Words by Marcos Benhamu, Image courtesy of George Krupinski.
Jazz is an unusual musical creature; it keeps performers on their toes. Improvisation is at the heart of the music. The “head” of the piece presents a leitmotif around which the artist can play freely, weaving in and out of the tonal colour of the music. The flow and mood of the session conspire with the musician’s inner world, informing how each note will be played, and then the next.
George Krupinski, of That’s Jazz!, does not play a musical instrument, but he has found the spontaneity and excitement of jazz in radio presenting. For George, modifying a playlist mid show confers the craft its thrill. He says,
“[The excitement of radio is in] Ensuring that the music flows, that it’s interesting, and that you paint a musical picture that’s appealing, and that can change mid flow. I can create a playlist a day or two beforehand, and I go into the studio, and as I do, I go ‘no, no, no, no! It’s got the wrong vibe; it’s got the wrong flow. I need to add or subtract,’ and in doing so, there’s a certain energy. “Behind the microphone, you’re seeking to put out the best you can with what you’ve got. It’s stimulating, and it’s most satisfying.”
“I can recall specifically sitting in a friend’s place playing a record player—it was Gene Pitney, and the song was ‘if I didn’t have a dime, I would act as if I was a disc jockey”.
George remembers the strong desire to become a radio presenter as a 16-year-old growing up in Williamstown.
“I can recall specifically sitting in a friend’s place playing a record player—it was Gene Pitney, and the song was ‘if I didn’t have a dime,” George says. “I would act as if I was a disc jockey.”
George’s enthusiasm for radio drove him to take enunciation lessons in Melbourne’s CBD, which consisted of weekly, two-hour sessions reading radio advertisements. After much training, he approached Programme Director John McMahon at 3UZ to express his wish to become a radio announcer. McMahon advised young George to start his career in country radio.
“I said, ‘thank you very much,’ and I ditched the idea at that particular point in time. I was about 18 at that point, and then I went off and lived a different life.”
George did national service and a stint in the Army instead. He then dedicated many years of his professional life to industrial relations, and he and his wife became a full-time carers to his mother-in-law before retirement. His professional life drew him away from radio, but it was a co-worker Helen Devereux who introduced him to 96.5 Inner FM in the early 90s. Helen was a presenter at the Station, and she offered George to come along to a presenters meeting. This is where he met presenter Ron Lopes, presently of Saturday Express. At that time, Ron had a breakfast show, and he invited George to come along. Before long, George became a co-presenter. “We exchanged pleasantries for a few years; it was excellent,” George says. After that first stint, George started his own show entitled The Other Side, which was about spirituality, matters such as near-death experiences.
“Jazz has been a panacea in so many different ways, It’s been something that my wife and I could share because she also embraced the genre, and after she passed, it was a way for me of dealing with her absence and giving some purpose.”
After a long hiatus, a community radio station in Werribee offered George, through local jazz club connections, a fill-in role in a jazz show in 2019. George found the work exciting, but the commute was too difficult coming from the East side of Melbourne. Intent on returning to radio, he reached out to old stomping ground in 96.5 Inner FM, which is a bicycle ride away from home.
“It was like coming back home,” George says.
That’s Jazz! aired for the first time in May 2020.
And Jazz plays an important part in George’s life; it offers solace.
“Jazz has been a panacea in so many different ways,” George says. “It’s been something that my wife and I could share because she also embraced the genre, and after she passed, it was a way for me of dealing with her absence and giving some purpose.”
George is also a photographer, and that’s another way in which he connects with the music, by capturing moments in the local jazz scene with his camera. The humanity behind the music, as he puts it—all the different ways to connect with and convey his passion for the music.
“I’m not a musician, but I use the tools of music to entertain,” George says. “If I can do this successfully, wonderful.”
Tune in to That’s Jazz! Thursdays at 11:00 am AEST on 96.5 Inner FM, streaming live on innerfm.org.au or on the dial, 96.5 FM.