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Western Michigan University's Keith Hall talks about jazz greats and talks with current practitioners of the art.0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f73a350002

Jazz Currents: Randy Johnston, Jazz Guitarist With Bluesy Roots

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A tireless soloist and side man, Randy Johnston  has released 12 albums as a leader and has appeared on dozens of recordings with a wide variety of jazz recording artists. Keith Hall talks to the prolific guitarist in a live session in WMUK's Takeda Studio, where Johnston brings to life stories about his performing life with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Houston Person,  Etta Jones, Lonnie Smith, and Lou Donaldson.  

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Randy Johnston at Cliff Bell's in Detroit

Randy Johnston and Keith Hall start their conversation by remembering Johnston's early days in Detroit, where he lived until he was 13. Music was everywhere, he says - he loved Motown artists and rock bands like MC5  and the Bob Seger System - but it was the Beatles phenomenon that made him want to play guitar. When his family returned to their southern roots in Richmond, VA, Johnston says he channeled some of the frustration at being a new student at a new school into hours of guitar practice. By his late teens, Johnston was playing in a popular band that advertised itself as suitable for "dances and pool parties." 

Johnston's path to becoming an indispensible guitarist in jazz organ groups was not direct, he tells Hall, but he learned a lot from the bandleaders who did hire him early on. Later, he played for 18 years with the Lou Donaldson Quartet. Johnston has devoted the last several years to producing solo albums. The latest is 2019's Cherry Juice.

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Part 2 of Randy Johnston's conversation and performance in WMUK's Takeda Studio with host Keith Hall. Johnston performs "A Wastin' And Bright Night," "Darn That Dream," and "I'll Take You Back."

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Cara Lieurance covers local music with live morning interviews, and produces WMUK's Let's Hear It weekday mornings at 10 am Mon-Fri, showcasing local interviews and performances. She also produces The Pure Drop, an hour of Celtic music, with musician Dave Marlatt.
As Chief Engineer for WMUK, Martin Klemm is kept busy by tending to a variety of issues - from computers to tower lights - he will never run out of things to fix. Before coming to WMUK in 2003, Martin worked in Los Angeles making records with some outstanding producers, but preferred to be close to his family here in west Michigan. He enjoys keeping a busy schedule balancing WMUK, loving on his friends' doggos, and remodeling his home in the Edison neighborhood (which never seems to end)
Keith Hall is the host of "Jazz Currents" on WMUK. He is the professor of jazz drum set at Western Michigan University's School of Music.
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