Regular readers of this site know that we both support and enjoy a good relationship with WXPN. But the fact is, we have never really mentioned our fondness for one of Philly’s other public-ish radio stations, WRTI 90.1FM. Yes, the Temple University-based jazz and classical station that you — yes, probably YOU — totally take for granted.
Now, granted, the jazzbos among us may have criticisms of the WRTI jazz playlist. (Though, frankly, we find it really comforting that they still rep Houston Person and Charles Earland so hard; we do the same each week at Philebrity Salon.) But no matter what’s getting spun, it’s important to remember that WRTI — currently in the midst of a fund-drive that could be doing a lot better, as is WXPN — fulfills several valuable functions.
For one, the station itself is a valuable reminder of Philly’s amazing jazz history — a thing that sometimes can feel like it’s disappearing or has disappeared entirely. (Until, of course, you roll up at Time on a Monday night or check out some Ars Nova awesomeness.) But longtime WRTI host Bob Perkins (pictured) — musty and fusty in all the best ways, smooth and lovable and yet, still, impossibly cool — somehow embodies everywhere we’ve been as a jazz city. And one way or another, his stately presence — known to regular listeners as BP with the GM — also has to the beg the question of where we’re going.
What are those other functions? Sure: It’s a good thing to have jazz on the radio. And it’s a good thing to have classical on the radio. (Though it’s a bummer that modern radio is such Philistine territory that jazz and classical have to share a single station.) But more than all of this, WRTI has that magical thing that reminds you, as soon as you tune it in, that you are living in a city and this city contains multitudes; and that their toil and their play has made us a history that is humbling and beautiful. When you get home tonight, try this: Tune into WRTI. Throw open all the windows. Fix yourself a drink and look outside. Look at you, buddy: You’re living the dream.