Best Way to Hear Jazz

Best: Live
2nd Best: 89.3 WPFW-FM
“There are no radio stations like this anymore,” says percussionist Kahil El’Zabar of 89.3 WPFW-FM, Pacifica Radio’s D.C. affiliate. It’s true: Under the auspices of the station’s program director, jazz guru Bobby Hill, our city has one of the last radio outposts for jazz in all its varieties. On a given day, the station might play records by Django Reinhardt, Nina Simone, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Maryland bassist Michael Bowie, then top them all with a unique in-studio performance, such as the drum circle led by El’Zabar last year. But the real reason for the station’s programming excellence lies not in its choice of recordings, but its choice of disc jockeys, who generally bring their own records. Along with Hill, the airwaves are stacked with local experts such as Larry Applebaum, Willard Jenkins, John Murph, and Katea Stitt, who bring both the tunes and their vast knowledge of what went into them. If you can’t make it to see jazz live—now and forever the best avenue for it—you could hardly find a better second choice than WPFW.