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

John Rogers / WBGO

In this week's playlist, hybridism reigns.

Desmond White

The conversation around women in jazz has rarely felt timelier or more pressing than it does at this moment.

Nathan West / Blue Note Records

Nels Cline has a new album on the near horizon.

Blue Note Records has just announced the April 13 release of Currents, Constellations, the debut release by the Nels Cline 4 — an energetic unit made up of Cline, his fellow guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Tom Rainey.

Five finalists have been selected for the 2019 American Pianists Awards. The five pianists, all in their mid-to-late 20s — Kenny Banks, Jr., Emmet Cohen, Keelan Dimick, Dave Meder and Billy Test — will take part in a year-long competitive process in Indianapolis, home of the American Pianists Association. One will win the coveted Cole Porter Fellowship at the finals there next April.

Jesse Kit

Lizz Wright is well acquainted with the storytelling power of a journey. Her music, rooted in the gospel truths and rustic byways of this country, could be seen as a sustained meditation on movement: not just the flow of bodies in rapturous rhythm, but also the trajectories that mark a life story.

Lizz Wright is well acquainted with the storytelling power of a journey. Her music, rooted in the gospel truths and rustic byways of this country, could be seen as a sustained meditation on movement: not just the flow of bodies in rapturous rhythm, but also the trajectories that mark a life story.

“I think it’s a mistake to ever look for hope outside of one’s self.”

Arthur Miller put that line in the mouth of a character from After the Fall, which premiered on Broadway in 1964. It’s an argument worth reconsidering as we welcome a new album bearing the same title from Keith Jarrett, a pianist with rare perspective on both the merits of self-reliance and the grasping pursuit of hope.

Mathieu Bitton

The Robert Glasper Experiment has established such a track record in the studio that it can be easy to take for granted the band’s core identity as a live act. It was with a series of overheated gigs in New York, at joints like the 55 Bar, that the Experiment — led by the resourceful, indefatigable keyboardist Robert Glasper — originally found its voice and purpose. And its albums are mostly recorded in real time, live in the studio.

Jacob Blickenstaff

François Moutin & Kavita Shah, "You Go to My Head"

If you keep up with the modern-jazz mainstream in New York, you probably know François Moutin as a bassist who combines quicksilver agility with growling combustion. You may not yet be familiar with Kavita Shah, a singer grounded in the fundamentals but also brimming with fresh ideas.

Jazz Night in America / NPR

Spend enough time in New Orleans and you come to understand it as a place for every kind of convergence. The culture hums in an endless exchange, with history forever close at hand. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah understands this to his core: he grew up immersed in ritual Mardi Gras Indian traditions, and distinguished himself as a jazz trumpeter by his early teens. He's now shaping his own artistic reality, creating what he calls "Stretch Music" — a proud hybrid of styles and approaches, with a strong underlay of groove.

Luciano Rossetti / Rossetti-Phocus

Dave Burrell attended his first Vision Festival in its fifth year, when it was held on St. Marks Place in the East Village.

"The atmosphere was charged," he recalls, describing the rugged immediacy of a space that had once housed the Electric Circus, a fabled psychedelic rock club. "Everyone was there, waiting their turn to perform. It was magical."

B+

August Greene, “Black Kennedy”

Black excellence is a welcome and pressing topic of conversation at the moment, as Black Panther wraps up a record-breaking box office weekend and its soundtrack, spearheaded by Kendrick Lamar, debuts at Number 1. For Common, another rapper with a strong moral compass, the subject also provides a natural through-line on “Black Kennedy,” the luminous new track from August Greene.

Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz at Lincoln Center has announced 15 finalists for the 23rd Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, to be held this spring. Among them is Newark Academy, returning for the second year in a row under the direction of Julius Tolentino.

Jesse Kitt/Courtesy of the artist

Lizz Wright, “Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You”

Lizz Wright delivered a gift last year in the form of her sixth album, Grace. A statement of extravagant self-assurance, it’s also an American affirmation, and in many ways a balm. 

Monica Jane Frisell

Bill Frisell is no stranger to the solitary urge. Even in an ensemble setting, his graceful, inquisitive guitar playing can feel like the projection of an interior monologue. He’s a warm and generous collaborator but also a paragon of self-containment, complete unto himself.

Anna Webber

Christian Sands, “J Street”

Last year, pianist Christian Sands released an album aptly titled Reach. Among other things, it was a demonstration of that very idea, showcasing Sands’ flexibilities of intention and style. Now there’s a new EP on the horizon that seems likely to expand the canvas still farther, judging by this track, an exclusive premiere.

courtesy of the artist

Some experiences stick with you. They cry out for reflection, for the transfigurative potential of an artistic response. That was the case for Mike Reed, the intrepid Chicago drummer and bandleader, after his harrowing encounter with white supremacists in 2009.

Some experiences stick with you. They cry out for reflection, for the transfigurative potential of an artistic response. That was the case for Mike Reed, the intrepid Chicago drummer and bandleader, after his harrowing encounter with white supremacists in 2009.

Anna Yatsekevich

John Raymond’s Real Feels, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” 

Direct emotional expression isn’t always easy to come by in jazz’s ultramodern wing, but John Raymond has made it a priority in Real Feels, his primary band. A deeply sympathetic trio featuring Raymond on trumpet and flugelhorn, Gilad Hekselman on guitar and Colin Stranahan on drums, it’s the latest evidence of jazz’s fruitful exchange with melodic indie-rock and singer-songwriter fare.

Getty Images

The jazz and blues winners at the 60th Grammy Awards are in, and they mostly went to seasoned heads and strong favorites. But this ​year’s Grammys also reinforced just how flexible jazz and blues artists tend to be, moving across a range of categories and in a variety of styles. 

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.

Chris Tobin / WBGO

The Baylor Project — a flagship of the vocalist Jean Baylor and the drummer Marcus Baylor, partners in music as in marriage — will be in the running for two Grammy awards this month. Tellingly, the nominations are in different genre categories: Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Traditional R&B Performance.

Peter Gannushkin

Kris Davis and Craig Taborn, "Love in Outer Space"

Fred Hersch is no stranger to the art of introspection. As a pianist, a composer, a bandleader and a sideman, he has always combined clarity of projection with a willingness to go deep. His latest expression of interiority is a graceful and revealing memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, which takes shape as a gradual declaration of selfhood, in personal as well as artistic terms.

John Rogers / WBGO

“Art hurts. Art urges voyages — and it is easier to stay at home.” Gwendolyn Brooks wrote those words just over 50 years ago, for her poem “Chicago Picasso.” They resurfaced late on Friday night at the New School Tishman Auditorium, as part of the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Marathon.

A bar fight breaks out during a pivotal scene in Django, the musically crisp yet mournful new wartime drama by Étienne Comar. As the fracas unfolds, the band keeps playing, with a blithe bemusement that seems to say: This happens all the time. But these are far from normal times.

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