I love about it is it is reminiscent of a different hybrid that’s being played now. It’s more of a 70 or 80’s version of the format which I sometimes prefer. It’s a middle ground album from the N.A.C. years to the Smooth Jazz. It came out in 1993, right?

Alexander – Yes, it did. “Passion” was a great record which we made a huge investment in and needless to say there’s an amazing amount of talent on there with Bob James and Kirk Whalum. The album does reflect a time and place.

John – As you look back do you think the format was good to you?

Alexander – It think the format was really good to me. “Neon” and “Passion” for instance and an older one “Elegant Evening” back in 1982 were all huge radio records. In fact the early years on some levels were better and more open than the situation we have now which is much more controlled than adventurous. Lets be honest, the parameters for radio these days are pretty narrow.

John – Hey, of course some people hate Broadcast Architecture, others say it’s really the responsibility of the individual owners, General Managers and Program Directors to mix it up.

Alexander – Well, the truth be known it all goes back to art and commerce. The reality is they’ve figured out a system that gives them something a little more fail proof in order to sell a format. The reality is creatively and artistically if you don’t take any risks, if you don’t put things out that you don’t think are mainstream and wait for feedback nothing will grow. That’s the only down side to all of this so I still think they can take their very safe road that works for them but they need to find some space in there to look for new things. Look at play lists from five years ago and look at them today and you’d be really challenged to find anything in there that’s really new. I think at some point somebody is going to have to take some risks. I think that’s the bigger argument and I admire all the folks at B.A. for being the format executor that they are, they’ve figured out a system, they test those tunes, they all know what they’re doing but in the end remember this is a creative process and the passionate listeners are waiting for us to tell them what’s cool and it’s not the other way around.

John – I hear you.

Alexander Zonjic with Awards Co-chair John Beaudin

Alexander – I think testing tunes is a good idea, I think it’s good to get the feedback from the listener but the challenge with that is that it should be purely to find out what they like, it shouldn’t be to have them lead us. It’s like the dog chasing its own tail. In the final analysis if you keep asking them what they like they’ll keep telling you the same thing. They won’t be the one to take the risks. Years ago we had so many creative Program Directors, we still have some of course but the newer Program Directors are under a lot of pressure to not take any chances. Years ago we had folks who listened to entire CD’s and decided what they thought was cool and what could be cool down the road. A lot of our listeners weren’t sure when they first heard some of those tracks but sure enough with a little bit or rotation they liked it. I just spent the whole day with Bob James in Flint Michigan and we are always having this same discussion. You can admire what’s going on but that being said you would hope that it’s moving forward as well.

John – I miss the days as a Programmer when I’d get an album, take my time and get to know it and I’d play the track that I thought was the best track not what R&R told me to play.

Alexander – What I thought was fascinating about those days and believe me John I come from those days too and you know the fascinating part was even though not everyone was calling each other and checking what the other guy was playing but it was funny on how all those talented Programmers from across the country would somehow come to a consensus.
John – I knew you were going there. I found it so validating when that happened.

Alexander – There were these one or two tracks that would just jump off the record and all these great minds collectively would have the same instincts. The other thing that I think is sorely missing is every area in the country should have certain tracks that are more reflective of that particular area. What’s wrong with that? Why shouldn’t Miami lean more to their Latin roots and why shouldn’t Detroit be more Urban than San Diego. To me in the early days the special thing about the format is when I’d travel I would hear different tracks in different countries. Having said that you can’t tell anyone in all fairness whether it’s NUA in Chicago or CD-101 in New York who has now gone CHILL you really can’t tell any of them that anything is broken because the reality is these are very successful radio stations.

John – Yeah, look at Mike (Vasquez) in San Diego, he’s No. 1 12+.

Alexander – Oh sure, he’s very successful but from the creative aspect of it we all love for the opportunity for them to stretch. I think sooner or later you will paint yourself into a corner because if you’re not looking for new there will be no new and there will be no new audience. There’s a good three hour discussion John. (laughing)

John – Hey, the new album is bouncy, it’s funky and groovy.

Alexander – Well, you know they all reflect a certain time “Reach For The Sky” for me was a mellow record that came at a mellow time and I certainly wasn’t chasing formats. I’m not a Be Bop guy who makes Pop albums for the sake of airplay this is the kind of music I’ve been playing my whole life. You know lots of folks come to our live shows and the fans are very aware of what that instruments capable of so the concept of “Seldom Blues” is to put those tunes in the spotlight that really work live and we’re already getting a sense of that with all the concerts we’re playing these days. Good reaction from the first single “Leave It With Me” with Earl Klugh which is the first single.

(Left to right) Shannon Edwards of AirCom Radio Network, Alexander Zonjic and Joy Gatten-Blixt

John – I love the War cover “Spill The Wine” that inspired me.

Alexander – “Spill the Wine” is the coolest. Remember I’m an old hippie and I came out of that era, I played rock and Roll guitar in Toronto in a band called Cross Town Traffic with band members by the way that went on to play in Max Webster so those were my roots coming out. The next album will definitely have some arrangements of some of my favorite Jethro Tull tunes.

John – That’s so obviously a good idea for you as a flutist but I have to admit it I would have never thought of it.

Alexander – Oh yeah, somebody has to do a Smooth Jazz “Living in the Past.” Who is more equipped to do it than me? I’m a rock and Roll guitar player who plays the flute. I was talking to Peter White a while ago and Peter and I share old Rock and Roll stuff and remember Peter’s 50 years old and we talk about old instrumental bands from England like the Shadows and of course the minute we start talking about doing Smooth Jazz covers of classic flute tunes Ian Anderson came up. If you go back and listen to some of those tunes they are so sophisticated, remember living in the past is in 5/4 time. Anyway, it was this type of talk that got me to record “Spill the Wine” and remember the original version had a great flute part in it. Personally, I would have loved if radio would have embraced that tune.

John – Sure the audience, that demo knows that tune.

Alexander – Sure, all those baby boomers listening would relate to that tune right away.