Sour Sounds

An uncivil war breaks out in Tucson's jazz community over an online radio station

A sweet riff for the Tucson Jazz Radio Project (see "Brothers in Jazz," Performing Arts, Dec. 29) hit a sour note in recent weeks following a dispute between its two major players, Tony Frank and Doug Tidaback.

The dispute centered on the ownership of the project, with Frank claiming Tidaback had taken it from him. However, control of the project has been returned to Frank--or at least control of the name of the project--according to him and a mediator for Tidaback's organization, Arizona Jazz Academy.

The Tucson Jazz Radio Project is a Web-based jazz station that supporters hope will someday also broadcast in conventional radio format. Its studio facilities over the last few months have been housed at the Arizona Jazz Academy (AJA), a nonprofit agency directed by Tidaback. Frank, a musician and former KUAZ jazz disc jockey (and a former colleague of mine), has been the radio jazz project director as well as an instructor at the academy.

But over the last month or so, the two seasoned jazz veterans have engaged in a "he said, he said" dogfight, played out in e-mails to members of the local jazz community, over who had the idea first and who owned the rights to the project.

"Over two years ago, I created the Tucson Jazz Radio Project and started to raise awareness and funds through family, friends and the music community," Frank wrote to supporters via e-mail on Jan. 12. "Other organizations were given the opportunity to help TJRP get off the ground long before the idea was discussed with AJA. In March 2005, AJA offered a space, an Internet connection and financial support. At no time was it discussed that AJA would own or have absolute control over the broadcast. I am the creator and founder of the Tucson Jazz Radio Project."

Tidaback countered rapidly with an e-mail timeline addressed to jazz supporters: "During the fall of 2004, our music technology class and recording studio manager expressed interest in creating a Web-based jazz radio station. Knowing of Tony Frank's interest in creating a traditional jazz radio station, we decided to include him in the Web station as a stepping stone to the airwaves version and a way to give Tony a platform in the jazz community. We hired him in fall 2005 as director of the Tucson Jazz Radio Project in order to create the Web-based station." Tidaback asserted that the academy owned the Web site address and trade name.

In early January, after the Weekly article, Frank and Tidaback parted company. Tidaback wrote that Frank "enthusiastically chose to quit the position" of radio jazz project director under the terms that the station's ownership rested with AJA.

The ownership question supposedly was resolved on Jan. 23 following a meeting with Tidaback, members of the AJA board of directors, and attorney Clague Van Slyke, parent of an AJA student who volunteered to act as mediator in the dispute. He sent Frank an e-mail stating, "AJA will give up any claim to the use of the trade name Tucson Jazz Radio Project, will let you have the TJRP Web site and will tell Live365 (the web hosting service) that they can deal with you." Van Slyke confirmed to Tucson Weekly the contents of the e-mail and said that Frank had accepted.

"Game over--the AJA board finally said enough is enough," Frank said later. "It's a setback to the plan, but it doesn't require starting over--just starting up again. I expect to be at full bore in a matter of days and doing live afternoon jazz shows this week in a temporary studio." The station would be accessible via

However, on Jan. 31--as the Weekly was going to deadline--the AJA executive board sent the Weekly an e-mail indicating that AJA was keeping what had been the TJRP Web site URL, They also indicated they'd start their own Live365 station.

"A week ago, we decided to open up a new account with Live 365 and allow Tony to have the old account (even though Live 365 found that he was NOT entitled to it)," said the e-mail signed by Tammy Hall, Rodney Burton, Malik Alkabir and Tidaback. "We did not, however, give Tony the URL that had been properly registered with the Arizona Jazz Academy as the owner. This backfired and made Tony even more angry.

"Today we worked out a deal with Paul Diggins, the largest contributor to the project, to turn the URL over to him and a committee he will head and form. This committee will have an AJA rep on it ... and hopefully reps from other jazz organizations as well as other members of the community who want to see this project through to a full functioning 'airwaves' broadcasting jazz station. ...

"We will also Web broadcast through our new account: 'Arizona Jazz Radio.' This will serve our other mission: to support the students of the community who wish to continue to learn about radio and broadcasting through a hands-on experience."

On Jan. 31, the AJA's Arizona Jazz Radio was already broadcasting on Live365.

Tidaback had previously not responded to a Jan. 26 request from Tucson Weekly. He had commented earlier to the Weekly by phone "off the record and not for print," but did not make himself available for an on-the-record interview despite repeated requests.

The initial resolution was good news to Steve Emerine, president of the Tucson Jazz Society. "I can only speak for myself, but I think many TJS members will be pleased to hear that Tony has regained control of the jazz radio project he initiated. I wish him good luck as he resumes his efforts to make it a reality. Tucson definitely needs more jazz radio programming," he commented to the Weekly in a Jan. 29 e-mail.

The controversy exposed a serious divide in the jazz community Charges and counter-charges flew on a variety of issues, including financial support of the project. Frank charged in his Jan. 12 missive that Tidaback had originally offered a $30,000 commitment to the project--"empty promises," he said--but Frank claimed he had "found myself raising all the necessary funds." He acknowledged in a personal interview that their agreement was not written, but said, "Enough people were in on discussions who knew the agreed-upon details."

Tidaback's timeline offered this rebuttal: "To date, we have spent over $8,100 on this project. $3,200 of these funds were donated to the AJA based on Tony's solicitations and approximately $700 was raised at a special jazz roast event. A complete TJRP budget is available to anyone requesting the information."

Many of the other allegations in the dueling e-mails were personal attacks. Frank said last week, "It's over. It's done. I've gotten control back, and while we fell off the cliff in the process, we didn't break any bones. I'm sorry for the hassle and inconvenience to listeners and supporters, but glad it's finished, and we can get back to business."

As to a resumption of the Web-streaming service, Frank said: "This broadcast was created for the listeners and musicians of Tucson to have a valid outlet for jazz with a focus on the local scene. This project belongs to the whole community."

As he resumes programming in makeshift facilities, Frank indicates he's already seeking additional support. "There are a couple of local nonprofit groups interested in helping the project get back on track, and I'm hopeful we will have a new permanent home in the next three to four months. We will have a jazz station in this town."