DJ brings Latin jazz and salsa to San Diego

Keeping Latin jazz alive and thriving is what Chris Springer sets out to do on his radio program Latin Grooves.

In his own words Springer describes his show, which airs from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays on KSDS 88.3, as “Afro-Cuban, Latin jazz and salsa mixed together and made to swing.” It’s a formula that has helped him build the show into one of the strongest programs on KSDS, said station manager Mark DeBosky.

Broadcasting from City College since 1951, Jazz 88 is the only 24-hour all jazz radio station in San Diego offering this type of programming, according to local industry sources. The station has recently been nominated by the National Association of Broadcasters for a Marconi Award as “Large Market Station of the Year.”

Springer admits that for him it’s not about awards, prestige or money.

“It’s all about the music,” he said. “I’m just happy to do my part in carrying on the legacy.”

Veteran San Diego trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos describes Springer as real, intelligent and a strong leader in helping bond San Diego’s rich community of artists.

“He’s just what San Diego needs,” Castellanos said.

Inspired by a professor who saw him in a student commercial, Springer began attending classes in broadcasting and was soon offered a position delivering sports updates for KSDS in the mornings.

Eventually catching the attention of music director Joe Kocherhans, Springer was given six months to research and develop a Latin jazz radio program. After five years behind controls, he characterized the show as “finally coming of age.” DeBosky credits the success of the show to Springer’s personality, connection to the community and his knowledge of the music.

Having grown up listening to Cal Jader, Willie Bobo, Machito and Tito Puente, Springer points out that Latin music is everywhere now.

“From car commercials to movies such as ‘Sex in the City,’ Latin Music has evolved,” Springer said. “We’re working to keep it preserved and bring in the new at the same time.”

Considered a pioneer by many local musicians, percussionist Gene “Negro” Perry has been a regular on the San Diego Latin music scene for the past 40 years. He details a musical landscape in which local talent didn’t have many outlets to showcase their music. He recalls meeting up with fellow musicians at Pepper Grove Park across from the Naval Hospital during the late 1960s to play this art form, which he defines as “the marriage of the harmonic melodies of the horns, blended together with Afro Antilles rhythms of the drums.”

Perry said Springer really does his research on the artists that he plays.

“He’s gives good insight and is always looking for the most up to date music,” Perry said.

But Springer admits it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. He’s had to prove himself every step of the way to many people within the Latino community.

“It pushed me to work harder,” he said. “I’ve tried to bring the hardest hitting music into the show and just let my work speak for itself.”

Through its online presence, KSDS in now heard by listeners all around the world. Springer has been overwhelmed with the response that the show has received from fans as far away as New York, Puerto Rico and countries throughout the Caribbean.

Castellanos believes that Jazz 88 has put San Diego on the map. He’s finds it surprising when he travels to major cities throughout the United States and can’t find a Jazz station.

“San Diego is fortunate to have a station with a strong commitment to keeping Jazz alive,” Castellanos said.

If you bumped into Springer on the street, you probably wouldn’t recognize him as a local radio personality. It’s also possible that you’ve already met him and shaken his hand at any one of his other jobs around San Diego.

He divides his time between Charger games at Qualcomm during football season, horse racing at Del Mar during track season and special events all year long at the Sports Arena. He’s currently finishing up the summer meet at Del Mar, where he’s worked as an usher and program seller for the past four years.

An avid handicapper, he said, “I figured if I can’t beat ‘em, I may as well join em.”

Springer is expected to be back Sept. 6 as the regular DJ on Latin Groves.

“By the time racing season is over, I’m like a horse chomping at the bit,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back behind the mike.”

For more information on Jazz 88 and Latin Grooves, visit