Keeping Latin Grooves Alive: A Ritmo Bello Interview with KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM’s Chris Springer

Friday, July 8, 2011

San Diego is blessed by many things.  Great weather all year around, a great Latin dance scene, and of course the wonderful people who share their passion for Latin music with the world.  One such person is Chris Springer, host of KSDS Jazz 88.3’s Latin Grooves.  Chris’ radio program promotes and educates the world about Latin music every week  from a studio here locally in San Diego.  I had a chance to talk with Chris about his experiences on his radio program and how he helps keep the Latin groove alive.

Special thanks to Roman Castro Photography for providing the fine photos you see throughout the interview of Chris Springer.

John ;-)

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Ritmo Bello:  Chris, it’s great to finally sit down with you and to learn about what you do here in San Diego. Let’s begin. What led you to start working at KSDS Jazz 88.3?

Chris Springer:  Well , I was going through a transition of my life.  I was going through a divorce and did not know what I was going to do.   So I decided to go back to college and I enrolled at City College.

One of my friends was doing a project in his radio and television class and needed an actor for his final, which was a commercial.  I have an acting background from doing commercials on television so he asked me to help him.  Well he got an “A “on his final , but the professor asked “who was the other guy”?   That was me and he told my friend “hey that guy was really good and he has a wonderful voice “.  It got back to me and I decided maybe I should try it so I enrolled in radio and TV classes and started doing the morning sports on KSDS Jazz 88.3 at  7 am and 8 am.  KSDS  began giving me little stuff like reading spots on the air.  Joe Kocherhans was our program director at the time and offered me a 9-12 am morning  jazz show.  I was let’s just say raw, cause i was not very good but Joe stuck with me.  He thought I was playing really good music because  I do have a jazz background, he always told me to let the music speak for itself…the year was 2000…

Ritmo Bello:   I understand that you first started “salsa hour” back in 2003. How did that come about and what was the listener response?

Chris Springer:  I was doing my jazz show now for 3 years now and things were going good, but Fred Ubaldo was doing a latin jazz show from 11-12 am on Mondays called “Jazz Latino”.  Fred is a amazing bassist and composer who really knows Latin music.  Fred was not happy there so he decided to leave the station and being a Latino myself with knowledge of some of the music they asked me to develop a Latin show.   So it was Joe Kocherhans again who said “well let’s call it the salsa hour and see what happens”.  I said yes I would love to even though I thought to ‘myself how am i gonna do this?’ …So the listener response was slow at first because I was playing a lot of Latin jazz even though it was the ” salsa hour “.   I went out and started to buy as much salsa music I could find, I knew the people like Puente and Palmieri but I did a lot of research watching documentarys and so on…..thats when people started responding in a big way.

Ritmo Bello: For people who may want to tune into your show Latin Grooves on Saturdays what can they expect to hear?

Chris Springer:  Latin Grooves is on Saturdays from 12-3 pm.   After the salsa hour the station decided to give me another hour so they came up with another name for the show, Latin Grooves.  The name sounded good because I wanted to cover all types of Latin music.  My idea was to play Afro-Cuban, Salsa Classics, Mambo, Boogaloo, Cuban Salsa, and Latin jazz. It turned out to be a great ideas since that format took off like crazy!!!  People were calling and listening to the show saying how much they were digging the Latin grooves.  As a result the station decided to give me that third hour based on the public calling and e-mails that were coming like crazy.    So on Saturdays expect to dance your ass off!  It’s kind of funny because I have a lot of women listeners who tell me that they are at home cleaning the house and dancing at home.  So it is dance oriented…

Ritmo Bello: In your opinion how is Latin Jazz different from what people identify as salsa music today?

Chris Springer:  Salsa music is really different in many ways from Latin jazz.  With Latin jazz you would most likely sit down and listen to all the music.  It’s a more artistic, creative and a beautiful musical art form.  Salsa music is street ! In your face!   Dance, sexy, it’s very powerful and you just can’t sit down and watch.  I love it!

Ritmo Bello: I know that part of what you do for the public is to educate on the history of Latin music. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned and shared with listeners on the radio concerning this music?

Chris Springer:  I love to share some of the amazing stories about the people who really were innovators of this music and there are some great stories about this art form we call salsa music from the Fania days in NYC to today.  The most surprising thing that I have learned actually happened about a year ago.  I was watching a documentary about the great Cuban bassist “Cachao” on KPBS and found out that the song “Oye Como Va”, the song that Tito Puente and Carlos Santana had big hits on their own,  was actually Cachao’s  song.  Puente and Santana were both saying they wrote the song but it was actually Cachao who created the song first.

Ritmo Bello:   Being a radio personality here in San Diego I know that you also interviewed some key figures in salsa and Latin Jazz. Could you share with me some of your most memorable interviews and what about them you remember?

Chris Springer:  Wow, I have been blessed to interview some of the biggest names in Latin music like Eddie Palmieri, Poncho Sanchez, Arturo Sandoval, Jack Costanzo, Pat Rodriguez, Oscar Hernandez, Angel Lebron, Johnny Polanco, Jose Madra., Pete Escovedo and so many more I can’t remember all of them.  Poncho Sanchez was really cool because he did 3 hours on my show with me!!!  But one person that sticks out in my mind is Arturo Sandoval because he has an amazing story about how he had to leave Cuba.  About 1 minute before the interview he tells me NO questions about Cuba so I had to throw away all my questions and just wing it.  It turned out pretty good despite what had happened…

Ritmo Bello: On a personal note Chris, what’s been the most rewarding aspect of working at Jazz 88.3?

Chris Springer:  Working at KSDS  Jazz 88.3 FM has been so amazing because I get to play this wonderful music all the time and go to concerts for free!!! Ha ha…no but all kidding aside this station is a Marconi award winning radio station.   I get to meet and hangout with some amazing artist.  The station let’s me have the freedom to play whatever I want and to make this show the best in San Diego and around the world. I guess it is like being on a championship team in sports and knowing your organization is number one every year.

Ritmo Bello:   Apart from your DJ duties I understand that you are asked to emcee many events. What are some of the venues and events you’ve been asked to lend your talents?

Chris Springer:  One of the perks of having a very popular show is being asked to make appearances everywhere from San Diego to LA.  I do get a lot of that, some of the places like Anthology where I emcee all the Latin shows there.  One of the shows I recently emcee’d was the Dia de San Juan Salsa Festival in Point Loma on June 25th. Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Conjunto Costazul were great.  It’s always a lot of fun to meet my listeners and sometimes have a drink with them…

Ritmo Bello:   In your opinion, what is the best thing about the salsa and Latin Jazz scene here in San Diego?

Chris Springer:  The best thing about salsa in San Diego is that there is a major dance comunity here!  But I do have a small problem with some of the dancers here in San Diego.  Some of them don’t care if there is a band or dj, they just wanna dance.  I feel that they should learn the history of this amazing art called salsa music.  Back in the late 60’s and 70’s people only wanted to see live bands and they knew all the band members, what they played, who they played with and all the singers! As for Latin jazz there is not as good of a following here and a lot of places because it is really going through bad times when comes to Latin jazz.  For instance the Grammys eliminated the category of Latin jazz from its awards categories and that’s just not right  They are even having protests all around the country as we speak about this very change.

Ritmo Bello: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Ritmo Bello readers about you and your work that we haven’t covered yet?

Chris Springer:  First of all I wanna say that what you are doing is fantastic here with Ritmo Bello.  You are keeeping this music alive! That’s what I am trying to acomplish, because I am not getting rich off this….  To the dancers, please learn how this music came about and who were the innovators of this music. Most of all this next fact is VERY important ! If it were not for the American art form called JAZZ this music would have never had come about.

Ritmo Bello: What contact information can I share with the salsa and Latin Jazz community in case anyone wants to contact you?

Chris Springer:  If you ever want to contact me it is very easy.  I have my own Facebook page and also a ” The latin Grooves Show ”  fan page as well. You can email me at,  say hi to me at any Latin show here in San Diego and of course through KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM here on the campus of San Diego city college…

Ritmo Bello: Chris it was great talking with you today. I’ll be listening to you on your Latin Grooves show.

Chris Springer:  Thank you John! The best guide to salsa dancing in San Diego is Ritmo Bello!! ” Keep it salsa dura”!

Latin Jazz is Alive and Well in San Diego

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chris Springer of Latin Grooves Radio Show

Ever heard of “Latin Grooves”?  If you haven’t you are missing out.

Latin Grooves, a local radio show that airs 1 to 3pm Saturdays on Jazz 88.3, delivers what many people in San Diego wish we had more of on the radio:  salsa music and all types of Latin jazz.  Broadcasting since 1951, the station is the only 24 hour all jazz radio station to devote a segment of its programming to Latin jazz for the benefit of San Diego listeners.

The main DJ for Latin Grooves, Chris Springer (pictured here in this post), was recently highlighted in an article that appeared today in the Del Mar Times .  As described in the article, Springer has a knack for not just playing Latin jazz but also educating the public on the origins and synthesis of the music over the years.

Although a local station, Jazz 88.3 has worldwide reach through the internet with a fan base ranging from New York to throughout Latin America.  To find out more information check out the Jazz 88.3 website or set your dial to the radio program Saturday afternoons.

Thanks to Chris Springer and Jazz 88.3 for keeping Latin Jazz alive here in San Diego!

John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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