89.1 WEMU

Linda Yohn

Music Director

Linda Yohn simply cannot remember a day in her life that was not filled with music. Her early life was full of changes as the daughter of a well-respected cancer research scientist who moved his family about, but one thing was constant: the love of music instilled by her mother. So, when it seemed life was too hard to bear, young Linda would listen to her radio, play her guitar, dance her heart out and sing at the top of her lungs. So, it isn’t so strange that “older” Linda still does all those things!

Linda’s jazz life is one well-lived. In her early days, she scuffled at four or five jobs at a time in Columbus, Ohio to make ends meet while she taught herself the craft of jazz radio. There were no women role models, so each time she missed the mark, she’d get back up and try it again, vowing never to repeat that mistake. In Kent Ohio, she learned the ropes of public radio and made many strong national musical friendships that she keeps today. A brief stint in New York as a professional music publicist taught Linda the value of making deadlines and keeping promises. Through out all these early experiences, listening to jazz and blues in clubs and concerts kept Linda’s eyes on the prize of one day working professionally full-time in jazz radio.

To be able to go to work every day and get paid to play music on WEMU is a dream job come true for Linda Yohn. She still feels like she should pinch herself just to make sure it is for real. Even though Linda has been with WEMU since 1987 as music director, it is a position she does not take for granted. “The trust placed in a WEMU host by listeners is a rare and beautiful thing. To know that you, your voice and your musical choices can make or break a listener’s day is an awesome responsibility. As I review a new recording, I try to gauge the effect it will have on someone in their home, car or office. If the music is lacking in feeling, purpose, joy, message, meaning or craftsmanship, we will not play it on WEMU. I believe 100 percent that music is a powerful healing tool.”

Metaphysics aside, Linda Yohn knows that radio requires precision and attention to detail. When you listen to “89.1 Jazz” with Linda, you hear a relaxed woman comfortable in her own skin. But to reach this ease, Linda spends considerable time planning her program down to the second of each hour so that you get 55 minutes of high quality, intriguing music in between NPR news breaks. It’s a lot harder than it sounds! But, it is lots of fun, too.

Linda’s attention to detail, professionalism and commitment to great music on the radio has not gone un-noticed by her national colleagues. She has been nominated repeatedly for the Willis Conover-Marian McPartland Award for Excellence In Jazz Journalism by the Jazz Journalists Association. In 2006 she received the highest honor from her peers at the annual JazzWeek Summit: The Duke Dubois Jazz Humanitarian Award. Linda is always a first-call panelist and presenter at international jazz conferences and meetings. Perhaps the conference organizers call on Linda because her on-line postings on national jazz bulletin boards are timely, informative, creative and passionate. Linda represents WEMU, Ann Arbor, Eastern Michigan University and Detroit well on the national scene.

While the national awards and accolades are notable and humbling, it is the love of the unique listening community of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and the Detroit environs that truly fuels Linda’s public radio music flame. She gives freely of her time to Jazzistry, The University Musical Society, The Eastern Michigan University Jazz Ensemble, The Michigan Jazz Festival, The Ann Arbor Summer Festival, The Ypsilanti District Library, The Detroit International Jazz Festival. The Detroit Blues Society, The American Cancer Society and many other organizations. “You get what you give back.” says Linda. I love volunteering in the community. I learn what is important to people and what to play and say when I’m on the air. When I “MC” a show, I keep my ears open and listen to what the musicians have to say and take that back to listeners. It’s all about serving them with the right music, information and giving attitude.”

Linda believes in life-long learning. While she appreciates the music of all the greats: Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis, Count Basie, Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Nat King Cole, Charlie Parker and Lester Young, she knows that jazz is music of the moment. She seeks out the best electrifying new talents in jazz, blues and Latin music today to keep jazz and blues fans on top of new musical trends.

With Linda Yohn’s ears, heart and soul working for them, WEMU listeners are in great hands in the morning Monday through Friday on 89.1.

Ways to Connect

Patrick Campion / WEMU

It is the season of gratitude.  WEMU thanks you for your support – especially for your generous support for jazz on 89.1 for 40 years.  WEMU also thanks the musicians of Southeastern Michigan and Northwest Ohio for their gifts of talent and time performing for WEMU over the years.  Today we said thanks to the leading lady of jazz in Toledo, Ohio – Ramona Collins.  She was today’s Guest DJ in our 40 Years of Jazz Celebration. 

WEMU’s Guest DJ talks just get better and better.  Today’s chat and musical choices came from bassist Patrick Prouty who took his time becoming a better player and is now respected as one the best all-round bassists and musical educators in Southeastern Michigan.  Pat’s visit dovetailed perfectly with the Thanksgiving holiday.  He expressed warm gratitude for his many teachers and musical mentors.  Our hour included the premiere of Summer Of ’17, the beautiful new CD by Patrick Prouty featuring pianist Mark Braun – better known as Mr. B. – and drummer, Detroiter Julian VanSlyke. 

Hannah Baiardi
Linda Yohn

If you want to know where jazz is going today, you must check in with the next generation of musicians who are taking it in new directions.  One such musician is pianist, vocalist, lyricist, and composer Hannah Baiardi.  Hannah is in her fifth year of studying jazz and improvisational music at The University of Michigan with the esteemed professional music faculty including Ellen Rowe, Benny Green and Dennis Wilson.  Hannah has taken full advantage of the opportunities at UM.  That means she was able to record in the outstanding studios of The Duderstadt Center.  

To wrap up our 40 Years of Jazz celebration, WEMU is inviting area musicians and jazz fans to come in the studio and be a Guest DJ.  Today’s guest was drummer Sean Dobbins.  Sean remembers years ago when his main musical mentor, trumpeter, and teacher Louis Smith told Sean to listen to WEMU to hear more of the music he wanted to play.  WEMU has been a big part of Sean’s life and Sean has been a big player in our sound and programming for years.  

Jason Thomas Crocker / Brad McNett

As WEMU continues our yearlong celebration of 40 years of jazz, it is great to invite former staff members to join the party this Friday.  

 Bassist Paul Keller is beloved word-wide whether touring with John Pizzarelli, appearing at festivals in California, Canada or Monaco or recording in the finest studios.  

Detroit’s Carr Center is a major cultural force in the city for visual arts, spoken word, dance, and music – especially jazz.  The late great Detroiter and pianist Geri Allen made great plans for jazz as their artistic director.  


Today would have been the great pianist Art Tatum's 108th birthday.  WEMU celebrated his birth in 1909 with Dr. Imelda Hunt, author Does A Genius? - A Tribute To Art Tatum.  Dr. Hunt is a new faculty member of the Department of Africology and African Studies at Eastern Michigan University.  She brings a deep understanding of African-Americans in the midwest including her hometown of Toledo, Ohio -  also Art Tatum's hometown.  Dr. Hunt's research revealed Art Tatum's neighborhood, the legendary department stores, dance halls, and nightclubs where he performed and details about his loving and supportive family.   Dr. Hunt also shared how the experience of listening to Art Tatum's brilliant music inspired her to write many poems, two of which she shared in conversation.  Enjoy the genius of Art Tatum and a heartfelt appreciation from Dr. Imelda Hunt.

WEMU’s Sesi Motors 5:01 Jazz series starts swinging again in October!  On Friday, October 6th, we return to Rush Nightclub, 314 South Main in Ann Arbor at 5:01 PM sharp with a favorite of WEMU listeners and staff – saxophonist and flutist Doug Horn!  We will celebrate Doug’s long-awaited new CD High Standards.  Doug, bassist Paul Keller, and pianist Rick Roe swing definitive versions of great American standards and Doug’s memorable melodies on the delightful new disc.

As I wrap up 30 years of jazz radio at WEMU, what strikes me most about this job is the relationships:  with staff members, musicians and you.  A way to celebrate those relationships is to share the studio and time.  That is why I am inviting area musicians to be a “guest DJ” for an hour.  You will learn much about your favorite musicians as they share stories of the music and musicians that inspired them.  Case in point – today’s talk with saxophonist and flutist Doug Horn. 

Paul Vornhagen
courtesy photo

Saxophonist and flutist Paul Vornhagen is not a braggart by any stretch of the imagination.  However, he should be very proud of his accomplishments, travels, successful risks and life lessons.  These life stories are all reflected in his music, which is at once highly rhythmic, delightfully melodic, overtly romantic and extremely intelligent.  On Monday, Paul joined me to talk about “El Nido-The Nest”, the newest CD from his Latin jazz ensemble, Tumbao Bravo.  

Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding
Jessica Webster / 89.1 WEMU

 Despite a last minute cancellation of some of the final performances, the free 38th Annual Detroit Jazz festival provided a ray of light shining down on the festival goers experiencing new and familar regional and national acts all Labor Day weekend in downtown Detroit.  

Chris Collins
Marilyn Gouin / 89.1 WEMU

The annual Detroit Jazz Festival preview program is one of my 89.1 Jazz highlights of the year.  This year’s foretaste of Labor Day weekend’s musical treats was extra special because Chris Collins joined me live in studio – reacting in real time to the music and sharing a live one-on-one conversation.  

A great musician never forgets the early life lessons that shaped them.  Chris Collins, Artistic Director of The Detroit Jazz Festival has never forgotten and now carries on the Detroit jazz tradition of teaching and mentoring the next generations of jazz musicians.  Chris talked with me this morning about what mentoring and creating music with aspiring players means to him.  


As WEMU gets ready for our TRUEMU trip to Comerica Park to take on the Kansas City Royals, I drew up a baseball-themed playlist to get you fired up.  We enlisted the advice of fellow jazz programmers around the nation for their suggestions yielded many more creative ideas.  Adding pieces with a definite WEMU-Ann Arbor, and Detroit connection gives this list an ultra-special distinction.  I picked one song per inning as well as the seventh-inning stretch and tossed in one more in case our game requires an extra inning for a total of 11 favorites.  

There is an adage that two heads are better than one.  In the case of this morning’s 89.1 jazz Show, that adage rings true.  I invited Woody Chenoweth who teaches Jazz Appreciation at Eastern Michigan University to join me on the air to wrap up Jazz Appreciation Month.  I asked him to choose some of his favorite pieces, to explain them to us and to tell us what to listen for.  I was not disappointed and neither were fellow listeners.  Woody shared great stories of growing up in Pinckney and studying with challenging, insightful teachers – many with major EMU connections – and the music they led him to.  

Tuesday, April 25th marked the centennial birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, The First Lady Of Song.  To celebrate in a truly meaningful way, I invited singer Dawn Giblin to join me in WEMU’s studio for an appreciation of Ella’s majesty and magic.  Dawn is taking her place in the front ranks of classic jazz and swing singers in Southeastern Michigan.  She works with two very discerning accompanists:  pianist James Dapogny and cellist Mike Karoub who know true talent when they hear it.   They heard a gifted natural in Dawn Giblin and encouraged her.  

Paul Vornhagen
courtesy photo

On May 5th – Cinco de Mayo – WEMU wraps up the 2017 winter/spring Sesi Motors 5:01 Jazz shows with a real showstopper – the magnificent Latin jazz group, Tumbao Bravo.  While Paul Vornhagen continues to head up Tumbao Bravo on saxophone, flute, piccolo and percussion, he has added new members and new repertoire while retaining tunes of years past and some veteran players.  Joining Paul for “5:01 Jazz” are Olman Piedra – timbales, Brian DiBlassio – keyboards, Gregory (Greco) Freeman – congas and, Joe Fee – bass.  

A quiet force for good.  A gifted and intuitive communicator.  A treasured member of Detroit’s creative community.  A jazz lover, enthusiast, scholar, and promoter.  All of these phrases describe W. Kim Heron, recipient of the 2017 Detroit Jazz Hero Award presented tonight at Cliff Bell’s Jazz Club by the Jazz Journalist’s Association (JJA).

Last October, WEMU offered "An Hour With Linda Yohn and WEMU" as a silent auction prize at the Riverside Arts Center fundraising party.  The recipient of the hour was bassist Eric Walters who loves playing all styles of music on acoustic bass.  In his hour of music and conversation, Eric touched on swing, bebop, blues, Henry Ford's plan for automotive plants around Michigan mill towns, the legacy of Ypsilanti's public school music teachers and experiencing live big band music in Eastern Michigan University's Pease Auditorium.

Amy Nesbitt, Artistic and Executive Director of The Ann Arbor Summer Festival made her annual stop at the WEMU studio to discuss the 2017 Mainstage Series.  She and I reminisced about Diana Krall’s early career including the significant impact Ann Arbor had on her rise in popularity.  Amy filled us in on shows for the entire family and hipped us to a big party with Ira Glass, host of This American Life prior to his show.  The 2017 Ann Arbor Summer Festival Mainstage Series brings Ann Arbor favorites together with fresh surprises.

One of the joys of presenting 5:01 Jazz Shows is featuring beloved favorites such as Ron Brooks, Ramona Collins and Paul Finkbeiner.   Another pleasure is to introduce new names deserving attention.  In bassist Rob Crozier and his 5tet, we offer a band of veterans and fresh faces with a novel approach to improvisation.  Bassist Rob Crozier (who also doubles on didgeridoo!), saxophonist Pete Kahn,  guitarist Rodney Rich, pianist Brian Brill and drummer Sam Genson will celebrate Rob’s new CD Tall Trees at WEMU’s next free Sesi Motors 5:01 Jazz Show on Friday, April 7th.  Rush Street Nightclub, 314 South Main Street in Ann Arbor throws the doors open early for our pop-up jazz club starting at 5:01 PM sharp.

Organissimo
Courtesy photo

5:01 Jazz on Friday, March 3rd will be a spectacular jazz, blues, and pop music party when Organissimo presents their Ann Arbor CD release party for “B3tles – A Soulful Tribute to the Fab Four.” Get to the usual location, Rush Street Nightclub – 314 South Main Street – by 5 PM to grab a great seat for the free show. 

Ben Pruitt
Marilyn Gouin / 89.1 WEMU

WEMU’s final Black History Month talk was with alto saxophonist and educator, Ben Pruitt.  He is now retired from The Detroit Public Schools, but not from music.  His Ben Friend’s Big Band performs regularly at the legendary Baker’s Keyboard Lounge and The Jazz Café in The Music Hall Center For The Performing Arts.  When Ben visited the WEMU studio, he shared his favorite music from Ray Charles, Hank Crawford, David “Fathead” Newman, and The Jazz Crusaders.  

Web Kirksey
Marilyn Gouin / 89.1 WEMU

EMU alumnus Webster “Web” Kirksey has been a frequent WEMU pledge drive guest.  He has been a donor and supporter for many years.  During Black History Month, we wanted to give him an opportunity to share more about his life and how he became an ardent jazz fan.  We were delighted that he could spend time in the studio with Linda Yohn sharing thoughtful, swinging and meaningful music choices ranging from Charlie Parker and Miles Davis to Jimmy Scott.

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