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Utah's voice of nighttime jazz is retiring and when he goes, the music is going with him.
Steve Williams, the music director and host of public-radio station KUER's jazz programming since 1984, will be retiring next month from the University of Utah, from where the station broadcasts at 90.1 FM.
Williams' last night on the air is June 30, KUER announced Thursday.
"Over the past 30-plus years, Steve has shared his encyclopedic knowledge and love of jazz music with listeners in Utah and surrounding states," KUER's general manager, John Greene, said in a statement. "He introduced all of us to the best of the best in this uniquely American art form."
The station will be pulling the jazz music from Williams' timeslot after he goes, and instead will add news and storytelling programs, KUER's content director, Tristin Tabish, said in an email Friday. The details of the new programming schedule are still being finalized.
Williams, Tabish said, "simply cannot be replaced."
Gordon Hanks, founder and president of the GAM Foundation, said Friday he was "very distressed" by KUER's decision to cancel nighttime jazz. The foundation runs the JazzSLC concert series, and Williams often touted upcoming concerts on his show.
KUER's decision is bad "not just for jazz, but for the arts community as a whole," Hanks said. "I think the responsibility of public radio is to serve the public, [and] nobody's going to listen to news between 8 p.m. and midnight."
KUER plays music on its two HD channels, with a stream of 24-hour classical music on one and the multi-genre XPoNential Radio from Philadelphia on the other.
Williams came by his love of music genetically. He was born in Manhattan's theater district, just after World War II, to parents who worked in show business his mother was a singer and dancer, his father, Murray Williams, a horn player in the big band era who played with such legends as Charlie Parker, Gene Krupa and Joe Venuti.
Steve Williams studied music at the University of Utah, and in 1979 started as a volunteer board operator at KUER. He was hired in 1984 as music director and weekday jazz host.
As KUER's jazz host, Williams has interviewed such great artists as Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and Lionel Hampton. He has emceed jazz festivals in Detroit, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Telluride, Colo. He has championed the Utah music scene, touted up-and-coming music acts, and collaborated with nonprofits and schools.
"We're very lucky to live in such a rich jazz culture here," Williams said in a statement, adding that he intends to stay connected with the musicians and organizations in Utah's jazz community.
However, Williams said he's planning on spending more time with his wife, Vicki. "I've been at it for over 30 years, and I've loved every minute of it. But I'll turn 70 next year, and my wife is looking forward to having me home each night. She's as ready as I am to begin this next chapter in our lives."
KUER and Excellence in the Community will give Williams a fitting send-off, a free jazz concert celebrating his tenure at the University of Utah. The concert is set for Thursday, June 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., Salt Lake City. Guitarist Corey Christiansen and his organ trio are scheduled to perform.