2001
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Radio pictureA SPONSORED AVOCATION
At about the same time Karen Burdick was playing the blues, Steven Cantor ’73 was in the basement dreaming up God’s Big Radio Show, which—you do the logic—would play only Bob Dylan. KRRC was the first time Cantor had done any radio, but for someone whose deepest love was music it was the land of milk and honey and rare recordings discovered on the shelf.

“Reed was an incredible thing for me,” Cantor says now. “It still stands out as the most amazing group of people I’ve been able to be a member of in my life. Every person I met was interesting.”

Cantor left Reed in 1971 to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied with, and eventually became friends and roommates with, the celebrated jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. Cantor’s ear for music was so good that he was soon helping produce records for Metheny, whose band members included some of the world’s finest musicians.

“I was the guy in the studio whose responsi-bility it was to keep an eye and ear on the forest while the musicians got (appropriately) lost in the trees,” he says. “I was a member of the production team on two of Pat’s recordings, and then co-produced the first two solo records for Lyle Mays [Metheny’s famed keyboardist] with him.”

Steven Cantor ’73 picture Steven Cantor ’73
Which might make you assume the rest of Cantor’s story is all Ferraris and big houses in the L.A. hills. But for two things: while Metheny is a very successful jazz musician, he is still a jazz musician, which is more nice Volvo than Ferrari territory. And Cantor was unwilling to take on all the crappy projects that he would need along with the good ones to hit the big time.

“Those records were labors of love for me,” he says. “I didn’t want to make it a job.”

Cantor stumbled upon a free-form radio station affiliated with Tufts University, where he did a show that drew upon his extensive contacts with different kinds of music and musicians. When he returned to Portland in 1993 with a “day job” as a database programmer at Adidas, he began looking for a similar outlet for his passion.

“I noticed that Oregon Public Broadcasting’s radio station had a format something like the Tufts station, and eventually I went on air there, playing music on the weekends—four hours Saturday and three hours Sunday. So you see, I don’t really have a career in radio: it’s sort of a sponsored avocation! In fact, I probably spend everything I make at OPB on recordings for the show.”

Cantor has a mission whenever he’s on the radio: “Today there are more amazing recordings of fantastic music in all styles available than ever before—conversely, there are fewer and fewer places to hear them on the radio. I try to bridge that gap. In my life I’ve had the good fortune to hook up with a dizzying variety of incredible musicians, so I’m familiar with a lot of music. To me, this show is payback for that good fortune.

“What I find myself doing on radio. . . . I just don’t know of any other medium that works this way. It’s a unique form of expression, and for me it’s a unique showcase for a wide range of musical expression. I feel like I’m doing a live mix performance every time I’m on the air. I’ll keep doing it as long as they let me.”

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2001