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.

Pianist and singer Freddy Cole gets better and better. If it’s possible, there is greater warmth and depth in his husky voice. His phrasing is even more subtle and sly. His sense of rhythm – just slightly behind the beat feels more suspenseful yet playful than before. His chemistry with the band seems to be more organic, tighter and empathetic.

  Is the guitar today’s universal instrument? Actually, the voice is our first and most universal instrument, but the guitar could follow shortly behind it. In permutations from the oud to the cittern, zither, bouzouki and many others, portable stringed instruments are easy to transport and play while singing. These instruments including today’s modern guitars are versatile in all styles of music. 

In late April, Bob Edwards Weekend (Saturdays from 8 to 10AM on WEMU) aired a revealing and insightful interview with pianist and producer Bob James. My curiosity about the new Bob James-David Sanborn collaboration, Quartette Humaine, was piqued. The four weeks of waiting are over and you and I can enjoy this new CD which is one of the finest examples of quartet interplay I’ve heard in a while. Legitimate comparisons will be made between Quartette Humaine and legendary Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring Paul Desmond.

 

johnmedeski.com

Artists reflect the unspoken needs of the viewers, readers and listeners. With A Different Time, pianist John Medeski takes us to that quiet, meditative place that is often out of reach given our frantic lives. Perhaps the age of the piano on which Medeski recorded the pieces has something to do with the classic, contemplative sound of A Different Time. The piano was built by the Gaveau piano manufacturers in central France in 1924. It was constructed in a style that predates the modern piano.

davidarnay.com

I admit it – I’m often skeptical regarding a concept CD from a new artist.  I think to myself - oh they need a gimmick to get to me to listen.  

One of the songs on Musica Para Un Dragon Dormido by pianist and composer Emilio Teubal is The Constant Reinventor. 

As we search for the best new music on  WEMU, we will often feature someone you’ve never heard before but think is worth your time. 

Festive Swingadelic

Apr 26, 2013

The music festival season starts very soon in Southeastern Michigan. In anticipation, we featured a very festive CD: Toussaintville by Swingadelic on 89.1 Jazz this morning. Swingadelic is 13-piece ensemble from Hoboken, New Jersey led by bassist Dave Post. Swingadelic’s previous CD, The Other Duke in tribute to composer/arranger Duke Pearson was huge WEMU listener and staff favorite.

Jazz Appreciation Month concludes with International Jazz Day on Tuesday, April 30th and the global release of Woman Child by the trans-national singing sensation, Cécile McLorin Salvant on April 29th. “Woman Child” truly is a cause for celebration.

Tom Marcello (creative commons)

The April 22nd birthday of two legendary bassists: Charles Mingus and Paul Chambers is another reason that Congressman John Conyers submitted the legislation designating April as Jazz Appreciation Month in 2001. 

Aguankó's Latin Jazz

Apr 20, 2013

While there was much more conversation than usual on 89.1 from the 8th through the 11th of April during the spring on-air pledge drive, we did play some good music. We are pleased to report that the most played new recording for the week ending April 14th was the excellent regional Latin jazz CD Elemental by Aguankó. We hold the leader of Aguankó, conga-player Alberto Nacif in the highest regard. As the original host of Cuban Fantasy, Alberto established WEMU’s Latin jazz credibility, now sustained by Marc Taras every Saturday evening from 7 to 9PM.

A Jazz Appreciation Month celebration should honor both the originators of the music and the new, emerging original voices. Our 89.1 Jazz premiere this morning achieved that goal. Breakthrough is the new CD by pianist Eldar Djangirov and his trio for a new label: Motéma Music. 

At a time of a national tragedy such as the Boston Marathon bombing, this music host’s first inclination is to present a program of supportive music to soothe you. But – life and new music goes on! Thus, I proceeded with my plan to premiere From Here On Out by the excellent Detroit quintet co-led by saxophonist James Hughes and trumpeter Jimmy Smith.

Now that the spring pledge drive is over, I can start the daily premieres again. This morning's premiere: "Louie's Dream: For Our Jazz Heroes" was appropriate for April which is Jazz Appreciation Month.

 

New / old school soul sensation James Hunter tops WEMU’s Sweet Sixteen with Minute By Minute from March 18th through the 24th. It’s been five years since Hunter released a new CD.

 

WEMU’s focus for Women’s History Month 2013 has been a living history approach. Throughout March we have balanced classic recordings of blues jazz women with new offerings.

WEMU listener favorite Harry Connick, Jr. was staff favorite from March 11th through the 17th.

Each week we track how many times we play a new CD. Between March 11th and the 17th, pianist and singer Harry Connick, Jr. claimed the top spot of our Sweet 16. We first premiered the disc on Mardi Gras 2013 (February 12th). The disc’s presence at the top of the list a month later is a testament to the authenticity of Harry Connick, Jr’s joyful New Orleans funk grooves.

Sunday Wilde

Sunday Wilde’s new CD, He Gave Me A Blue Nightgown was just perfect for a Friday premiere on WEMU when we play it a little loose and fun getting ready for the weekend

We welcome Asuka Kakitani to the realm of expressive composers and arrangers with Bloom. Chronologically, March 21st is the second day of spring for 2013, but the weather proved otherwise. So, we dreamed of spring and listened to new music evoking rebirth and the beauty of nature by Asuka Kakitani and her Jazz Orchestra this morning on 89.1 Jazz.

Today we honored a woman who helped shape the history of jazz as a musician, band leader, composer, 

Blue is more than a color – it is a basic musical form and blue is a mood. Madeleine Peyroux explores all aspects of blue with her new CD The Blue Room. However, this isn’t a blues CD.

With Signs Of Life, singer Rondi Charleston breathes new life into jazz classics and shares highly personal yet universal reflections on life. During Women’s History Month we are focusing on women of jazz and blues past and present. Rondi Charleston’s Signs Of Life is one of the most powerful and personal discs to be premiered this March.

One of the pleasures of working with the talented team of WEMU music hosts is discovering what the weekly consensus of the “most-played” recording will be. Each Sweet 16 list topper reveals another aspect of the WEMU variety. During the week of March 4th through the 10th, the most played recording was Ciudad De Los Reyes by Gabriel Alegría and his Afro-Peruvian Sextet. 

Bryan Ferry, leader of the 1980s musical art rock sensation, Roxy Music, is also a brilliant musical historian. With the new CD The Jazz Age he has merged his two passions. He took Roxy Music favorites such as "Love Is The Drug", "The Bogus Man" and "Slave To Love" and orchestrated them for a 1920s style acoustic big jazz band. 

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