Jazz broadcaster since 1967
Dr. Cohn is Professor Emeritus of Seed Biology at Louisiana State University. In his alternate universe, he is Dr. Jazz and has done jazz radio since 1967. A New Yorker in exile, he was introduced to jazz as a youngster by the legendary Ed Beach on WRVR as well as Del Shields, Ed Williams & Billy Taylor on WLIB. In college, he was dragged into radio by a dorm-mate in Boston, where he eventually became the first program director at WRBB and continued at WVBR in Ithaca, New York during graduate school. When he first arrived in Baton Rouge, he endeavored to be a ‘serious professor’, but found a jazz radio desert. So, Dr. Jazz rose to the
occasion and developed ‘Nightsounds’ which ran for about 20 years on KLSU and its predecessors. After a decade break to edit a scientific journal, WHYR recruited him out of radio retirement in 2012 to present ‘Gifts & Messages with Dr. Jazz.’ With 60 years of serious jazz listening and scholarship, you can be assured that there’s no ham fat, wall paper or white bread on G&M.
My Jazz Story
A short time after an FM radio arrived in the household, I discovered Ed Beach on WRVR. He focused entire programs on one artist 6 days a week. Saturdays were the big blowout days with a 4-hour evening show. I remember a four Saturday run of Coltrane. My parents never had to worry where I was as a teenager – I was taking lessons from Mr. Beach! And there were the live airshots from the old Half Note with Alan Grant on Friday nights. I was the kid under the covers with a transistor radio. My junior/senior high school was 2 blocks from Blue Note Records, a block from Lincoln Center and next door to a rehearsal space that many Blue Note Records artists used. If you remember a kid walking in the Columbus Circle area with Art Blakey records under his arm and whistling a Sonny Rollins solo, that was me. Before I left NYC, I had listened to EVERY jazz record in the Lincoln Center music library. Memories of trying to sneak into the Village Vanguard (thanks Max), loitering at the front entrance of the Metropole-trying to get a snatch of Coleman Hawkins & Roy Eldridge, spending all Saturday morning at Sam Goody’s reading the liner notes on all the new Blue Note & Prestige releases before plunking down my $4 for one Downbeat 5-star rated LP (when DB reviews really meant something), and never screwing up enough courage to venture down to Slugs (a good thing too; that was a very, very nasty area of NYC at the time). Sitting in the old Jazz Workshop in Boston at the musicians’ table (!), where management could keep an eye on this under-aged jazz fan (who anyway didn’t need a drink to get a buzz – after all I’m shooting the breeze with Kenny Burrell, Cannonball, Rahsaan etc.), doing my first live on-air interview (with Horace Silver), spending a birthday with
Weather Report (dinner and hosting/broadcasting an airshot of the concert), playing records on-air with a cavalcade of jazz luminaries as guests, getting drunk with the Count Basie band afterhours, intermission ‘therapist’ to Charlie Haden (a serious hypochondriac)…
My two regrets are not spending more time making a pest of myself at the Blue Note Records office and not having the capital to buy Blue Note Records when Mr. Lion was selling the label. As a youngster, none of my friends were into jazz, so it was my own special world and still is.
Why have I done radio week after week (for free!)? Well, in science (the old day job), it can take years to know whether or not you had the truth or just bs. When you've brightened someone's day with a radio show, you usually know it REAL soon. That balance was personally helpful. And you can 'come to my house' every week and hear the best jazz has to offer. There's no management pressure as to what to play, what to say, etc. So you know, if I'm playing it, I personally enjoy it, the music has historical importance and is top quality - not a slave to fashion or the flavor of the month. Lots of people know jazz (a lot more than I do - I'm in awe of Phil Schaap) and a lot of people know radio (much better than I, too) - but precious few combine those skills well. That's my contribution. It's just a drop in the ocean, but we do the best we can.