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

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Along with a label homecoming for legendary drummer-composer Joe Chambers.

Dave Kaufman

A master of the low end has left us.

Howard Johnson, who presided for more than 50 years as the preeminent tuba player in modern jazz, while making celebrated forays into rock, blues and soul — and racking up nearly as much mileage on baritone saxophone — died at his home in New York City on Jan. 11. He was 79.

I can think of no better summation of our shared experience over the last year than "A World Lost," the title of the piece that opens Maria Schneider's Data Lords. A slow, foreboding dirge in an oblong time signature, it instantly sets a tone of somber contemplation.

Along with a standards album by Becca Stevens and a trio session led by saxophonist Ivo Perelman.


“The tune is just an excuse to bring out the you. That’s why I became a jazz musician.”

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Birdland Jazz Club has officially joined the endangered venue list.

A GoFundMe campaign initiated this week aims to raise at least $250,000 to help prevent the venue from closing permanently, in the wake of a nine-month draught precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

As we embark on a new year, open up to some new music.

Eugene Wright, whose nimble and rock-steady bass playing anchored the Dave Brubeck Quartet during its most popular and prolific decade, from the late 1950s through the late ‘60s, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 97.

The Blue Whale

Another small but glowing constant for jazz over the last decade has quietly been extinguished.

The Blue Whale, a 100-capacity performance space in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles, announced on Wednesday that it was closing permanently. Like many other bars and nightspots across the country, it had been dark since mid-March, due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dave Kaufman / Used with permission

Frank Kimbrough, a pianist of unerring taste and touch, a composer drawn to flowing ethereality, and an improviser steeped in the art of epiphany, died on Wednesday at his home in Long Island City, N.Y. 

Jonathan Chimene

To state the obvious, this was a year like no other.

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Everyone can relate to the stillness and solitude that prevailed at times this year. For jazz musicians, those moments presented new possibilities. Here to tell us about it is Nate Chinen from member station WBGO and Jazz Night in America.

Justin Bias / Jazz at Lincoln Center

“Jazz music is the perfect metaphor for democracy.”

So declares Wynton Marsalis — trumpeter, composer, Jazz at Lincoln Center artistic director — in a press announcement for his new album, The Democracy! Suite.

Courtesy of the Norwegian Digital Jazz Festival

For a certain type of music fan, the 2020 Big Ears Festival was one of the first American casualties of the coronavirus pandemic.

The fest, which takes place in Knoxville, Tenn., announced its cancelation a few weeks before its scheduled run in March. During the months since, the Big Ears team has rallied and regrouped around an online presence.

Jimmy Katz

So many of us are more than ready to put 2020 into the rearview.

Dave Kaufman

Jeff Clayton, an alto saxophonist and flutist who cut a wide swath as a sideman, and who stood front and center in the Clayton Brothers Quintet and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, died on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Maxim Francois / Vision Fugitive

Stanley Cowell, a pianist, composer and educator who demonstrated a vast range of possibilities for jazz over the last 50 years, died on Thursday at Bayhealth Hospital in Dover, Del. He was 79.

The cause was Hypovolemic shock as a result of other health complications, said trumpeter Charles Tolliver, one of Cowell’s closest musical associates.


If you’ve been a jazz fan for any length of time, you know farewells are an essential part of the deal.

If you've been a jazz fan for any length of time, you know farewells are an essential part of the deal. But this was a harder year than most, as the ravages of a pandemic compounded and quickened the scope of our losses, especially during a heartbreaking stretch last spring.

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Clark Terry, the matchless trumpeter and flugelhorn player, was born 100 years ago today.

The first batch of Christmas jazz albums landed early this year. Here come the reinforcements.

courtesy of Jeff Gold and Harper Design

“It really was a paradisical place to be, the jazz club.” 

Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

Pianist-composer Dave Brubeck was born on Dec. 6, 1920.

Matt Sayles / AP

With each year’s new slate of Grammy nominations, there comes a wave of armchair analysis.

Which artists have the momentum this year? Who got unjustly overlooked? How many more awards can overdog Chick Corea win before they retire his jersey and call it a day?

Ashley Lederer / WBGO

In search of holiday inspiration? WBGO has you covered.

Concord Jazz

Grammy nominations are always an imprecise barometer, contingent on too many factors to provide a clear view on any scene. Still, the 2021 jazz field, announced this afternoon, ratifies an industry consensus that has implications well beyond the award podium.

Deneka Peniston

Until this year, the term “force majeure” was a necessary safeguard in a business contract, but a truly rare occurrence.

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Charlie Haden formed the Liberation Music Orchestra just over half a century ago, compelled by what he once called “a commitment to equality and to humanism and compassion in the world.”