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Ben Young / Host

Ben Young shows

You may recognize Ben as a host on-air and also the leader of WICN’s Jazz 101 and Jazz 201 courses. Through 30 years of Jazz involvement, he has been a radio and record producer, researcher, writer, archivist, engineer, and lecturer on the history of Jazz and improvised music. But whatever form it assumes, the mission is always the same: helping folks to hear clearly the important works of the masters, and to understand what they’re hearing.

After several decades in New York (and a couple in the mid-South) Ben is working to spark up new connections around Worcester among listeners to hot music.

Each week, Artistry of Jazz delivers a focused examination of some important dimension of Jazz music as an art form and how that has played out in the music’s history. We focus on the essential figures and the cornerstone recordings and diverge form there into the stories and explanations that illuminate and connect them. Recent topics have included what Woodstock means to Jazz; the centennial of the birth of drummer Art Blakey; and jazz considerations of the Space Age.


5 Questions with Ben Young

What brought you to hosting a show on WICN? Why do you love being on the air?

Well, I came to the area in 2017 and of course listened closely to WICN. Having a Jazz-oriented radio station of any sort these days is a minor miracle, and WICN is a major one! (I had done some years of radio in New York up until 2014.)

So, coming to Worcester, I introduced myself to then-Executive Director Amanda Carr to teach the Jazz 101 course, and soon enough we decided there might be a way for me to be on the air.

What is your favorite WICN memory? 

Poignant as it was, I got to hear some of the last Saturday Matinee shows that Joe Slezak hosted back in 2017. You could tell he was a believer, and that side of his humanity came through as bold as the music.

FILL IN THE BLANK: The best concert I ever saw was ______________?

Hmmmm… You can tell I’m not much on superlatives, myself, but… I was honored to be part of the Sam Rivers Trio reunion concert in NYC in 2007 that’s now on CD.  There’s a good starting point. A great group to start with, making a welcome reunion; still pushing the envelope, presented by adoring promoters, a packed house, and it was the talk of the town… on a great spring day, no less.

Many listeners don’t know that the majority of our hosts are volunteers that do this out of a personal passion. What do you/did you do professionally off the air? 

Strange to say, almost all of my professional work is actually in the jazz field. I teach, host listening sessions, produce and annotate records, and, am writing a biography of a jazz musician, pianist Cecil Taylor. I also recently took the post as Director of the Jazz History Database at WPI.

Who are your favorite artists and/or albums of all time?

Oh, man; here we go with the favorites again…

Shortlists are better, right? Let’s say Louis Armstrong and Albert Ayler.