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

While we love to feature the all-time greats of music on WEMU, we also look for deserving unknown ensembles, such as The Aguabella Latin Jazz Band which received their CD premiere for “Baker: Gateway To Death Valley”  this morning.  We had actually played many of these musicians before when they were in the band led by the late, great conga player, Francisco Aguabella.  Today they keep Aguabella’s legacy alive.  Now you know how they found their beautiful name.

This Tuesday was a perfect blues day on WEMU.  The cold and the clouds called for down-home story-filled music.  Our playlist this morning included local blues luminaries Johnnie Bassett and George Bedard along with Columbus Ohio’s blues emissary, Teeny Tucker.

The majority of the classic Blue Note recordings of the 1950s and 1960s were characterized by highly conversant horn exchanges and brilliant, supportive rhythm sections.  For Benny Green to pay tribute to that era of jazz with the instrumentation of piano-bass-drums is quite a task.  But, Benny pulls it off with inspiration, energy and attitude.

The WEMU playlist this morning included many great guitarists.  My initial inspiration was to promote guitarist Jake Reichbart and his quartet at this afternoon’s free “Sesi Motors 501 Jazz Show” at Rush Street.  But, you can’t build a three and half hour program around one artist.  So, I went to our “new stacks” and checked out a disc that we’d had for a few weeks, gave it try, gave it two thumbs up and got it on the air.   It is “Blues For Night

What a way to celebrate the launch of a new label and a new concept in jazz!  Pianist/composer/arranger Scott Gwinnell’s tribute to heart of Detroit –The Cass Corridor – was the most-played CD on WEMU from January 21st through the 27th.   “The Cass Corridor Story” is also the first release on the new imprint from Mack Avenue Records, Detroit Music Factory.  WEMU has been a strong supporter of Scott Gwinnell for years, so we knew to expect great things from him, but this heart-felt original music exceeded our expectations!

In time for African American History month, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington pays tribute to three to icons of jazz and African American music:  Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach on her newest release.  In 1963, Ellington, Mingus and Roach made only one recording together: “Money Jungle” for Capitol Records.  The trio to realize the 2013 approach to “Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue” are pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Christian McBride along with Ms. Carrington.

Often on first listen to a new CD, I’ll remark, “that’s nice…” and just file it away.  I’m very glad that I gave “3.2.1” by pianist Pamela Hines a second chance.  On the second pass, I heard the complexities that I missed in my first cursory review.  We receive many piano-bass-drums CDs re-working standards at WEMU, so if your disc is to make it on the air it must have a “special something”.  Pamela Hines has it.

Ozella Music

The jazz musician is fortunate to be able to hear new possibilities in old melodies and create new music from the gems of the past.  That is what saxophonist Maximilian Geller has accomplished with “Alpenglühen”, his new CD released recently in the US.  While all the songs on the disc are credited to Geller or band members such as pianist Walter Lang, it is clear that they have drawn inspiration from German, Swiss and French folk melodies to craft their elegant and sparkling repertoire.  According the label, Ozella Music, “Alpenglühen” can take you home and to faraway places: “to alpine cab

Our latest WEMU discovery is The Hummingbird Brigade, an 11 piece jazz ensemble from Vancouver, British Columbia led by saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist James Danderfer.  Danderfer explains the tone of his music as “New Orleans brass band-inspired”.  Building on the rich legacy of New Orleans street bands and the new approaches coming from the Crescent City by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Soul Rebels and The Hot 8 Brass Band, Danderfer and his band-mates are adding to the street beat repertoire with well-crafted, highly rhythmic original music.  Mardi Gras day is coming up on Tuesday, Feb

If you are searching for fresh new music for 2013, WEMU recommends the new CD “Cuban Crosshatching” by percussionist Arturo Stable.  His 2012 duo disc “Dos Y Mas” with pianist Elio Villafranca was one of the finest recordings of 2012.  Stable continues the path he has forged in his notable career with music of integrity, artistic credibility and exploratory creativity.  We premiered “Cuban Crosshatching” this morning and found that it paired perfe

With their snaky rhythms, spooky harmonies and catchy licks, Brooklyn’s Menahan Street Band once again takes the top spot on WEMU’s “Sweet 16” for “The Crossing”.  All of the time spent backing up R&B and soul sensation Charles Bradley has sparked a giant leap of creativity and risk-taking in this leading soul/jazz/funk band. 

Dragon Lady via

"'Til Your River Runs Dry" by Eric Burdon is the most revealing, personal and blues-drenched recording the former lead singer of The Animals and War has ever released.  Most of the songs deal with personal demons, release from self-destruction and potential salvation.  However, Eric Burdon remains true to form with  songs commenting on the ills of today's society such as "Water",  "Memorial Day", "Invitation To The White House" and "In The Ground".   Recorded in New Orleans and Los Angeles in 2010 and 2011, the disc was released in the U.K. in 2012.  It is officially released in the U.S.

This morning's 89.1 Jazz  program reflected the unique musical experience of Monday evening's landmark concert: "From The Cass Corridor To The World: A Celebration Of Detroit's Musical Golden Age".   Perhaps we need an occasional reminder regarding the wealth, breadth and depth of our regional talent.  The "reminder" collected by University Musical Society with assistance from pianist Geri Allen, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Karriem Riggins and all of their s

Living Music / UM School Of Music

Our short program was packed with music to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to get us ready for President Obama's second inaugural ceremony and tonight's special concert: "From Cass Corridor To The World: A Celebration Of Detroit's Golden Age Of Music". Thank you for choosing to listen to WEMU on this special day.

5:01 Jazz Series For 2013


Ellen Rowe, jazz pianist and composer, the current Chair of the Department of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation along with flugelhornist, Music School Professor, and program founder Ed Sarath sit down with Linda Yohn of WEMU to talk about 25 years and beyond of the Jazz and Contemplative Studies Programs at the University of Michigan.

Buoyed by being selected as WEMU's blues fundraising premium, Robert Cray's newest CD, "Nothin' But Love" was the most played disc this past week on 89.1.   Even if Cray's recording hadn't been chosen as a WEMU "thank-you gift", it would likely have risen to the top of our "Sweet Sixteen" by virtue of it's excellence.

In anticipation of her appearance at The Ark on October 11th, WEMU hosts featured the outstanding new CD "33 1/3" by the new "Queen of the Blues", Shemekia Copeland.   Ms. Copeland actually comes from blues royalty  --  her father is the legendary blues guitarist and composer, Johnny Clyde Copeland.  

Never let it be said that when a major artist comes to town, that WEMU doesn't get behind the show and share music with listeners to let them know about the music they'll hear.  We got behind last week's Joe Jackson concert at The Michigan Theater featuring violinist Regina Carter in a real big way. 

Perhaps it was because the lead track on Marcus Miller's new CD "Renaissance" was called "Detroit" that the disc resonated so soundly with WEMU listeners and staff.  Whatever the reason, it has become a fast favorite of listeners and staff alike. 

We knew it was just a matter of time, but the WEMU staff knew that "33 1/3" by Shemekia Copeland would eventually claim the top spot on our "Sweet 16".  If any CD validates her standing as the successor to Koko Taylor as "Queen Of The Blues", this one surely does.  She has emerged on a new label with new repertoire, but her commitment to true, deep blues is as strong as ever. 

When The Dirty Dozen Brass Band returned to Southeastern Michigan for a show at The Magic Bag Theater, WEMU hosts seized the opportunity to play selections from one of their favorite bands of all times.  We doubt that WEMU listeners minded hearing the ensemble again, as the band was beloved at venues such as The Ark, The Frog Island Music Festival, The Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival and Sully's in Dearborn. 

Nina Simone Simms-Bentley

Trumpeter Christian Scott delivered not only one of the most meaningful jazz CDs of 2012 with "Christian Atunde Adjuah", but he also delivered one of the most inspirational live performances of the year with his appearance in the "Tribute to Treme" at the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival.   Scott's music is "as serious as your life", yet is imbued with energy and a celebration of life.