Music & Events
Blasco Library welcomes Protzman collection with gala.
On Sunday, June 22, 2014 the Blasco Library in Erie welcomed jazz journalist Bob Protzman's gift of his extensive collection of jazz CD's, photos and memorabilia. In doing so, the library has positioned itself as a destination for regional jazz lovers, students and educators. The Protzman, which already covers a wall of the first floor reading room, is still being cataloged.
Collaborative ideas were already churning the air following library Executive Director Mary Rennie's welcoming speech: library concerts with Bruce's SUNY Fredonia jazz string students and regional stars? An annual Protzman musical celebration at the library? Potential growth of the library's record and book collections with the Protzman collection as its core?
More about Protz
BOB PROTZMAN CELEBRATION
"EVERYTHING JAZZ," a celebration of jazz journalist Bob Protzman's gift of his extensive collection of recordings, photos and memorabilia to the Blasco Library in Erie, was held at 1:30 p.m. on Sun., June 22 at the Library. The event was on the first floor, and will included live music and refreshments.
The great musicians playing for Bob's celebration included Bruce Johnstone (baritone sax), Tony Grey (bass), Frank Singer (guitar), and Joe Dorris (drums, harmonica, vocals).
Come to Blasco and get a look at the wealth of music and information now available to all of us!
Want to Donate?
Send a tax-deductible check to Friends of the Library
160 East Front Street
Write "Protzman Collection" on the check
GIVE A LISTEN
by Charles R. Joy
On June 22, the Erie County Pennsylvania Library System will accept the legacy of one of our accomplished native sons. The legacy is an extensive collection of jazz music recordings and related artifacts. The native son is Bob Protzman.
Born and raised in Erie, graduating from Cathedral Preparatory School in 1954, Bob Protzman attributes his love of music, and particularly jazz music, to his mother. From his earliest years she would play the radio and little Bob would fall asleep to the swinging tunes. He remembers making up his own lyrics to hits such as Nat Cole’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right”. Imagine that.
After high school, Bob joined the United States Air Force. Sometimes things work out. Bob drew duty at Newburgh NY, sixty miles north of New York City, where serving his country left time for him to frequent the jazz clubs of Manhattan, living history, where he experienced live performance by the great musicians of the era.
Since those heady days, Bob Protzman pursued a 40 year career of award-winning journalism and broadcasting covering and sharing that great American music, jazz. 31 of those years were lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, as one of the handful of writers in the entire country so devoted to jazz. Our Bob has been inducted into the Minnesota Jazz Hall of Fame and helped found the Twin Cities Jazz Society.
Closer to home, Bob Protzman also contributed to the airways and stages of Erie with radio shows more recently on WQLN-FM and WMCE-FM and producing live performances by jazz masters including for JazzErie and with Joe Dorris at Papermoon on State Street.
Such a cat as Protz has the opportunity to accumulate thousands of recordings, CDs, plastic boxes clicking in the breeze. Now that trove, accompanied by associated print and other items, will belong to us, the listening public, citizens of Erie, patrons of the library. Congratulations to the Erie County Library System for the wisdom to accept such a valuable cool gift. Starting from June 22, we can, any or all of us, visit the Protzman Collection, handle the items but best, since it’s everything jazz, give a listen.
PROTZ'S FRIENDS: Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame Members He Has Interviewed
ERIE'S CELEBRATED JAZZ JOURNALIST
Protzman enjoyed a substantial career as a staff writer and critic. for the St. Paul, MN Pioneer Press, specializing in jazz. He was an active member of the Jazz Journalists Association and served on panels selecting best jazz artists and recordings. His articles have appeared in Downbeat, Jazz Times, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The Erie Times News and other publications.
On retiring to Erie, Bob became active on the local jazz scene, editing JazzErie's News Notes and bringing his profound knowledge and understanding of jazz to its Performance Committee. For a number of years he hosted a weekly show, "Everything Jazz," on WQLN FM radio.
Here's his retirement article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, April 2, 1998
SO LONG, PROTZ//BOB PROTZMAN, THE TWIN CITIES' ONLY FULL-TIME JAZZ CRITIC, IS RETIRING - ENDING A 30-YEAR CAREER AT THE PIONEER PRESS.
By Mary Ann Grossmann, Staff Writer
Bob Protzman is retiring from this newspaper Friday, after 30 years of writing everything from hard news stories to reviews of popular music, comedy and his speciality - jazz.
``Bob almost single-handedly kept the notion of jazz journalism alive in the Twin Cities for years,'' says Lowell Pickett, owner of the Dakota Bar and Grill in St. Paul, one of the premier spots to hear jazz.
``Bob's passion for jazz, his knowledge about it and his strong belief it was important placed him among the leading jazz journalists in the country.''
Almost as soon as Protzman walked into the city room of the old St. Paul Dispatch in 1967, he was known as ``the Erie kid'' because he grew up in that Pennsylvania town. To this day, he's passionately attached to the two major sports teams closest to Erie - the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Steelers - as well as the Boston Red Sox, the team for which his hero, Ted Williams, played.
``Bob used to give us lectures about how the Midwest was not as sophisticated as the East Coast,'' recalls Pioneer Press business reporter George Beran with affection. ``He's always been a fastidious dresser, proud of his Windsor knot, and that was another part of his East Coast civilization routine.''
Since Protz is a bachelor, it wasn't unusual for his colleagues to overhear him talking to women on the telephone in the deep, smooth voice he honed while hosting radio shows. The office joke is that whenever a woman's name was mentioned, Protz was almost sure to say, ``I think I dated her once.''
Local music promoter Sue McLean thinks she really did date him once.
``I've been a huge Protz fan for 25 years,'' McLean says. ``I always kid him about his love life. Working with him has been fun.
``You have to sit through the part where he gives you grief, of course, but it's always educational, because he knows everything about jazz. In this business, where people don't get to be friends, he was always genuinely concerned about how you were doing. He's warm, gracious - and a bad boy.''
Protz's career began at the Erie Morning News, where he covered everything from crime and courts to suburban government.
``My proudest moment was sharing a national award for a series of articles that led to the appointment of a public defender in Erie County,'' he recalls. ``That set the tone for the kind of reporter I would become, someone interested in calling attention to the problems of people who are treated unjustly or simply overlooked, and giving them a voice in the newspaper.
``Maybe that's why I was drawn to writing about jazz, a minority music that's been neglected. And people kid me about being a sexist, but I've been a champion of women jazz musicians and female comics.''
Following that philosophy, Protz asked to cover human and civil rights when he first came to the Dispatch (an afternoon paper that was later merged into the Pioneer Press.) The work he's proudest of from those years includes an ahead-of-its-time series, ``The Negro and St. Paul,'' in which black people talked about their lives here.
``Many people don't know that Protz pushed hard to get more coverage of minority groups in the newspaper in the '60s and '70s,'' says Pioneer Press business reporter Aron Kahn. ``This was not a newspaper-wide mission then, as it is today, but rather Protz's dedication to do what's right - to try to give equal coverage, and therefore equal respect, to all segments of the community.''
Adds agribusiness reporter Lee Egerstrom: ``Protz is the liberal arts, eclectic reporter of yesteryear, greatly interested in and knowledgeable about a heck of a lot of subjects.''
The second part of Protzman's career - as an entertainment writer and critic - began in the most casual way, when he noticed in 1968 that there wasn't much coverage of popular music in the Dispatch or Pioneer Press.
``I simply asked the city editor if I could do some writing about music, and the reply was, `Sure, as long as it doesn't interfere with your news reporting,''' he recalls. ``That's the way it went back then, when many newspapers considered arts and entertainment fluff rather than real news.''
His first published review was of the Buddy Rich Band, appearing at the old Prom Center on University Avenue. Written with what Protz describes as ``all the cockiness and inexperience a rookie could muster,'' that review won a Page One award from the Twin Cities Newspaper Guild. (During his years at this paper, Protz won three more Page One awards, as well as five second-place and three third-place awards.)
By 1976, Protzman had convinced the newspaper's bosses to pay more attention to entertainment and was named editor of a two-page section called Audience, the forerunner of this paper's arts and entertainment section, Showtime.
When he became a full-time arts/entertainment writer in '77, Protz did interviews, previews and reviews, as well as a column, ``Today's Sounds.'' His work earned him induction into the Minnesota Jazz Hall of Fame, one of only two nonmusicians so honored, and he helped found the Twin Cities Jazz Society.
Protz is as proficient behind a radio mike as he is at writing. He hosted jazz and sports shows in Erie, and provided color commentary for basketball and football games. So it was natural that from 1988 to '92, he produced and hosted a jazz show on KTCJ-AM in the Twin Cities. That show was dropped in a format change, but he returned to the air in 1993, when he began a show on KBEM-FM (88.5) that's heard every Monday - which will be continued.
``Bob is a good radio host. He's real and valid, and you can sense his dedication and interest,'' says Leigh Kamman, whom Protzman called ``a dean of American jazz broadcasters.'' Kamman's show airs on KSJN-FM.
Although Protz was once voted ``the grumpiest man downtown,'' and his fights with editors are legendary, his colleagues and some of the people he covered through the years know he'd give you the crisply ironed designer shirt off his back if you asked for it.
``Bob really saved me emotionally at one point in my life,'' recalls Arne Fogel, local radio broadcaster and musician.
``On my 40th birthday, I received the worst review I've ever had in my life. It was devastating. Three days later, Bob reviewed the album. He gave it a rave. I've been grateful ever since. He's written me up on a number of occasions, and he always does so with respect.''
Now that Protz has mastered his home computer, he's ready to sail into retirement. After surviving two heart attacks in four years, his health is stable, and he's planning to spend the summer visiting family in Texas and Pennsylvania.
Then he'll do free-lance articles for Down Beat, the internationally distributed monthly jazz magazine, and occasional reviews for the Pioneer Press.
Note for Protzman fans ... Bob Protzman is retiring but will continue to write occasional reviews of jazz performances and CDs, plus some other articles for the Pioneer Press and Pioneer Planet. In addition, he will continue his Monday radio show, 7-10 p.m. on KBEM-FM (88.5).
Copyright (c) 1998 St. Paul Pioneer Press
A FITTING TRIBUTE
Here's a great article published in Erie Life Magazine, April 9, 2007
The Jazz Man: Bob Prozman
By Sean McCracken
Most newspapers are not in the habit of employing full-time jazz reporters, and when Bob Protzman, now 72, left the Erie Morning-News in 1967 to work as a general assignment reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the paper did not even have an entertainment section. In 1977, the paper began a Thursday-only entertainment section, and Protzman was named a full-time arts and entertainment writer. “The reviews kept building and the music scene kept building” says Protzman.
Protzman parlayed his initial entertainment writing success into becoming one of only a handful of newspaper writers dedicated to covering jazz and would continue in that capacity until his retirement from the Pioneer Press in 1998, interviewing some of the greatest names in the history of jazz, including legends like Ella Fitzgerald, with whom Protzman quickly bonded by using his impressive knowledge of the genre. “(Fitzgerald) said ‘See me after the concert. Please come backstage.’ I usually didn’t do that I’d try to keep and arm’s distance so I could be objective... but she’s the ‘first lady of song.’ She’s probably the greatest female singer in American popular music history.”
Returning to Erie in 2003, Protzman has become and integral part of the Erie Jazz scene, both by working with JazzErie to bring renowned jazz artists and bands to town and being a fixture on Eire jazz radio, first on WQLN and no on Mercyhurst new jazz-only station JAZZ FM 88.5. “If I heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times, ‘Oh I’m interested in jazz, but I don’t understand it. I don’t know enough about it” And I say, ‘well listen to it.’ “That’s the only way you learn about my music,” says Protzman. “That’s why we’re so excited about this station being here. We’re hoping a lot of people will accidently tune it in.”
Protzman originally approached the station about just doing a jazz program, but when they switched to doing jazz exclusively, he found it to be a pleasant surprise. “I’m affirm believer that jazz is the most beautiful, most varied music in the world. Under that little four-letter word, there is so much music. It equals classical music in its breadth and its depth.”
Some of Protzman’s earliest childhood memories include falling asleep to the sounds of big bands playing on the radio. To Protzman a love of jazz is a love of music, and he believes that to truly appreciate it, you can’t just leave it on in the background. “I’m talking about having an iPod stuck in your ear while you’re doing five other things. To me, that’s not listening.”
And according to Protzman, if you truly love music, it will put its stamp on your life. “It’s always a struggle with jazz’” he says. “It’s a struggle to get it covered. It’s a struggle to get it on the air. It’s a struggle to gain acceptance for it. Jazz is a wonderful thing. I recommend it to everybody.”
Copyright, Erie Life Magazine
ANOTHER GIFT FROM BOB
Here's another gift from Bob, his list of 15 personal picks of CDs to listen to.
HINT: You can find them in the collection he donated to the Blasco Library.
15 Very Personal Picks
By Bob Protzman
December, 2009 Erie Life Magazine
Neither necessarily historic nor the best, these recordings nevertheless are among my favorites. It must have something to do with first impressions, because when most of these were released—the 1950s-60s-- they were played again and again, casting a spell on an impressionable young man still in the wonderment stage of discovering that intriguing, multifaceted music called jazz. The spell endures.
Miles Davis: “Kind of Blue’’ (Columbia) 1959: Transcendent—five note-perfect, bluesy, swinging, sensitive compositions from the legendary Miles played superbly by seven master musicians. Plus it’s accessible enough for even jazz virgins.
Ella Fitzgerald: “The Complete Ella in Berlin’’ (Verve)
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: “Moanin’ ‘’ (Blue Note) I became an AB & the JM fan the instant I heard Blakey’s thunderous drums and soulful, grooving “hard bop’’ band doing “Blues March’’circa 1960. Here is the must have Blakey album.
Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing: “But Not For Me’’ (Chess/MCA)
Errol Garner: “Concert By the Sea’’ (Columbia) Pride of Pittsburgh Pianist No. 2, Garner sounds like no-one else. Elfin in size, yet commanding at the keyboard, he plays with unmatched exuberance and dynamics. Here’s a marvelous 195? concert from Carmel, CA.
Sonny Rollins: “The Bridge’’ (RCA) Known for his straightahead, non-stop tenor saxophone improvisations, Rollins here plays standards and originals that are more arranged, and inventively so. He and the brilliant guitarist Jim Hall are marvelous partners.
Charles Mingus: “Mingus Ah Um’’ (Columbia). Mingus was something of a wild man—volatile might be a good word—and so was much of his music. Raucous, roaring, joyous, breathtaking, this is an unforgettable listening experience.
Horace Silver: “The Cape Verdean Blues’’ (Blue Note) Pianist Silver was the master at crafting catchy tunes, usually performed by a crack quintet with a funky, soulful feel. Added here are trombone legend J.J. Johnson and some irresistible “island’’ rhythms.
Count Basie: “Atomic Basie’’ (BMG) The swingingest band in the land for decades—at any tempo! Here in 19??, we get brilliant examples, both super fast (“The Kid from Red Bank’’) and slow (“Lil’ Darlin’ ‘’).
Louis Armstrong: “Ambassador Satch’’ (Columbia) Recorded at various spots during a European tour, it was released around the time that, at 18, I heard Armstrong’s terrific 1950s band in concert, and also got to shake the great Satchmo’s hand.
Dizzy Gillespie: “Have Trumpet, Will Travel’’ (Verve) A virtuoso and showman, Diz awed musicians and delighted fans. He tones down his blistering be-bop attack here a tad for some artful playing (open and muted) on a hip set of cleverly arranged standards.
Dave Brubeck Quartet: “Jazz Goes to College’’ (SONY) Never mind “Take Five,’’ Brubeck ranks among jazz’s giants because he took jazz to college students (why isn’t that happening now?) and helped create an entire generation of jazz fans, including yours truly.
The Gerry Mulligan Quartet: “What Is There to Say?’’ (Columbia Legacy) Quintessential “cool’’ jazz—subtly swinging, full of chamber-like counterpoint among the super simpatico baritone saxist, trumpeter Art Farmer, bassist Bill Crow and drummer Dave Bailey.
Stan Getz: “Focus’’ (Verve) All other “strings’’ jazz albums pale in comparison with this exhilarating encounter featuring a tour de force performance by tenor saxophone giant Getz and the strings.
Woody Herman: “Woody Herman – 1963’’ (Verve) Woody’s big band—more than any other—never sounded dated. Long after hits like “Woodchopper’s Ball’’ and “Four Brothers,’’ everything came together perfectly decades later to produce one of Woody’s greatest albums.
Robert L. Protzman
1958-67: Part time radio announcer and show host at several different Erie, Pa. commercial stations. Began reading news, then hosted a variety of music shows, including jazz programs from around 1962-67, when moved to St. Paul, MN.
In Erie, also produced and hosted a 15-minute sports show, and did color commentary on local high school basketball and football games.
1993-2001: Produced and hosted a three-hour (sometimes four) jazz show on Mondays from 7-10 p.m. on KBEM-FM (88.5), Minneapolis/St. Paul, a public station operated by the Minneapolis Public Schools. The show was the station’s highest rated evening program, either first or second at raising funds during pledge drives (usually beaten by a Saturday morning bluegrass program), and was underwritten by such major sponsors as Starbucks Coffee and Northwest Airlines.
2005-2012: Producer/Host of “Everything Jazz,’’ 9 to midnight Sundays, on NPR station WQLN-FM (91.3), Erie.
1959-67: Was a news anchor for a year at the CBS affiliate (WSEE) in Erie, when the station broadcast from the newsroom of the Erie Morning News. Also was a “booth’’ announcer for the NBC affiliate (WICU) in Erie.
1990s: Hosted and did commentary for a five-part series on local jazz musicians for Cable Access TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul (the Twin Cities), produced and directed by David Zierott. The series earned a national Cable Access award.
1959-67: Erie Morning News, Erie, Pa. General assignment reporter; suburban, county government and courts, and city government beats; weekly radio/TV column (Audio & Video); once-a-week general column (Good Morning).
1967-1998: St. Paul, MN. Pioneer Press
1967-77: General assignment reporter; covered human and civil rights; elementary-secondary education, courts; part-time pop/rock/jazz critic and columnist. Column ("Today's Sounds'') appeared in the Sunday St. Paul Pioneer Press.
1977-1998 Fulltime arts/entertainment critic/columnist/feature writer, specializing in jazz and non-rock popular music that included interviews and recording and concert reviews. Was one of the few fulltime jazz writers on a daily newspaper in the U.S.. Interviewed and reviewed many of the greatest jazz artists in the world three or so times a week at the Dakota Bar and Jazz Club, one of the major jazz venues in the U.S., formerly located in St. Paul, now in downtown Minneapolis.
Was one of the first daily newspaper writers to cover standup comedy, establishing it as a regular beat in Minneapolis/St. Paul, beginning in 1978 and continuing through 1998.
Retired in 1998 from fulltime work at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, but continued through 2001 to write weekly (Sunday) reviews of jazz recordings.
1998-2007: Freelance jazz writer/critic/broadcaster. Wrote jazz CD reviews from 2001-2005 for the Sunday Pittsburgh, PA. Post-Gazette
2003-Present: Write interviews/previews of jazz artists and occasional jazz CD reviews for the Erie Times-News Thursday Showcase A&E section.
1971-76 and 1990-Present: Down Beat magazine writer, reviewer and correspondent, doing interviews, profiles, features, news, and concert and club reviews.
Early 1970s: Wrote features and recording and concert reviews, and was a contributing editor for “Mpls.,’’ a monthly Twin Cities magazine, as well as its predecessor, “Twin Citian.’’ During the same period, also wrote features and reviews for the “Insider,’’ still another Twin Cities monthly music publication.
1998-2001: Wrote jazz previews for the Twin Cities weekly newspaper City Pages.
HONORS AND AWARDS
ERIE, PA. MORNING NEWS:
1965: The Emery A. Brownell Award from the National Public Defender and Legal Aid Association, Chicago, for coverage leading to the establishment of a public defender system in Erie County, PA. Shared with the late Garth Minegar of the Erie Daily Times.
1967: Cited for a series of articles on derelicts and alcoholism leading to the establishment of several halfway houses in Erie, Pa. for the care and treatment of problem drinkers and the homeless. The program, featured in a Parade magazine article, and recognized as a national model.
1964: After undergoing open heart surgery in 1963 at Hamot Hospital in Erie, was asked to take and accepted directorship of the public relations campaign for the Erie County Heart Association’s annual fund raising drive. The drive easily topped its goal.
ST. PAUL, MN. DISPATCH AND PIONEER PRESS:
1968: First Place Page One Award, Critical Comment, for a review of a Buddy Rich concert.
1969: Honorable Mention Page One Award, Series, for articles on slum housing in St. Paul.
1971: First Place, Page One Award, Breaking News, for story on tight deadline about the end of the postal strike in Minneapolis.
1972: Third Place, Page One Award, Breaking News, for story on the first national black police conference, held in St. Paul.
1973: First Place, Page One Awards, Series, for articles on the innovative St. Paul Open School.
1974: Third Place, Page One Awards, Series, for articles exploring whether or not there would (or should) be amnesty for Vietnam War resisters and deserters.
Mid-1970s: Two Minnesota School Bell Awards given by the Minnesota Education Association—one for a series of articles on the St. Paul Open School, the other for a series on alternative education in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
1975: Second Place, Page One Award, Critical Comment, for review of jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.
1983: Second Place, Page One Award, Arts and Criticism, for a review of singers Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert.
1984: Second Place, Page One Award, Arts and Criticism, for a review of comedian Red Skelton.
1990: First Place, Page One Award, Arts and Criticism, for interview-feature on comedian Henny Youngman.
(NOTE: Page One Awards are open to all Minnesota journalists, and entries are judged at other U.S. newspapers.)
OTHER ACTIVITIES AND HONORS:
1981: One of the founding members and a board member of the Twin Cities Jazz Society.
1986: Founding member of the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA), an international organization currently with about 500 members.
1988: Inducted into the Minnesota Jazz Hall of Fame, one of only two non-musicians so honored among the then 30-plus members.
2000: Received the locally-prestigious Connie Hechter Award from the Minnesota Music Academy for significant contributions to the Twin Cities and Minnesota music scenes by a non-musician/non-performer.
2003-2005: Board member of JazzErie, an organization of jazz musicians, educators and fans in the Erie, Pa. region. Wrote for and co-edited JazzErie’s monthly newsletter (“Jazz Notes’’).
2003: Produced (selected the artists, their fees, venues, etc.) a complete 9-month season of jazz, a first in JazzErie’s then 10-year history.
2005-Present: Member of JazzErie’s Performance Committee, which chooses artists, selects venues, and helps promote/market a Concert Season of approximately 9 shows (Sept.-April).
NOTE: Artists have included such nationally known and critics poll and Grammy Award winning performers as organist Joey DeFrancesco, saxophonist Joe Lovano, vocalist Karrin Allyson, bassist Buster Williams, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, drummer Lenny White, singers Kevin Mahogany and (Brazilian) Kenia, Dave Brubeck Quartet saxophonist Bobby Militello, guitarist Larry Coryell, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, saxophonists Greg Abate, Richie Cole, James Carter, and Dave Liebman.
JazzErie also has co-sponsored with other promoters and local colleges and universities performances by the late trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, the all-female DIVA Jazz Orchestra, David Pietro, Maria Schneider, singer Robin McKelle and others.
2006-2007: Collaborated with Erie drummer Joe Dorris in choosing nationally known jazz musicians for a once-a-month series of performances at the Papermoon Restaurant, Gallery and Jazz Club in downtown Erie. Artist roster includes acclaimed young trumpeter Sean Jones, veteran be-bop saxophonist Greg Abate, Pittsburgh drummer Joe Harris, noted Canadian singer-pianist Cheryl Hodge, renowned guitarist Larry Coryell, saxophonist Pete Mills, trombonist Jay Ashby and (wife) Kim Nazarian of the New York Voices, et al.
June 27, 2014