Nate Chinen

Director of Editorial Content

Nate Chinen joined WBGO as the Director of Editorial Content at the start of 2017. In addition to overseeing a range of coverage at WBGO.org, he works closely with programs including Jazz Night in America and The Checkout, and contributes to a range of jazz programming on NPR.

Before joining the WBGO team. Chinen spent nearly a dozen years as a jazz and pop critic for the New York Times. He also wrote a long-running monthly column and assorted features for JazzTimes. He is a ten-time winner of the Helen Dance-Robert Palmer Award for Excellence in Writing, presented by the Jazz Journalists Association. The same organization presented him with its award for Best Book About Jazz, for his work on Myself Among Others, the autobiography of impresario George Wein.

Chinen was born in Honolulu, to a musical family: his parents were popular nightclub entertainers, and he grew up around the local Musicians Union. He went to college on the east coast and began writing about jazz in 1996, at the Philadelphia City Paper. His byline has also appeared in a range of national music publications, including DownBeat, Blender and Vibe. For several years he was the jazz critic for Weekend America, a radio program syndicated by American Public Media. And from 2003 to 2005 he covered jazz for the Village Voice.

Ways to Connect

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Jazz is often described as the original American art form. Here are five choice cuts, by everyone from Louis Armstrong to Carla Bley, that make the connection explicit.

JOE ALPER / JOE ALPER PHOTO COLLECTION LLC

The improbable new release by John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album, arrives with the excitement of a rare celestial event. A small trove of previously unissued studio material recorded by the saxophonist and his quartet on a single day in 1963, it has already caused a commotion prior to its release this Friday. "Like finding a new room in the Great Pyramid," is how Sonny Rollins described the discovery, in a quote from the liner notes that has widely circulated, as a fond gesture from one colossus to another.

Virtuosity — of a dazzling, ebullient, yet altogether generous sort — might be the most obvious bridge between David Holland and Zakir Hussain. But there's also a deep cultural foundation behind their musical dialogue, which forms the beating heart of a project called Crosscurrents.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Jimmy Katz

In Take Five this week, some killer bassists step out front.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet had been rampaging at the Village Vanguard for over an hour — in full burnout mode, practically rattling the pictures on the walls — when its leader swerved unexpectedly into a softer mode. Channeling his best Ben Webster warble on the tenor saxophone, Branford closed the set with a songbook ballad, "Sweet Lorraine." For those in the room who recognized its gladsome melody, the implicit dedication rang clear.

Joan Powers

The Branford Marsalis Quartet had been rampaging at the Village Vanguard for over an hour — in full burnout mode, practically rattling the pictures on the walls — when its leader swerved unexpectedly into a softer mode. Channeling his best Ben Webster warble on the tenor saxophone, Branford closed the set with a songbook ballad, “Sweet Lorraine.” For those in the room who recognized its gladsome melody, the implicit dedication rang clear.

Elemental Music

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon and trumpeter Woody Shaw hailed from two different jazz generations, but found common purpose in the music.

Now each artist has a new album on the near horizon, featuring vibrant live performances largely recorded in Japan, and previously unreleased. Dexter Gordon Quartet Tokyo 1975 and Woody Shaw Tokyo 1981 are both due out on July 13, in CD and LP editions, from Elemental Music. 

Alan Nahigian / Courtesy of the artist

Harold Mabern has never had any hang-ups about not being the center of attention. "I get joy out of being an accompanist," the pianist affirms, likening himself to an offensive lineman on a football team. "When you can do something to make the soloist happy and proud," he says plainly, "you've done your job."

Harold Mabern has never had any hang-ups about not being the center of attention. "I get joy out of being an accompanist," the pianist affirms, likening himself to an offensive lineman on a football team. "When you can do something to make the soloist happy and proud," he says plainly, "you've done your job."

John Rogers

Henry Threadgill, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, bandleader, saxophonist and flutist, has not exactly settled into the calm of late-career eminence. At 74, he’s nearly as productive as he has ever been — and every ounce the visionary, judging by two albums out today on Pi Recordings.

 


Jimmy Katz

If you happened to be wandering the streets of upper Manhattan one night this winter, you could have stumbled onto a video shoot for pianist Joey Alexander.

The video — for a version of “Moment’s Notice,” by John Coltrane — features an intepretive performance by dancer Jared Grimes, with Joey and a boombox on the sidelines.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


There's a tension in Joshua Redman's new album, Still Dreaming, and it may not be the one that you expect.

Frank Stewart / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Newark Academy, a private school in Livingston, N.J., came in second at the 23rd Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition, held over the weekend at Frederick P. Rose Hall in Manhattan. The band, led by Julius Tolentino, took home a trophy and a $2,500 award.

Taking first place was Dillard Center for the Arts, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. In third place was Tucson Jazz Institute from Tucson, Ariz. Honorable mention awards went to Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, Wis.) and Roosevelt High School (Seattle, Wa). 

Gulnara Khamatova

There has always been something special about a good drummer-led band, and this installment of our weekly playlist features five new examples, spanning a galactic range of style.

Colin Marshall / NPR

It isn't typically news when a jazz group makes a change in personnel. But The Bad Plus isn't a typical jazz group, and its announcement, this time last year, landed like a bombshell. In short: Ethan Iverson, the band's pianist, would be leaving to pursue his own projects. Orrin Evans, an esteemed peer, would be stepping in. For a group that has always stood for musical collectivism — and never accepted any substitutions — this was a shakeup of existential proportions.

It isn't typically news when a jazz group makes a change in personnel. But The Bad Plus isn't a typical jazz group, and its announcement, this time last year, landed like a bombshell. In short: Ethan Iverson, the band's pianist, would be leaving to pursue his own projects. Orrin Evans, an esteemed peer, would be stepping in. For a group that has always stood for musical collectivism — and never accepted any substitutions — this was a shakeup of existential proportions.

Chris Tobin / WBGO

Not many jazz musicians possess a scope as wide as Dave Burrell’s.

A pianist who first emerged during the late 1960s, in wild-and-woolly ensembles led by saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp, he also has a firm grasp on the stride language of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. His body of work as a composer includes operatic and chamber works — but he remains a fearless paragon of free improvisation, with peers like bassist William Parker and saxophonist David Murray.


Roger Thomas

Jazz and blues artists make up a small but substantial contingent in the 40th anniversary season of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, announced today.

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

The spare, evocative poetry of Emily Dickinson has inspired no shortage of musical interpretation — notably by classical composers ranging from Samuel Barber to Aaron Copland to Elliot Carter. But the soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom finds a new register for this impulse with Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson, originally released on Outline Music last fall.

Every year since 1982, the National Endowment For the Arts has inducted a new class of NEA Jazz Masters, honoring lifetime achievement across a broad range of personalities and backgrounds.

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