Entertainment At last, the BBC is catching up with Britain's...

At last, the BBC is catching up with Britain's new jazz explosion


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Now it has one every weeknight – roughly doubling its hours of dedicated jazz at a stroke. While one hand gives, the other takes away. On Friday, Radio 3 bade farewell to Ian McMillan’s “cabaret of the word”, The Verb, after 22 years. Bookish but approachable, playful and lighthearted, it was perhaps always a better fit for its new home, Radio 4, where it’s likely to reach the larger audience that it deserves.

There’s nothing quite like it: one episode might be devoted to German poetry since the fall of the Berlin Wall, while the next might revolve around puddings, or the appeal of the octopus. I can’t think of another show that could range from long-form interviews with the likes of Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith to the avant-garde sound-looping performance poetry of Hannah Silva, via a comedy folk song or silly parlour game.

The Verb’s departure, along with that of Free Thinking, means that Radio 3 has more-or-less abandoned speech. Looking back to its roots in the Third Programme, it used to take pride in being more than just a music station. But this week – unless I’ve somehow misread the schedules – there are no non-musical programmes at all.

The Sunday Feature is devoted to MGM musicals. The Essay – that 15-minute crumb of midweek talk – is taken over (captivatingly, it must be said) by composer Erland Cooper, blending his own music with folk tales about islands. And the only drama slot is a two-year-old re-run of a musical by a folk band. ’Round Midnight shows that Radio 3’s music coverage is in good health – but is that enough?

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