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

What makes a first-tier jazz legacy? A signature instrumental style, recognizable within a phrase or two. A body of exceptional recordings, in the studio and in concert. A legion of imitators, great and small. A sense of broad cultural relevance. Maybe even a hit song or two.

Earlier this week, an array of news outlets in New York City reported a macabre discovery: The body of a 53-year-old man was found floating in a Queens marina, fully clothed, with chains wrapped around his legs. The body was noticed by a passerby along the shoreline of the World's Fair Marina in Flushing Harbor, near Citi Field, around 9:15 a.m. Tuesday.

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

Deneka Peniston

Take Five this week is packed with must-hear albums, just released or just ahead.

Shervin Lainez

“It’s important to me that music is an engine for feeling,” says Anat Cohen.

Jean-Baptiste Millot

From jazz and poetry to the plight of immigrants, Take Five looks at five new tunes that explore cultural currency in music.

Carol Friedman

When we last heard from Chucho Valdés, the magisterial Cuban pianist and composer, he was engaged in patrilineal homage.

On Familia: Tribute to Bebo and Chico, released last year, he joined forces with Arturo O'Farrill to celebrate the legacies of their fathers, who were in the first rank of Cuban jazz royalty.

Jimmy Katz

The myriad folk musics of Puerto Rico have been a highly productive fixation for Miguel Zenón, the acclaimed alto saxophonist, composer and bandleader.

Típico, an emblematic effort by his ace quartet, was released last year. With Yo soy la Tradición, which arrives this Friday on Miel Music, Zenón explores a softer-featured but no less intense collaboration with a contemporary chamber string ensemble, Spektral Quartet.

Don Schlitten / Courtesy of Resonance Records

When George Klabin started Resonance Records, he had no idea he was planting the seed for a bumper crop of historic jazz recordings.

“We started with living musicians,” says Klabin,  a veteran producer and engineer, “and it didn’t make the impact that it makes even now.”

Wayne Shorter likes to tell a story about going to see Charlie Parker, the mercurial titan of bebop, sometime around 1951. Shorter was 18 at the time — a saxophonist, like Parker, and a bop obsessive already gigging around his hometown of Newark, N.J. He headed across the river into Manhattan, where Parker, colloquially known as Bird, was headlining at Birdland, the club named in Parker's honor.

Nels Cline has earned his place as a guitar hero for our times, with a track record stretching back four decades and a marquee gig with Wilco. But if you mainly associate him with squalls of feedback, you're missing a big part of the picture. "The Avant Romantic" is how Rolling Stone pegged him about a decade ago, in its list of Top 20 New Guitar Gods.

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

Francis Wolff / Blue Note Records

Labor Day weekend is a time to honor our workers, and the spirit of industry they embody. Of course it also carries other connotations: backyard barbecues, furniture sales and family road trips, for starters.

When thinking about a Labor Day edition of Take Five, I decided to bypass the standard fare — like Cannonball Adderley's “Work Song,” which refers to a different set of circumstances than the one that this holiday commemorates. I looked instead to important jazz artists who were born this week in history, within several days of the holiday.

Chester Higgins

Randy Weston, a pianist and composer who devoted more than half a century to the exploration of jazz’s deep connection with Africa, died on Saturday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 92.

His death was announced by his wife and business partner, Fatoumata Weston.

Courtesy of the artist

The Westerlies, a young brass quartet at the intersection of new music and progressive jazz, has teamed up with the equally broadminded vocalist Theo Bleckmann for a pointed new project, Songs of Refuge and Resistance.

More Than Keeping Time: A Melodic Drumming Demo

Aug 17, 2018

What would you say if I told you that drums can sing? The best jazz drummers have always understood this as fact. Allison Miller has even made it a core part of her artistic mission — as drummer, a composer and a bandleader, notably with her ensemble Boom Tic Boom.

Caroline Forbes / ECM

Tomasz Stanko, who died this week at 76, was more than an important Polish trumpeter and composer, though he was certainly both of those things.

Adam Kissick / NPR

From the beginning, America's oldest jazz fête strove for a breadth of style. George Wein, the festival's cofounder and patriarch, used to say he wanted to present the full sweep of the music, "from J to Z." That doesn't mean Jay-Z, though a tradition of crossover inclusion goes all the way back to Chuck Berry, 60 years ago.

Wayne Shorter was 15 when he first wrote and illustrated his own comic book, in blue ballpoint pen. That was in 1949, and Shorter has traveled great distances since, becoming an influential saxophonist, a 10-time Grammy winner and one of the most highly regarded composers in modern jazz.

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