New FM station hopes standards hold fresh appeal

October 22, 2005

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New FM station hopes standards hold fresh appeal
Randy Cordova
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 22, 2005 12:00 AM
Taking a cue from the song Everything Old Is New Again, standards are suddenly hip again - at least the owner of a new Valley radio station hopes so.

KRZS-FM (97.5), dubbed Star 97.5, launched last month with a new-to-the-Valley format that can be a little hard to pin down. Even owner Jeff Trumper can't precisely sum it up.

"It's a very unique sound," he says. "It's really hard to pigeonhole. It's kind of a blend of jazz and swing and contemporary standards."

What it is, basically, is standards: You know, songs by the likes of the Gershwins, Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer. The renditions will be by classic swingers (Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald), current crooners (Michael Bublé, Peter Cincotti) and aging pop stars (Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs).

That sounds simple enough. But Trumper and his company have thrown into the mix such contemporary artists as British vocalist Joss Stone. She's a great singer, but she hasn't exactly tackled the great American songbook in her career thus far.

"There really are no rules," Trumper says. "It's just a fun station. Joss Stone is very bluesy and fits in. There's no template - we're just trying to create a feeling here."

The station succeeds. It's got a casually upscale vibe to it, bringing to mind the type of music you might hear while wandering through a Pottery Barn or Starbucks. That's intentional, Trumper says.

"Those stores have been selling this music over the last couple of years," he says. "It's been moving off the shelves. But on the radio, no one else in Phoenix plays this kind of music."

KOY-AM (1230) offers standards, but there is a difference, Trumper notes. In keeping with the station's vibe, not everyone fits in. At Star 97.5, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Etta James are in; Perry Como, Andy Williams and Connie Francis are not.

"It has snap, it has tempo, it has style," Trumper says of Star 97.5, which targets listeners ages 35 to 54. "We're trying to develop a hip sound."

One reason for the station's birth is the high profile of standards, thanks to recent bestselling albums by such artists as Carly Simon, Stewart and Bublé. But Robert Unmacht, a media consultant in Nashville, says despite the popularity of those discs, he envisions the audience for Star 97.5 still skewing older.

"Most people that listen to standards are going to be older," he says. "You have some 35-year-olds listening to it, but you also have some 80-year-olds listening to rap."

That's not to say he thinks the station will fail.

"There's a very high retirement quotient in the Phoenix area," he says. "There's a lot of affluent 55-year-olds with disposable income. I think they would enjoy this."

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