An elegant and exquisite sense of musicality accompanies long-time jazz DJ, Bo Leibowitz to KCRW’s master control room, where he “plays sides” in the wee small hours of Saturday morning. On-air at KCRW since 1979, Bo’s passion for jazz developed young.
“I was about 16 — before that I was into Buddy Holly and Elvis.” He began listening to records sent for review to his newspaper journalist father. “I discovered them in our basement -- Charlie Parker, Art Blakely… you play one record and say, hey that alto player appeals to me, so you pick up something by the alto player, where you discover a trumpet player, and it just sort of mushrooms from there.”
He also had friends who were accomplished musicians.
“They would practice all the time and I would just go and listen and learn. We’d go crazy with every new Coltrane record because, at that time, in the mid-60's or so, Coltrane's records were developing, and every record was another leap forward.”
An Indianapolis native, Bo went to college in Philadelphia then decided to try life in New York City, where he wrote album and concert reviews for FM Guide, “the equivalent to TV Guide.”
He later moved to Boston, ran a record store in Cambridge, and had jazz shows on WBUR and WTBS. (“They sold the call letters to Ted Turner for something like $50,000.”) He even wrote The Record Collector’s Handbook, a compendium of rankings based on value.
“The rarest record in the world is the soundtrack to The Caine Mutiny. When they printed it in 1954, author Herman Wouk's name was left off the cover; he threatened to sue, and it was withdrawn. But ONE box made it to some small record store in NY. It used to be worth about five grand, who knows these days.”
After a trip to LA, “shedding more layers of clothing the further west I drove,” Bo moved here and got his DJ tape to then-music director, Tom Schnabel, who put him on the air “back in the days when the station was still on the campus of John Adams Junior High.”
A court reporter by day, and dad to a son named Evan, “after pianist Bill Evans, one of my favorite musicians,” Bo spends his spare time listening to classic and new jazz artists. His faves these days include “a new album of just discovered live performances of Monk with Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, released for Coltrane’s birthday,” and some rising young stars, “vocalists Sara Gazarek and Roberta Gambarini, and reed player Anat Cohen,” all of whom he believes deserve to be heard more.