Radio Free Newport

Imagine an A.M. radio station broadcasting jazz, blues and comedy records from sunrise to sunset while floating in the Ohio River.

From 1962 to 2000 the Vontz family brought this gift to the people of Greater Cincinnati and changed the director's life forever.

Welcome to thirty minutes of "The Act of Radio".

  • Christopher Braig
    Jimmy McGary The Best Jazz You Never Heard
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    31 minutes 48 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    November 30, 2020
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Christopher Braig

Christopher Braig, born Covington, Kentucky, 1966, is the first saxophonist to win a New York Jazz Film Festival award in the category of “Best Director” and six weeks later debut a CD of experimental, original music at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn. Recent performances include Silvana in Harlem with German/American musicians Peter Knoll and Christian Finger and with American singer/pianist Lauren Lee, with Italian vocalist Marilena Paradisi at The Lilypad and Third Life Studio in Boston, Monticello Street Fest in Chicago, with his own group at Cafe Vivace and at The Point with Sicialian vocalist Laura Campisi in Cincinnati.

Christopher’s first album of his own compositions Blue Morpho came out in 2016. The 2020 version contains new material and recombinations of the original five songs. Like the artist Robert Rauschenberg, Braig seeks to work in collage using his own compositions, improvisations, films, photos and experiences to create new works of art.

Inspired by the "field recording of Alan Lomax Christopher works by the David Bowie axiom, “There is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.”

Christopher recorded In Your Maze with the New York City based group Breathe-Live in 2018 at Brooklyn Bull Studios. Braig has written more than three hundred works ranging from radio jingles to Your Inner Fish, an “evolutionary symphony” in celebration of Charles Darwin for jazz orchestra.

Braig’s first documentary film Jimmy McGary The Best Jazz You Never Heard was selected to appear on the inaugural offerings of The BeBop Channel, the only all jazz content media service in the world. He was selected as one of first featured artists and is a voting shareholder in the company.

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Director Statement

We have two lives: the one we learn with and the one we live after that.
— Bernard Malamud

My childhood was an artistic void. The radio in the Corvair, Pinto, or Nova was always “tuned” to off. Johnny Mathis Christmas album, church every Sunday, before football of course, and maybe some Elvis when the “hifi” was hooked up for a couple weeks a decade as I recall. Never any Dylan. The Kingston Trio was as close to Coltrane as my parents ever put into the air. Mom and Dad had never heard of Ornette Coleman. The parents at my all boys high school fought to keep girls segregated at the so-called “sister” schools from taking advanced math classes with their sons. The classes were not offered at their “all girls” school.

I am unable to forget purchasing my very first recordings from the 99 Cent “cut out” bins at Everybody's Records in Cincinnati, Ohio. I had tagged along with some older kids from school who were really into progressive rock. Bands like YES and RUSH and ELP (Emerson Lake and Palmer).

It was the “Big 80’s” and the Prog Rock kids didn’t brutally mock me carrying my sax case or knock my books out of my hands between classes. They were the coolest kids I had ever met.

A few steps away, on the other side of the store, was a secret world I wasn’t even prepared to imagine and for reasons I will never know I was ready.

The first album I took home was Fanfare For The Warriors by The Art Ensemble of Chicago. The only “jazz” I had ever heard was on Radio Free Newport, a low power “dawn to dusk” radio station called WNOP that floated in the Ohio River.

Something about the cover captured my attention. Indoctrinated since the day I was born to believe “Warriors” played football I was being forced to waste my time and talents at their games while enduring endless practice for the halftime show on a dusty field. Right after Hector and Achilles finished up preening for their epic battles under the “Friday Night Lights” of course. It would take me decades to realize what was being taken from me.

By the next day my new favorite music in the world was driving my father crazy and the “ice bucket” record was on its way to a landfill. The process of discovery and discernment had begun. It was my musical Big Bang.