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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Friends honor KSPC’s Tony Palkovic on March 12

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Two tight-knit communities rocked by the recent death of influential jazz-fusion DJ and musician Tony Palkovic are coming together to remember him from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday March 12 at the Press Restaurant in Claremont.

Mr. Palkovic, 68, was a 30-year on-air personality at Claremont Colleges radio station KSPC 88.7, where he hosted “Tony Palkovic’s Jazz Show,” championing the music he loved and bringing giants from the world of jazz-fusion out to the modest basement facility for guest slots on his long-running program. He died from cancer on December 16.

He was also an accomplished musician, composer and arranger, releasing several critically-acclaimed records over a 40-year recording career.

“He was one of the first people I met at KSPC when I started at a student,” an emotional KSPC Director of Student Media Erica Tyron said. “We actually started about the same time.”

Among the well-known musicians that made the pilgrimage to Claremont to appear on Mr. Palkovic’s show are Allan Holdsworth, Larry Coryell, Bunny Brunel, Joe Zawinul, Stanley Clarke and Brian Auger.

Some of the musicians that Mr. Palkovic played with regularly will be performing at the March 12 memorial, including Baba Elefante and Kofi Baker (son of the late Cream drummer Ginger Baker). The evening will also include  a slide show, a short documentary interview with Mr. Palkovic, remembrances, and an invitation to musicians to sit in with the band.

“I’m still a little in shock over the whole thing,” Ms. Tyron said. “My main thing is that he is remembered as part of this [KSPC] family and acknowledged. I think he deserves a lot more credit than he got. That he’s getting some recognition is great. He’s going to be remembered very fondly.”

Mr. Palkovic was born in in 1951 in Youngstown, Ohio, and began playing guitar in his early teens. He quickly evolved from pop covers to jazz, and earned a bachelor’s degree in music composition in 1975 from Boston’s Berklee College of Music.

He released his debut record, “Deep Water,” in 1980. He moved to Los Angeles in 1983, where he taught guitar, wrote, continued his recording career, and began hosting his show on KSPC.

Mr. Palkovic’s tenure at KSPC began at a time when his passion—jazz-fusion—could not have been less fashionable. Punk rock and the DIY aesthetic was in ascendance in youth culture, especially on college campuses, and particularly at liberal arts California colleges like Pomona, from where KSPC broadcasts.

Yet, Tony Palkovic’s Jazz Show not only persisted, it thrived to become a cherished worldwide jazz-fusion community cornerstone and an institution at KSPC.

“Throughout his time at KSPC he really had such a unique voice and sometimes, especially in this context, a misunderstood kind of vision or focus on the music he was playing,” Ms. Tyron said. “He was just so deeply into fusion and a lot of instrumental, very complicated music. When I first started, low-fi was king. Everyone was of that age and starting bands, and there was an explosion of little shows everywhere. And he was definitely a different type of musician. So yeah, he stood out.”

Mr. Palkovic’s discography includes “Deep Water” (1980), which made several top 10 lists for airplay on jazz radio stations in the US, Canada and Europe; “Every Moment (1983), “Born With a Desire” (1985); “Esoteric” (2000) with Patrick Moraz and Krys Mach; and “As to Another” (2019) with Brian Auger, Bunny Brunel, Jorge Strunz, Jamie Glaser, Kofi Baker, Krys Mach, Matt Malley and Baba Elefante.

Ms. Tyron remembered her friend as a private man, intensely focused on the music he so deeply loved.

“He brought so many people down to the station, these amazing musicians,” she said. “Whenever he had guests down, he would light up in a way that he didn’t when he was on his own doing his shows. You could tell how excited he was to talk to other musicians about what they were doing.”

Since Mr. Palkovic’s death KSPC has been airing archived editions of his show in his regular slot, Thursdays from noon to 2 p.m.

“And honestly, there’s no end date in mind at this point,” Ms. Tyron said. “We have 30 years of shows, so conceivably we could do this for quite a while.”

The musical memorial for Tony Palkovic takes place from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12 at the Press, 129 Harvard Ave., Claremont. It is free and open to the public. For information go to www.kspc.org/tony-palkovic-memorial-celebration.

Mr. Palkovic was a supporter Priceless Pets, a no-kill pet rescue. Friends wishing to make a donation in his name may do so at www.pricelesspetrescue.org/donate.

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