Simon Rentner

Host and Producer, The Checkout

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Africa, South America, and Europe.

He is the host and producer for The Checkout, which showcases new music “on the other side of jazz” by some of the best artists on this planet including Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper, Hiatus Kiayote, Hermeto Pascoal, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, Henry Threadgill, Cassandra Wilson, and many others.

Aside from working in media, he is a curator and producer of concerts in New York City at spaces such as The Beacon Theatre, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Town Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Le Poisson Rouge, and Bryant Park. Some of the artists he’s presented include Abdullah Ibrahim, The Punch Brothers, Cecil Taylor, Rosanne Cash, and the late Andrew Hill.

In addition to The Checkout, Rentner has hosted and produced content for NPR, PRI, WGBH, and WNYC. He’s won PRINDI awards for his news stories on The WBGO Journal. He’s produced long and short content for Jazz Night in America, Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio (hosted by both Ed Bradley and Wynton Marsalis), Toast of the Nation, Afropop Worldwide, Marketplace, and The Leonard Lopate Show.

His radio shows also feature celebrated voices and minds, not limited to music, such as, Jessica Lange, Ellsworth Kelly, Lee Friedlander, Mark Morris to name a few. He’s also covered the music cultural histories from Colombia, France, Sierra Leone, Mali, Argentina, Madagascar, Venezuela, Peru, Canada, and, naturally, the United States.

Ways to Connect

Yvonne Schmedemann

Nobody improvises with a band quite like Mark de Clive-Lowe.


Bruno Bollaert

Kamasi Washington’s Heaven and Earth Tour reached New York City on Tuesday, with a stop at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center opening for Florence and the Machine. Over the summer we spoke with the Herculean saxophonist about some of his most important early music influences — from Art Blakey to Busta Rhymes to Stravinksy — during an onstage conversation at Jazz Middelheim in Antwerp, Belgium.


Jill Furmanovsky

You probably know Nile Rodgers for his trailblazing work in disco, and as producer behind some of the 20th century’s most enduring pop songs. Did you also know that Rodgers started out as a jazz musician? At this summer’s North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, author Ashley Kahn sat down with the formidable bassist, composer, arranger and producer to discuss his jazz roots.


Philippe Levy-Stab

Sarah McKenzie kicked off the new season of The Checkout — Live at Berklee.

 

A young singer, pianist, and composer originally from Melbourne, Austrailia, and now based in London, McKenzie returns to her alma mater in Boston to perform songs from her latest Impulse! album, Paris in the Rain.

 

She was joined by her quartet, featuring guitarist Perry Smith, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Donald Edwards.

 

Valerie Gay Bessette

This past summer the Montreal Jazz Festival featured drummer Mark Guiliana in its Invitation series, presenting three different projects over three nights at the Church of the Gesù. 

Courtesy of the artist

Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin & Wood, arguably the most accomplished jam band on the planet, expands his universe in adventurous music-making.

 

 

 

A heavy groove drummer who has never been shy in incorporating exotic sounds — from bamboo rain sticks to Tibetan bowls — Martin is now ready to make his mark in contemporary classical music. MMW recently teamed up with the renegade classical chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound for Omnisphere, a concert album released last week.

Nick Michael / NPR

As we continue to remember pianist and composer Randy Weston, who died on Sept. 1, we’re reminded of his devotion to the motherland, Africa. But how many people know about his ties to Central America — and in particular, his deep connection to Panama?


Courtesy of the artist

The Cuban mambo group Orquestra Akokán visited our studio at WBGO yesterday. In this Checkout podcast, you'll hear their full performance, and my conversation with two co-leaders from the band.


Simon Rentner

Before Adrian Younge was writing orchestral music with a hip-hop flair, he was a law professor by day and a DJ by night. During this period, he became obsessed with classic soul from 1968 to 1973 — music that he says resonated in ways this country had never seen before. Younge, a multi-instrumentalist from Los Angels, aspires toward a similar feeling on his new album, The Midnight Hour, with Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest.

RENE GOIFFON

Today's show unfolds in two parts. First Joe Lovano shares his appreciation of fellow tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, whom he first learned about his while growing up in Cleveland, OH. (Lovano expressed his appreciation many years later with an original blues, "Big Ben.") 

 


Bruno Bollaert

Jazz Middelheim is probably the oldest jazz event in Belgium, originally founded in 1969. It can also make a claim as one of the most adventurous with its programming.  


Andrea Pizziconi / courtesy of the artist

Keyon Harrold’s beautiful trumpet tone has been heard on many of our era’ s defining popular music, from Jay-Z to Maxwell to Mac Miller.


Courtesy of the artist

For more than a decade, Nate Wood has expressed his multifarious instrumentalism in prog-jazz outfits like Kneebody, the Wayne Krantz Trio, and the Donny McCaslin Band. But his solo project, fOUR, which has a residency over the next few weeks at Nublu, takes the concept to impossible extremes.

 


Valerie Gay Bessette

BIGYUKI, born Masayuki Hirano in Japan, looks up to the stars. His modern synth-jazz suggests a cosmic aesthetic. And he has aligned himself with other luminous artists, from Meshell Ndegeocello to A Tribe Called Quest. Hirano says he tries to make his music “as accessible as possible,” with the intention of attaining a measure of stardom for himself.


Courtesy of the artist

Don’t let the heavy African grooves fool you — Photay is pale in complexion.

He’s also a forward-thinking electronic artist raised in upstate New York, where he’s also known by his given name, Evan Shornstein. Photay means “white” in Susu, one of the native languages spoken in Guinea. On a trip to West Africa, the artist fell in love with the balafon, a marimba-like instrument featured on his 2017 album Onism.


Sarah Geledi

Laurent Saulnier isn't shy when pushing the boundaries of jazz. For 19 years, the V.P. of Programming for the largest jazz festival on the planet has made the case that jazz is much more than swing and bebop, but a style that informs many of the popular sounds we listen to today.

Ulli Gruber

Dave Holland keeps it moving. After being active in music for well over half a century, the English bass legend is arguably busier and more open-minded than ever — collaborating with musical masters from India and Tunisia as well as the United States.

 


Hadas

Justin Brown — the drummer behind acclaimed, forward-thinking musicians like Thundercat, Flying Lotus, and Ambrose Akinmusire — is  ready to make his own statement.


Chris Tobin

Since Julian Lage focused his attentions on a Fender Telecaster a couple of years ago, his music has become more country, more sparse, and arguably more soulful. Lage recently brought his trio onto Morning Jazz to talk about that shift, and play a few tunes from his newest album, Modern Lore.


Todd Cooper

Robert Glasper has an idea about what jazz should sound like today.

What initially began as an experimental meeting of musical minds at SXSW has now turned into R+R=NOW — a superband with a mission to reflect our present time. The group will release its debut, Collagically Speaking, tomorrow on Blue Note Records.


Simon Rentner

Welcome to the island of St. Lucia, where we soak in deeply African rhythms that morphed into brilliant modern Creole creations in recent years.  The Checkout explores five Caribbean jazz songs you should know curated by Yves Renard, the Artistic Director of the Soleil St. Lucia Summer Festival.


Jenelle Ernest

Zara McFarlane may be from England, but she's made it her mission to understand her Afro-Caribbean heritage by investigating the folkloric music of Jamaica, one of England's former colonies, and also the home of her parents. The Checkout caught up with McFarlane at the Soleil Summer Festival, in St. Lucia.

Chris Tobin

 

At a time when building bridges is more important than ever, flutist Jamie Baum is making musical connections between different cultures too often at odds with each other. Her new album, Bridges, finds the common ground between music she loves from the West with the music she’s discovered from the Middle East and South Asia.


Chris Tobin

Big band leader and multi-reedist Eyal Vilner is facing a mighty challenge: how do you write a chart for three separate large ensembles — over 50 jazz musicians in total — for this Saturday's night blowout event Intrepid: Battle of the Big Bands, on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

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.

 


Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus performs at The Festival of Disruption, curated by David Lynch, at Brooklyn Steel on May 19 and 20.

A few years back, The Checkout had the rare opportunity to speak with Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, about his acclaimed album You’re Dead!  In this podcast, the electronic music composer, filmmaker and all-around rabble-rouser delves deep into his jazz roots — and talks about how being the grand nephew of Alice Coltrane and first cousin of Ravi Coltrane has influenced his brilliant, beyond-category sound.

 


Isaiah McClain / WBGO

Kat Edmonson writes music for the present in a style firmly rooted in the past. Her new album, Old Fashioned Gal, showcases all original songs — but if you look past the lyrics, her sound clearly harks back to the mood and attitude of Fred Astaire movies from the 1930s.

Edmonson and her band recently joined WBGO’s Michael Bourne in celebration of her album, just out on Spinnerette Records.

Ben Stechschulte

Taylor Haskins admits he might be kind of cyborg. The trumpet player contracted a cyber-bug of sorts when he first discovered the music of Herbie Hancock. The dancing robots in the music video for "Rockit" haunted him for decades, until Haskins finally decided to put down his brass and plug in a rare wind instrument known as the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument).

 


Jazz super bands don’t come together all that often — so when an ensemble like Aziza forms, take notice. Chris Potter, who joins us here on The Checkout, was the one who first brought together the formidable talents of bassist Dave Holland, guitarist Lionel Loueke, and drummer Eric Harland.


Jean-Pierre Leloir

The guitarist Grant Green may have left us nearly 40 years ago, but his influence is still being felt today — and not only in jazz circles.

 

On this Record Store Day episode of The Checkout, we talk to Zev Feldman of Resonance Records about the new archival releases Grant Green: Funk In France from Paris to Antibes (1969 - 1970) and Grant Green: Slick! Live at Oil Can Harry’s.


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