Remembering Jazz Ambassador and WRTI Host Jeff Duperon

Jun 29, 2019

All of us in the WRTI family are deeply saddened to report that our dear friend and colleague, Jeff Duperon, lost his battle with cancer today, June 17th, 2019 at age 66.

Jeff dedicated his life to championing jazz and all those who loved it as he did. He was a fierce advocate for new music and the necessity for all of us to keep our ears and minds open to new artists and their music.  He introduced countless listeners to jazz and nurtured their lifelong appreciation for this music. His tireless advocacy for jazz and for WRTI, inspired all of us to work harder and stand taller knowing we never stood alone.  He will be deeply missed and never forgotten. We love you, Jeff.

Jeff's love of jazz is a legacy that has been shared, passed on, and lives on forever thanks to the thousands and thousands of people touched by him.

Tribute from WRTI General Manager Bill Johnson:

Jeff was the quintessential jazz ambassador. He was a tireless servant of this music and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for jazz.  Whether it was hosting a remote broadcast at a festival, guest-hosting for one of his colleagues, or talking to a group of listeners about who was new on the scene and why it mattered, Jeff made you a believer.  He was devoted to the gospel of jazz.

Jeff often spoke about what a joy it was to come into the station, sit in the studio, and have three or four hours immersed in the music with the audience.  For me, the joy was seeing him come in on a Friday afternoon with his briefcase full of CDs and a smile on his face.

New music was a vein that ran deep.  Sometimes he was so excited about a new artist or recording he couldn’t contain himself.  Long before he got on the air, he’d be telling me all about where they were from, who they studied with, where he first saw or heard them, and “forward promoting” for me to be listening during his show...and it was always worth tuning in.

Jeff’s programming often surprised me. He knew of performances and artists that simply caught me off guard with their artistry.  His thoughtful and sensitive programming told a story.  Every piece had a purpose in the experience he was trying to create for listeners.

Jeff’s love of jazz is a legacy that has been shared, passed on, and lives on forever thanks to the thousands and thousands of people touched by him.

His spirit is one, with the power of this music, to make the world a better place.

Obituary by Bobbi Booker:

Jeff Duperon, one of the most distinct voices in Philadelphia radio with a specialty in jazz, died on Monday afternoon, June 17th, 2019, surrounded by family and loved ones. His family confirmed the cause was cancer.

To the thousands of WRTI 90.1 listeners who regularly tuned in for Duperon, he was a suave audio architect who, for over 25 years, ushered WRTI’s presentation of jazz through the turn of the century segueing into award-winning programming in the 21st century.

In his typical fashion, Duperon seamlessly incorporated his diagnosis into his life mission as a jazz host.
 

Jeff Duperon with WRTI colleagues Bob Craig (left) and Bill Johnson at Longwood Gardens' Wine & Jazz Festival in 2016.

“Jeff was the quintessential jazz ambassador,” recalled WRTI General Manager Bill Johnson.  “He was a tireless servant of this music and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for jazz. Whether it was hosting a remote broadcast at a festival, guest-hosting for one of his colleagues, or talking to a group of listeners about who was new on the scene and why it mattered, Jeff made you a believer. He was devoted to the gospel of jazz.”

Duperon began his radio career at Louisiana's legendary WWOZ-FM as a morning drive-time announcer. After graduating from Tulane University in 1996, he moved to Philadelphia and immediately became involved with the WRTI jazz scene.

“He was from New Orleans, and right away my ears perked up because that's the seat of jazz — modern jazz and traditional jazz — so I knew that he knew his jazz,” said WRTI Jazz Host, Bob Perkins ("BP with the GM"). “He was dedicated to his work. He played a different kind of jazz, but that's jazz: Jazz has many faces. I appreciated his work, his on-air persona, the way he ran his show and his commentary.

After he played a piece of music, he would go into maybe a long commentary explaining about that particular musician or that particular piece of music. I admired him for a lot of things. He was very instrumental, no pun intended, to the station.”

As a keeper of the music culture, Duperon became an in-demand WRTI host, eventually producing and hosting a trio of eclectic shows: “In A Mellow Tone," “Jukebox Jazz,” and “Nouveau Jazz Showcase.”

WRTI Operations Director Tobias Poole reflected, “We embraced him at WRTI. He provided good music at the station and evolved to doing three different shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.”

Behind the mellifluous voice, Duperon was a technically savvy and well-informed musicologist — a Louisiana born-and-bred disc jockey and man about town — firmly dedicated to keeping alive the far reaching elements of the jazz diaspora by faithfully chronicling music and, more importantly, the people behind the music.

“Jeff was so passionate about the music that he immersed himself in it,” said WRTI Jazz Music Director Maureen Malloy, “He was a fixture in the Philly Jazz scene, a pillar of WRTI jazz. He was the first one to take new trainees under his wing to show them the ropes, and got a chuckle out of throwing them on the air to introduce themselves to the world unexpectedly. He loved nothing more than to share his knowledge of jazz, and did it in a way that only he could.”

Duperon’s multifaceted knowledge of music spanned across genres, including, but not limited to: Jazz, Blues, Latin, Cajun, Funk, R&B, Zydeco, Gospel, Classical and Funk. On social media, he appropriately dubbed himself the “Curator of Culturally Vibrant Music” and a “Guardian of the Groove.”

Johnson added, “Jeff’s programming often surprised me. He knew of performances and artists that simply caught me off guard with their artistry. His thoughtful and sensitive programming told a story. Every piece had a purpose in the experience he was trying to create for listeners."

While Duperon was not interested in adulation, his contributions to the music community were acknowledged when he received the 2018 “Philly Celebrates Jazz Award” from the city’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy.

Jeff Duperon with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney in 2018.

In addition to educating the next generation via his jazz studies program for children, Duperon served as the Board President of Jazz Bridge, a non-profit organization that provides funding and services to struggling musicians.

Duperon's finest asset, according to his colleagues, was his selflessness until his final breath in continuing to shine a light on jazz, its pioneers, and its progenitors.

"Jeff’s love of jazz is a legacy that has been shared, passed on, and lives on forever thanks to the thousands and thousands of people touched by him," said Johnson.

Jeffrey Michael Duperon is survived by his beloved wife, Yvette Duperon; four children, Jeanette Duperon, Nicole Duperon Harper, Jonathan Duperon and Valdez Bradley; eight grandchildren; one brother, Gregory Duperon, and a host of family and friends.

Memorial services will be held on July 1, 2019 at 11:00 AM at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, 2251 N. 54th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19131. A traditional New Orleans' Jazz Second Line will follow at 12:30 PM.