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About Night Lights

Night Lights, is a weekly one-hour jazz radio program hosted by David Brent Johnson, focusing on jazz from the 1945-1990 era—a timespan that, as Johnson notes, “weirdly parallels Miles Davis on record and the Cold War.”

Covering artists such as Jackie McLean, Charles Mingus, and Nina Simone and themes ranging from jazz recordings of spirituals to avant-garde interpretations of the Great American SongbookNight Lights also features many lesser-known talents of post-1945 jazz, such as saxophonist J.R. Monterose, trumpeter Freddie Webster, and piano/singer duo Dick and Kiz Harp.

Johnson also plans to devote more programs to musicians from the 1970s and 80s. “I’ve already done some shows on people like (pianist) Don Pullen and (guitarist) Emily Remler,” he says. “I think there’s a tendency to look at those decades as the decades of fusion and the Young Lions, but there was so much more going on than that.”

Night Lights made its debut on WFIU in July 2004 and can now be heard on stations across the country. Every program is archived after broadcast for online listening, and the show has garnered a following on the Internet. Longtime jazz writer and producer Chris Albertson says,

Close to 60 years of listening to jazz and participating in its furtherance has not dulled my enthusiasm, but it has made me more selective when it comes to treating my ears to the good sounds. In an era of uninformed radio presenters and borderline music, David Brent Johnson’s well-researched and delightfully eclectic Night Lights program stands out.

Night Lights is a program of jazz in sound, story and song,” says Johnson. “I try to make each show a sort of cultural narrative about whatever artist or theme I’m highlighting. It’s great music and great history, and I want the program to reflect that.”

If your radio station is interested in carrying Night Lights, please contact us for details.

Support Night Lights

Night Lights is brought to you in part by the generous support of WFIU listeners and our corporate supporters. Please consider making a small contribution to help us keep bringing the program to you each week, or if you’d like to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact us.

Questions or Comments?

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions about Night Lights, or if you’d like to be added to the weekly bulletin, please contact the producer.

David Brent Johnson, Host

David Brent JohnsonFor the past fifteen years David Brent Johnson has hosted WFIU’s nationally-syndicated historical jazz program Night Lights.

He is also the host of WFIU’s long-running jazz show Just You And Me  and creator of WFIU documentaries about 1920s jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke and Duke Ellington’s 1941 civil-rights musical Jump for Joy. In 2012 he produced a four-part series about the history of Indiana jazz.

An Indianapolis native and IU alumnus, David began his radio career at Bloomington community radio station WFHB, where he hosted the weekly jazz program All That Jazz. A writer who’s published frequently in Bloom Magazine, The Ryder, the Bloomington Independent, and Indianapolis Nuvo, he has won two Society of Professional Journalists awards for his arts writing.  From 2011 to 2016 he was a contributor to NPR's jazz site A Blog Supreme.

Music, literature, and history are long-held enthusiasms for Johnson, but he came to jazz only in his mid-twenties.

I had a handful of jazz LPs and a friend who was really immersed in the music,” he says, “but there was one day when I was sitting in a coffeehouse reading and heard a Count Basie song coming from the overhead speakers. It was my ‘light-on-the-road-to-Damascus’ moment. I also gave up smoking around that time, and all of my addictive energy and cigarette money went into buying jazz CDs instead.

Johnson lives in Bloomington’s Near-Westside neighborhood, a short walk from the gravesite of Hoagy Carmichael.

Other Night Lights Staff

  • Michael Paskash, Audio Engineer
  • LuAnn Johnson, Program Services Manager
  • John Bailey, Operations Director
  • Eoban Binder, Director of Digital Media

WFIU Supporting Staff

  • Aaron Cain, Music Director
  • Marianne Woodruff, Corporate Support Director
  • Mark Chilla, Program Director
  • Brad Kimmel, Executive-in-Charge IU Radio-Television Services
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About Night Lights