Nate Chinen

Director of Editorial Content

Nate Chinen has been writing about jazz for more than 20 years.

He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Director of Editorial Content at WBGO, Chinen works with the multiplatform program Jazz Night in America and contributes a range of coverage to NPR Music.

He is author of Playing Changes: Jazz For the New Centurypublished in hardcover by Pantheon in 2018, and on paperback by Vintage in 2019. Hailed as one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, GQ, Billboard, and JazzTimes, it's a chronicle of jazz in our time, and an argument for the music's continuing relevance. It has also been published internationally, in Italian and Spanish editions. 

A thirteen-time winner of the Helen Dance–Robert Palmer Award for Excellence in Writing, presented by the Jazz Journalists Association, Chinen is also coauthor of Myself Among Others: A Life in Music, the 2003 autobiography of festival impresario and producer George Wein, which earned the JJA’s award for Best Book About Jazz.

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.

His work appears in Best Music Writing 2011 (Da Capo); Pop When the World Falls Apart: Music in the Shadow of Doubt (Duke University Press, 2012), and Miles Davis: The Complete Illustrated History (Voyageur Press, 2012).

Ways to Connect

A hard-bop stalwart. An avant-garde original. A ceiling-shattering bandleader. A bebop-obsessive broadcaster. These are some brief descriptors for the incoming class of NEA Jazz Masters, announced this morning by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Toshinori Kondo, an improvising trumpeter whose daring instinct and deep expressive resources slashed through a spectrum of experimental and ambient music, died on Saturday in Kawasaki, Japan. He was 71.

His sons, Sora Kondo and Yota Kondo, announced his death on his website, noting that he died peacefully. No cause was given.

Bart Babinski

Manfred Eicher is the founder and producer at ECM Records, but the word that best describes his role at the label might be “auteur.”

Mathieu Bitton

When Don Was took the helm at Blue Note Records not quite a decade ago, it looked from the outside like a trusted industry vet moving up from the control room to the board room. That wasn’t the way he saw it, though.

M. McCartney

“I think so much of what I do is intuitive,” says Diana Krall. “It’s based on a feeling.”

Dave Stapleton

Tracks from five new albums that expand horizons, each in its own way.

Cat Henry

More than a dozen leading jazz artists have joined forces for a concert benefiting the presidential campaign of Joe Biden.

Jazz For America, streaming on Oct. 15, will feature guitarist John Scofield; singer Jazzmeia Horn; saxophonists Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane, Melissa Aldana and Miguel Zenón; and bassists John Patitucci and Christian McBride, among others. Its virtual cohosts will be Dee Dee Bridgewater, the vocalist and NEA Jazz Master, and Douglas Emhoff, a lawyer also known as the husband of Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris.  

Rolf Ambor / CTSIMAGES

By the early 1960s, Ella Fitzgerald was an established international artist, beginning to reap the fruits of a 25-year career.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

It’s no longer a stretch, if it ever was, to hail Cécile McLorin Salvant as a genius.

Some of us have been banging that drum for a while now, but today it became official, when the MacArthur Foundation announced its 2020 class of Fellows.

Tom Copi / Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Few artists ever traveled farther while keeping a foothold in the blues.

Yusef Lateef, the pioneering multi-reedist and composer born 100 years ago this week, could never be constrained, neither by limits nor by labels. He was a serious cultural hybridist long before the imprecise term “world music” entered circulation. And much like John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, who admired him even as he looked up to them, he was a lifelong seeker.

John Rogers

Along with the latest from Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra, jazz-vocal supergroup säje, and keyboard whiz kid Justin Lee Schultz.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Ira Sullivan, who distinguished himself as both a trumpeter and a saxophonist during a modern jazz career spanning more than 65 years, leaving a durable legacy on the Chicago scene as well as the field of jazz education, died on Sept. 21 at his home in Miami, Fla. He was 89.


We can’t gather in person right now, but we can still be together.

WBGO’s Fall 2020 Jazz-a-thon flows out of that conviction, with a nod to the past and an eye on the future. Featuring exclusive performances from our archives, it will evoke the joyous, determined feeling of our old round-the-clock fundraising blitz, which fostered a listening community and helped put WBGO on the map.

Courtesy of the artist

Drummer Andrew Cyrille and vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant are among the 2020 Doris Duke Artists, joining six other artists from the fields of theater and contemporary dance. The prestigious award comes with a prize of $275,000.

Tim Berne / Courtesy of the artist

At one point in the process of compiling WBGO’s 2020 Fall Preview, I realized that a handful of this season’s most anticipated albums amount to More of the Same — and that this wasn’t cause for disappointment, but rather a source of delight.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

In Take Five, hear one sterling track for each decade of Sonny’s monumental career.

Eric Ryan Anderson

Along with a new collaboration between Angelica Sanchez and Marilyn Crispell.

William Gottlieb / Redferns/Getty

Charlie Parker, the incandescent avatar of modern jazz, didn't live to see 35. His centennial is upon us, and with it comes a chance to celebrate his legacy — as a quicksilver alto saxophonist, a voracious musical thinker and a crucial link in the chain of jazz tradition. Bird, as he was fondly known, gave us a lexicon as well as a literature. Like Louis Armstrong before him and just a few others since, he redrew the possibilities of the art form, and he did it with absolute panache.

Bill May /

Charli Persip, whose career as a leading jazz drummer included close associations with Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston and many others — along with nearly 40 years at the helm of his own big band, SuperSound — died at Mt. Sinai Morningside in New York City on Sunday.

Chick Corea Productions

Along with the latest from saxophonists Alan Braufman and Dave Pietro.

Rolf Ambor / CTSIMAGES

Ella Fitzgerald had a brilliant night in Germany 60 years ago, as captured on the iconic album Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife. 

Elliot Ross

A few years ago, cornetist and composer Ron Miles managed what I consider something of a hat trick. He played on, and helped define, not one but three extraordinary jazz albums — all of which landed on my year-end best in 2017.

It’s never a bad time to talk about Thelonious Monk. His indomitable music and incorruptible example serve as a renewable resource, because there’s always something fresh to uncover, another brilliant corner to explore.

Dorthaan Kirk can vividly recall the evening she introduced her fellow 2020 NEA Jazz Master, the esteemed bassist Reggie Workman, for an event at the Montclair Art Museum. It was March 5 — just 24 weeks ago, though it almost feels like another lifetime.

The NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, America's highest honor reserved for jazz musicians, is typically bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts in grand fashion with a gala and all-star tribute concert.

The NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, America's highest honor reserved for jazz musicians, is typically bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts in grand fashion with a gala and all-star tribute concert. This year it was set to take place at San Francisco's SFJAZZ Center in April, but it had to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And so, like the artists being honored, the NEA opted to improvise, transforming the event into a virtual presentation with musicians beaming in from locales across the country.

Steve Grossman, a saxophonist whose lunging projection, sure rhythmic footing and clarity of attack helped propel him into the spotlight in the 1970s, notably in bands led by Miles Davis and Elvin Jones, died on Aug. 13 at Glen Cove Hospital in Glen Cove, N.Y. He was 69. The cause was cardiac arrest after a long illness, his brother Myles Grossman confirmed to NPR.

National Endowment for the Arts

Originally set for early April at SFJAZZ, the 2020 NEA Jazz Masters gala and concert was derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. It was remade into an online experience, hosted by 2017 NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater. So it felt only appropriate to turn this week’s Take Five into an NEA Jazz Masters sampler. Here’s to the Class of 2020!