Hubbard adds smooth jazz to HD mix

Rick O'Dell

Rick O’Dell

Chicago’s premier smooth jazz programmer is teaming up with Chicago’s premier radio station group to bring the mellow music format to HD Radio.

Rick O’Dell’s SmoothJazzChicago.net will be simulcast on Hubbard Radio’s WTMX 101.9 HD2, the secondary digital audio channel linked with the modern adult contemporary station, starting at noon Tuesday.

O’Dell, who pioneered smooth jazz in Chicago and was its signature voice for more than 25 years at WNUA FM 95.5 and WLFM LP 87.7, launched the site as a free 24/7 streaming digital station in November 2012. In addition to O’Dell, SmoothJazzChicago.net features Bill Cochran, Scott Adams and Patti Genko.

“We are thrilled to partner with Rick and his very high quality programming of ‘Smooth Jazz Chicago’ and look forward to bringing this product to many starved Chicago smooth jazz fans at 101.9 FM HD2,” Greg Solk, senior vice president of programming for Hubbard Radio, said in a statement. “Rick has proven through the years to be a masterful programmer of jazz music and he’s beloved by Chicagoans. Welcome aboard!”

To accommodate “Smooth Jazz Chicago,” Hubbard will move the all-’80s format “Totally ’80s” from WTMX 101.9 HD2 to WILV 100.3 HD2, replacing “The Voice of Russia.” Hubbard’s third station, WDRV FM 97.1, will continue to air “Deep Tracks” on WDRV 97.1 HD2.

For O’Dell, the move brings him back to where he started smooth jazz in February 1987 as host of “The Sunday Lite Brunch” on what was then Bonneville Broadcasting’s WCLR. Seven months later, WNUA hit the air with a full-time smooth jazz format and soon after hired O’Dell as music director and midday host. He’s been synonymous with the genre ever since. WCLR subsequently became WTMX and was acquired by Hubbard.

“With this affiliation, smooth jazz has come full circle in Chicago,” O’Dell said. “’Smooth Jazz Chicago’ gets to extend its brand by partnering with one of the most respected companies in the industry. Hubbard Radio gets some unique, branded, local content. And smooth jazz listeners in Chicago get a new terrestrial option for listening to their favorite music. I’m thrilled and grateful that we could do this.”

To hear the secondary programming channels, listeners have to buy HD Radio receivers. Almost 17.5 million HD Radio receivers have been sold, with more than 15 million factory-installed in new cars or auto aftermarket units, according to iBiquity Digital Corporation, developer of HD Radio Technology.