Lee’s Summit’s Joe Dimino has endless energy for jazz.
An ex-sportswriter with a flair for technology and a passion for all things jazz, Dimino and his wife, Amanda, moved to Lee’s Summit this past January with their children, Jilly and Miles (yes, named for that Miles Davis).
And with his move, Dimino brought with him “Neon Jazz,” a now 9-plus-year running podcast that bills itself as “giving listeners a journey into one of America’s finest inventions — jazz.”
The world of jazz is indeed his playground.
And although the pandemic has separated Dimino and his usual co-host, fellow jazz enthusiast and former chief engineer at Entercom Radio, John Christopher, the show certainly goes on for Neon Jazz, with episode No. 671 hitting the air on Oct. 21.
Dimino and Christopher started Neon Jazz in the basement of Christopher’s home on April 26, 2011. A studio they longingly called “Signal Hole,” they kicked off the first of hundreds of episodes with a lively Lionel Hampton track from 1937 called “Jivin’ the Vibes.” Since that time, Dimino has interviewed thousands of jazz musicians and featured the music of countless legends and up-and-comers in the jazz scene.
When COVID-19 hit and separated Dimino and Christopher, the show moved to Dimino’s Lee’s Summit home, where he found a pandemic respite in doing what he loves most — talking jazz with the jazz greats.
“A lot of these cats I interviewed, over a three month period, I did hundreds,” Dimino said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do when the pandemic hit. I started reaching out and talking to these musicians. Incredible amounts of rawness coming out. They are some of the most humble, grounded people around. A level of raw that’s off the charts, especially with them not being able to do live music.”
Show No. 671 kicked off with Maria Scheinder, a four-time Grammy winner and composer with a new CD out. And Dimino is just as jazzed about her interview as he was in the beginning.
Talking jazz with Joe is like talking sports with Bob Costas. And, not surprisingly, sports is where Dimino got his start.
Joe and I worked together for a few years at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s student newspaper, the U-News, when I was a sports editor back in the early-to-mid 1990s.
Back then, Joe and I would spend our afternoons listening to Don Fortune and sports-talk radio and our evenings covering the Kangaroos’ basketball, softball, golf and track teams.
“With journalism, when you have that bug, you never get rid of that,” Dimino said.
After his college stint, Dimino worked in journalism and radio, co-hosting at a college station at Park University and later authoring stories for the Jackson County Advocate newspaper in Grandview and south Kansas City.
But it was a stuffed racoon that brought Dimino in contact with Christopher, and, eventually, Neon Jazz.
“At a thrift store, I bought a stuffed raccoon radio, all you could get was AM,” Dimino said, referencing KCXL AM 1140 and John Christopher, “and I did a piece on John, after the article came out, he said let’s have coffee and talk.
“I had no idea that he lived four blocks from my house. He said, get a script and come on by. It was always a late dream of mine. We cultivated a friendship and cultivated a radio show.”
In more than nine years, they’ve featured 1,213 jazz musicians.
“You think about those milestones, too,” Dimino said, “five hundred was a big one for us. Then 600 and soon it will be 700.”
Dimino has the only podcast in Lee’s Summit dedicated to jazz. And with the pandemic keeping his kids home more, Miles (at Miller Park) and Jilly (Lee’s Summit High School) have been able to see and hear the show prep firsthand.
“Both of them have had an opportunity during the pandemic to listen to my interviews with jazz artists in Paris, London, Sweden, Holland, both of the coasts, and they gain a new perspective of the world through those interviews,” Dimino said, adding that gaining that perspective of how the world, globally, was dealing with this was a good way of keeping spirits up.
“It’s like going for a walk or exercising or writing, a part of doing what makes you a healthy human on the planet,” he said. “Very much a part of being alive.”
Dimino’s latest audio conquest is David Billingsley, a black jazz pianist that has captured worldwide attention.
“He’s a beacon in the world and in the black music community,” Dimino noted. “We were supposed to run into each other.”
And as much as his adoration for jazz is evident in every word, Dimino’s love for his new hometown is equally apparent.
“We’re still running into new things and it’s a really, really nice community. It’s really good to be here,” he said, noting his love for downtown spots like Konrad’s and admiration for the sign recognizing world-renowned jazz guitarist and Lee’s Summit native Pat Metheny.
“I’ve done a lot of interviews by the fountain downtown, and by the Metheny sign, and everybody in the jazz world knows that he’s from Lee’s Summit,” Dimino said. “One of the original calling cards for Lee’s Summit, from the music sense, is Pat Metheny.”
Neon Jazz can be found on KCXL 102.9 FM, KPGZ 102.7 and out of the Mutual Musicians Foundation at 104.7 KOJH in the heart of 18th & Vine Jazz District. http://theneonjazz.blogspot.com/