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.

Shari Kane and Dave Steele
courtesy of the artist

Warm and delicious as hot buttered cinnamon toast, as easy and relaxed as a rewarding after-dinner talk and as soothing as Sunday morning.  That’s my immediate reaction to Feels Like Home, the new album by Shari Kane and Dave Steele.  It’s a perfect complement to the couple’s first recording, Four Hands Blues.  They continue their loving exploration of classic American music including Piedmont and Delta blues along with mountain gospel, Appalachian ballads and ragtime swing guitar.  What differentiates Feels Like Home from Four Hands Blues is the home setting.  Shari and Dave actually built a home studio and took their good sweet time working through each song as we eavesdrop on their intimate conversation involving call and response from acoustic guitar to mandolin to voice.  

Riley B. King, the guitarist better known as B.B. King, whose voice brought blues to the mainstream, died Thursday night. He was 89.

photo by Myra Klarman

 Ann Arbor Summer Festival Executive and Artistic Director Amy Nesbitt joined me Friday for a preview of the 2015 Top Of The Park schedule. The free Top Of The Park offerings and activities have grown remarkably over the years. 

What began as little experiment with one band and free film screenings on top of a parking structure now encompasses a city block with two stages, a full variety of food vendors, family activities, exercise and wellness classes, Michigan craft beer tastings, family favorite films and state-of-the art acrobatic performances. 

 

courtesy of the artist

Alberto Nacif, the former and founding host of the program Cuban Fantasy has every reason in the world to be proud of Invisible, the new CD by his Latin jazz ensemble, Aguankó. He joined me in studio to discuss his partnership with fellow percussionist Jose Pepe Espinosa and his deep admiration for Michigan's great musicians including Marcus Belgrave, Rick Roe, Robert Hurst, Russ Miller, Chris Smith and Anthony Stanco. 

Courtesy of the artist

Aguankó, the internationally recognized Afro-Cuban jazz group led by Alberto Nacif will share lively Latin melodies at WEMU’s next free Sesi Motors 5:01 Jazz Show, Friday April 10th.  We will return to Rush Street, and get the music going at 5:01 PM sharp.

Duke Ellington Performing
Jazzistry

As April and Jazz Appreciation Month comes to a close with International Jazz Day this Thursday, April 30th, I would like to share a personal jazz experience and how my musical appreciation continues to grow through my friendship with saxophonist Vincent York of Jazzistry.

Don Chisholm’s career has been focused on Ann Arbor’s commercial and residential real estate development, but support for the arts and the development of musical expression - especially jazz - never has been far from his heart.

For his years of generous service and philanthropy for jazz and musical theatre in Ann Arbor, property developer Don Chisholm has been selected to receive a 2015 National Jazz Hero Award from the Jazz Journalist’s Association.

Linda Yohn
89.1 WEMU

To Be Or Not To Bop by Dizzy Gillespie may be the definitive treatise on the life of the legendary trumpeter and the evolution of the jazz form of “Be-bop”.  While Dizzy’s book is essential jazz literature, the new volume Music Is Forever:  Dizzy Gillespie, The Jazz Legend, And Me by Detroiter Dave Usher is a crucial companion to Dizzy Gillespie’s story.

Clark Terry, Marcus Belgrave
Wikimedia Commons

When NEA Jazz Master, trumpeter Clark Terry passed away on February 21st, 2015, the jazz world was in mourning.  The mourning did not last long however, as tributes to Terry’s ebullient personality, musical mastery and generous nature as a mentor and jazz educator sprang from all around the globe.  I called trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, Detroit’s senior jazz statesman for his thoughts on Clark Terry’s jazz genius.  


WEMU is pleased to present the trio of saxophonist-flutist Doug Horn, vibraphonist Cary Kocher and bassist Kurt Krahnke for our next free Sesi Motors "5:01 Jazz Show" on Friday, March 6th.  Music starts promptly at 5 and goes until 7 - a great time to celebrate with jazz-loving friends after work.

Listen to the best tracks of 2014 with some all time greats thrown in for flavor.  These tunes were hand picked by WEMU's award winning Music Director, Linda Yohn.  

Vocalist Joan Belgrave returned to Ann Arbor about 9 years to care for an ailing family member.  Since her return she started a whole new musical family thanks to her marriage to Detroit jazz icon, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. 

Join WEMU in celebrating Thanksgiving in a few different ways this year. Unwind while you're cooking your holiday feast, and listen in to Linda Yohn for a heft serving of Stuffy Turkey, Grits and Gravy, Sweet Potato Pie, and all of your other musical food favorites! 

    Brad McNett / 89.1 WEMU

    Pianist Rick Roe drops in to the 89.1 WEMU studios to chat about Thelonious Monk and Thanksgiving.

    On October 30th, The University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance gave pianist, composer and arranger Bob James their highest award.  He received The Distinguished Alumnus Award and was inducted in to the School Of Music, Theater and Dance Hall Of Fame.  The celebration will be complete when Bob James makes his debut appearance as a jazz quintet leader in Hill Auditorium presented by The University Musical Society.  

    Ann Arbor’s guitar legend George Bedard had a lifetime experience this summer that few will ever be able to claim:  he traveled to Honduras and played in a U.S. State Department Tour.  

    Marilyn Gouin / 89.1 WEMU

    Detroit Music Factor

    Listen to our interview earlier this week with drummer and singer Leonard King. King visited the WEMU studio to discuss his major project:  The Lyman Woodard Organization For the Arts.  In the 1970s Leonard joined the group led by Detroit organist Lyman Woodard and became a major player in Detroit jazz, soul, blues and dance music.  Leonard reminisced  warmly about Lyman Woodard's important and inspirational position in Detroit musical history as well as his own. 

    Gerald Wilson
    Dr. Jazz

    Bandleader, composer and arranger Gerald Wilson died Monday at his home in Los Angeles. Wilson's career stretched from the swing era of the 1930s into the 21st century.

      

    Walter White
    Walter White

    Labor Day weekend is not generally considered an optimum time to release a new record, but for Detroit jazz musicians; there is no better time to showcase your new music than at The Detroit Jazz Festival which starts this Friday, August 29th.  Trumpeter Walter White has taken advantage of this auspicious time to release and celebrate his latest offering Most Triumphant on Summit Records.  His CD release concert will be Sunday, August 31st at 2PM on the Waterfront Stage.

    Walter White is held in highest regard worldwide for his early work with Bob James, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, The White-Margitza Quintet and The Mingus Big Band. After making significant musical marks in New York City and Miami, Walter White returned to his home state of Michigan where he remains incredibly musically active.  He performs in shows at The Fisher Theater, leads international clinics and master classes, teaches at Oakland University and now records for Summit Records.  

      

    Walter joined Linda Yohn at WEMU to talk about Most Triumphant which boasts a trio Detroit jazz luminaries:  pianist Gary Schunk, bassist Miles Brown and drummer Sean Dobbins.  Walter shared insight about his early musical life in Ferndale Michigan, his love of Maynard Ferguson, his formative years at The Julliard School Of Music, his philosophy of musical practice and his early association with The Detroit Jazz Festival 35 years ago.  

     Every year at the Detroit Jazz Festival, Detroit musicians and singers return to perform and are greeted with enthusiastic applause and deep Detroit appreciation.  Among the many returning in 2014 is singer Barbara Morrison.   She was born in Ypsilanti, grew up in Romulus, graduated from Eastern Michigan University and left for Los Angeles when she was 23 to carve her own musical path.  Barbara Morrison and her very close friend Joan Belgrave joined Linda Yohn in the studio to talk about their parallel lives starting in Southeastern Michigan and ending up in Los Angeles.  

    Patrik Holubik / 89.1 WEMU

      

    Detroiter and bassist Rodney Whitaker’s list of accomplishments is long and impressive. It includes a discography of 7 CDs as a leader including his newest “When We Find Ourselves Alone” on Detroit’s Mack Avenue Records label and over 80 sessions as a sideman.

    His sideman associations are stellar. Leading luminaries of jazz including Roy Hargrove, Terence Blanchard, Dianne Reeves, Johnny Griffin, Kevin Mahogany, Eric Reed and Wynton Marsalis have relied on Rodney’s impeccable timing, tone, strength and grace.

    "Reliable" is great word to describe Rodney Whitaker. He is father to a family of 7, leads the internationally recognized jazz studies program at Michigan State University and performs and records world-wide. Rodney joined WEMU’s Linda Yohn to discuss his life in music and his new CD as well as the Mack Avenue Superband recording from the 2013 Detroit Jazz Festival.

    Rodney directed the Superband and will lead the 2014 version of the star-studded assembly at the upcoming Detroit Jazz Festival over Labor Day Weekend. He will also lead the MSU Big Band and his Soul-R Energy Quartet in celebration of “When We Find Ourselves Alone”. Linda Yohn found herself in great company with Rodney Whitaker.

    *Listen to the audio above and you are bound to agree.

    R.I.P. Kenny Drew, Jr.

    Aug 6, 2014

    While the late pianist Kenny Drew Jr. may have been under-appreciated bu the wider music community, jazz musicians are well aware of his genius. This appreciation by fellow pianist George Colligan is a fitting tribute.

    Trombone Shorty, Ann Arbor musical favorite is a generous supporter of young musicians through his foundation based in New Orleans.

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