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

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.

Joan Belgrave
Marilyn Gouin / 89.1 WEMU

About 13 years ago, a prodigal daughter returned to Ann Arbor.  Singer Joan Bow grew up in Ann Arbor but decided to make her musical mark in Los Angeles.  She returned to our community and immediately impressed us with her vocal prowess and poise.  One of those most impressed was Detroit trumpet legend, Marcus Belgrave.  Today we know her as Joan Belgrave.  The two married about 11 years ago and were a dynamic musical presence in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and New York City.  

Any discussion of African-American culture and history in Ann Arbor should reference the revered vocalist and educator Dr. Willis C. Patterson.  WEMU was honored to host Dr. Patterson as he talked about natural gifts as a singer, his passions for African-American Art Song and sacred music as well his legacy as an educator in public schools, community centers and at The University of Michigan.  After his retirement from the university, he continued to lead the all-volunteer community choir that he founded, The Our Own Thing Chorale.  As he will be stepping down from leading the chorale later this year, it was most timely that Dr. Patterson visited WEMU.

WEMU’s first free Sesi Motors 5:01 Jazz Show for 2017 will be a salute to the legendary trumpet player and widely respected teacher, Louis Smith.  Louis passed away in August, 2016.  He had suffered a stroke, but recovered valiantly and lived for years afterwards with his loving and generous wife, Lulu.  Louis was equally generous and was very wise as a teacher.  Trumpeter Paul Finkbeiner will lead the Louis Smith salute on Friday, January 6th at 5:01PM sharp at Rush Street Nightclub, 314 South Main Street in Ann Arbor.

Marilyn Gouin / 89.1 WEMU

As I reflected on the past 12 months, I realized that 2016 was a banner year for jazz releases.  It was extremely difficult to narrow my selections of outstanding recordings to just 16.  My criteria for this list is that these were all CDs that moved me emotionally.  They are albums that I would like to keep in my permanent collection. 

Vincent York
Courtesy photo / Jazzistry

For the past 18 years, saxophonist, flutist and educator Vincent York has carved out a unique niche in the Southeastern Michigan jazz and educational community with his multi-media and live performance program, Jazzistry.  Saturday, November 12th, Vincent, his band and Jazzistry board members will receive national recognition for the program from The National Association for Multicultural Education, N.A.M.E.  At the closing banquet of the convention Vincent York and Jazzistry will receive The Founder's Award for outstanding national multicultural program: The Rose Duhon-Sells Award of the National Association for Multicultural Education.

Ted Nash with a saxophone
courtesy of the artist

  Leading up to the November 8th election, WEMU will feature a track every weekday morning from the new CD Presidential Suite by The Ted Nash Big Band during 89.1 Jazz with Linda Yohn.  The recording is sub-titled Eight Variations On Freedom.  Saxophonist Ted Nash composed pieces based on addresses by important American and international leaders who were committed to peace, justice and freedom.

Marilyn Gouin

You know fall is well under way when WEMU’s free 5:01 Jazz shows start back up.  We are honored to kick off the series with the Andy Adamson Quartet on Friday, October 7th at Rush Street Nightclub, in Ann Arbor. 

Marilyn Gouin
89.1 WEMU

Couldn't make it to this year's Detroit Jazz Festival? You can catch all the highlights from WEMU hosts and staff from the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival right here!

Marilyn Gouin / 89.1 WEMU

If you’re jazz fan in Detroit, Labor Day weekend means visiting Hart Plaza or strolling Woodward Avenue for the Detroit Jazz Festival.   What a way to wrap up summer!  Over the years, the festival has evolved, grown and changed just as the music itself.  Chris Collins, Artistic Director of The Detroit Jazz Festival and President of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation Board has been a chief change-maker for the annual jazz party.  

Marilyn Gouin / 89.1 WEMU

Earlier this Month vocalist Roberta Gambarini visited Detroit to be the judge for Detroit Jazz Festival Vocal Competition and appear at The Dirty Dog Jazz Café.  She also visited WEMU to share her Italian and international jazz life story as well as her admiration for jazz masters such as Hank Jones and Jimmy Heath.  She also brought her most recent CD “Connecting Spirits”.

Many factors have shaped jazz in Ann Arbor, but trumpeter and educator Louis Smith has to be at the top of the list for modern jazz and education.  Sean Dobbins, Rick Roe, Justin Walter and Ingrid Racine will testify to his grace, wisdom, strength and total honesty as a teacher.  He encouraged a professional attitude and exponential musical growth from middle school students.  His students could play rings around others years older!

Marion Hayden Jazz
Daryl Smith

Jazz Appreciation Month is supposed to end in April, but in the Detroit area we extended it by a week so that bassist Marion Hayden could receive her 2016 Jazz Hero Award from the Jazz Journalist’s Association.   

89.1 WEMU and Sesi Motors present the 5:01 First Friday Series dedicated to the memory of the late Dr. Jan Winkelman. Join us for a 5:01 celebration of music featuring the Los Gatos at Rush Street in Ann Arbor on May 6th at 5:01 pm sharp.

 

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