WTJU Jazz Profile: David Eisenman

For decades, David Eisenman has served as WTJU’s Jazz Director, coordinating the department “as loosely as humanly possible,” as he puts it. He insists on responsible broadcasting, but with passion for the music and the love to share it. “Big in my playbook is diversity in the genre,” says David. “I have always attempted to make the umbrella as wide as possible, and give DJs their freedom to pursue their particular cravings.”

In anticipation of WTJU’s upcoming Jazz Marathon, we asked David about his experience of WTJU and Charlottesville’s jazz community.

What do you hope listeners take away from this year’s Jazz Marathon?

I hope we move them emotionally to support our love of sharing the music where they are first entertained, and then exposed to new tunes, artists, and then informed with bits of educational nuggets.

What shows are you hosting during this marathon? Why’d you choose these themes?

I am hosting only one this time around, but an important show for me because it is about one of my radio mentors, Tom Morgan and his WTJU show The Bartender’s Bop. Tom passed away in June of liver cancer but was a major influence in expanding my music appreciation and fostered my love of New Orleans music and radio.

I am also co-hosting a show with past WTJU DJ Steve Dressel, who wanted to feature the under-appreciated hard bop drumming of Grady Tate, who played with everyone including Jimmy Smith, Astrud Gilberto, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Quincy Jones, Stan Getz, Cal Tjader, Wes Montgomery, J.J. Johnson, and Kai Winding. Additionally, I will be pitching with Johnny Bishop on his Partnerships of the Blues on Wednesday morning and Mara Scrupe’s I Love Paris show on Sunday afternoon.

How did you come to love jazz music?

In high school I fortunately had a group of friends that enjoyed all kinds of music. One of them had an older brother that owned a “head shop” and sold records in Virginia Beach. He kept us abreast of all the new music being released in addition to the heads-up to attend the 1969 Hampton Institute Jazz Festival which featured the night we attended the Young-Holt Unlimited, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington Orchestra, Roland Kirk Sextet and Sly and the Family Stone. After that we discovered a black-owned AM radio station that broadcasted Blue Note jazz recordings every Sunday afternoon. But to hear the station clearly, we had to listen in the car at Huntington Park on the bank of the James River as the station was located across the river in Suffolk.

When and how did you first get involved with WTJU?

I came to UVA in 1973 and found the radio station which was a major source of entertainment at the time. I was a listener and it wasn’t until I graduated and got a job that I made my first donation. TJU was still in Humphery dorm but I remember going to the station right after pledging to pay it. It was Professor Bebop’s marathon show and I wanted to meet the voice. Dave came out to receive my check and I said, “but I want to meet the guy on the radio”, and he explains he is the voice.

How do you choose what you’re going to play?

I use a variety of avenues, celebrating birthdays, creating themes, new music, featuring different types of music or different types of instruments and of course celebrating the home of jazz New Orleans and their musicians.

Why have you stayed involved with WTJU over the years?

It is fun, it is engaging, it is with people I enjoy, and it is thrilling to share music with listeners that enjoy music. Plus, music is good medicine.

How have you seen Charlottesville’s music scene evolve during your time here?

Honestly, I am so old that I have seen the C-ville music scene ebb and flow through the years, meaning it comes and goes. What I can tell you is… we always have had a strong local music scene, and it continues today. Furthermore, we live in a community where most people I know hold music in high regard as either a passion or personal experience. This place is special.

How do you fill up your days when you’re not putting together radio shows?

I listen to all the new jazz & blues music sent to the radio station and cull the best twelve titles for our weekly jazz adds and five in blues and or soul. I maintain this list to converse with music promoters and or labels. I prepare spreadsheets for our weekly reporting of spins to JazzWeek, NACC Radio Chart, and Roots Music Report, I provide the music to our librarians, who maintain the music inventory, and I search for new music to obtain for the station. I might want to mention I don’t do all this in a vacuum; Dave Rogers is our blues librarian, Dan Chaldekas is our jazz librarian, Aaron Zatcoff is our weekly spins reporter, Brian Keena has been the producer & driving force for the last two years of our jazz marathon special programming, and the only reason I took the directorship all those years ago was the fact that Gary Funston agreed to be the assistant director, and he still is today. Additionally, I work at a local record store two days a week just to preach the power of music to customers.

Why should someone donate to WTJU’s Jazz Marathon?

My rabbi tells me it is a good way to get into heaven… plus, this radio station is a rare commodity, a diamond in the rough, a precious local community resource that provides engagingly eclectic musical entertainment powdered by passioned volunteers that is intended to educate and inform while providing connections among our community, and listenership worldwide… and I dig the t-shirts!

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