The State of Jazz And Jazz Radio

Thursday, January 21 @ 5:30 PM EST

Originally scheduled for January 14

Jazz Chats with Cool Cats is generously funded by season underwriters, Bank of Ann Arbor

Drummer and host, Pete Siers, leads a conversation with area jazz radio host personalities for a passionate conversation about all things jazz! January guests include:

  • Dr. George Klein: jazz aficionado, former host of WEMU’s The Groove Yard
  • Jessica Webster: WEMU jazz host of The In Crowd, former jazz buyer for Borders Books
  • Linda Yohn: WRCJ host of Swing Set, former WEMU Programing Director

George Klein grew up in Philadelphia, attended San Diego State College and the University of Oregon, and taught English and humanities at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti and Wayne State University in Detroit. All the while he was listening to jazz and collecting records.

George’s entry point into jazz was at the peak of the LP era in the late 50′s and early 60′s, especially with independent labels such as Blue Note, Prestige, Atlantic, Riverside, Savoy and Pacific Jazz. The first jazz radio to get his attention was WHAT-FM in Philly.

To balance his academic life, George joined WEMU in 1982 and hosted several different programs in addition to live broadcasts of the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival and other music events in southeast Michigan. By the mid-80′s he moved to an administrative position at Eastern Michigan as director of the Study Abroad office, but he remained committed to jazz radio.

For 25 years—from 1989 until he left WEMU in 2014—George was the volunteer host of The Groove Yard, a program focusing on early modern jazz of the 1950s & 60s.

Jessica Webster is a writer, radio host and dedicated jazz aficionado. As a 25-year veteran of 89.1 FM, WEMU, Jessica got her start as an overnight DJ in college. She hosted a popular program dedicated to jazz vocalists in the 1990s, and most recently can be found on Sunday afternoons at 3, presenting The In Crowd.

As a writer, Jessica has written for DownBeat and JazzTimes magazines, and was a reporter for AnnArbor.com, The Ann Arbor News and MLive, covering food, restaurants, business and life and culture.

A jazz fan since childhood, Jessica has relished the opportunities to work closely with jazz musicians for most of her adult life. As the longtime national jazz buyer for Borders Books & Music, she partnered with musicians and record labels to promote the music, often advising on album art and song selection, co-producing recordings, and coaching up-and-coming artists on building public relations campaigns. 

During her tenure at Borders, she was ranked as one of the top ten most powerful people in the jazz industry. 

These days you can find Jessica applying her writing and PR background on the communications team for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Jessica serves or has served on the boards of The Ann Arbor Youth Chorale, the Pioneer Orchestra Parents Society, The Jazz Alliance, The Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, and the Ark.

Music, radio and serving the community – these are Linda Yohn’s passions.  Her radio connection goes back to her grandfather, a World War One telegraph operator who inspired Linda’s communications curiosity. Her mother was a distinguished mezzo soprano, pianist and music teacher. Her father was a brilliant cancer research scientist who believed in community volunteerism and action for others. Linda lives out these values today.

Linda first “cracked a mic” on WOBN at Otterbein College reading news and hosting a progressive rock show. In the mid 1970s she fell madly in love with jazz. In 1977 she commenced learning the craft of radio in earnest on WBBY-FM in Westerville, Ohio – a short-lived but beloved 24-hour commercial jazz station. In 1982, Linda entered the realm of public broadcasting on WKSU-FM from Kent State University. Astute station management gave Linda many responsibilities, quickly promoting her to the position of Jazz and Traditional Music Director. She coordinated live Kool Jazz Festival broadcasts from Blossom Music Center, hosted a jazz television series for WNEO/WEAO and developed strong national alliances.

One of her national alliances evolved into employment. In 1986 and ’87 she was an account executive and publicist for Peter Levinson Communications in New York representing well-known jazz clients such as the Count Basie Orchestra, The Modern Jazz Quartet, The Village Vanguard Jazz Club, Mel Tormé, George Shearing, Monty Alexander and Joanne Brackeen.

Late 1987 found Linda back in the Midwest, where she truly felt at home in the Ann Arbor/Detroit music community. The new radio home was WEMU-FM, Eastern Michigan University’s public radio station where she served as Music Director for 30 years. She shaped the station’s sound – noted for its inclusive approach to jazz, blues, Latin and Americana music. She shaped a new generation of broadcasters, working closely with EMU students and community members who learned the radio ropes and the pleasures of jazz with Linda’s kind and enthusiastic coaching. Through WEMU, she developed a deep relationship with The Detroit Jazz Festival which continues to this day. Linda became recognized in Detroit for her support of local musicians as she served on the board of the Graystone Jazz Museum and worked on the Paradise Valley Jazz fundraisers for Orchestra Hall.

Linda retired from WEMU in 2017, but not from a life in music. She wrote liner notes for PKO Records, joined the staff of The Ann Arbor Summer Festival as the Acoustic Stage Manager, consulted with The Detroit Jazz Festival and Ann Arbor’s Blue LLama Jazz Club. Today Linda gives back to the community – volunteering for Ypsilanti’s Riverside Arts Center, The Jazz Journalist’s Association, The Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, Vincent York’s Jazzistry, The Ann Arbor Arts Alliance and Ypsilanti First United Methodist Church.

Linda is grateful for the gifts that have come her way – to transform an avocation into a vocation and to share the passion with others.  Now she gets to share the musical richness of jazz on WRCJ with the new “Sunday Swing Set”.