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, 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

One question we often hear at Jazz Night in America is, 'Who are the young musicians to look out for?' There are many contenders, of course, and we try to do our part in featuring their efforts. To that end, this episode of Jazz Night spotlights three bright women coming into their own as artists: Vocalist and flutist Melanie Charles, and saxophonists Lakecia Benjamin and María Grand. Each woman has a unique story to tell, as we'll hear in this show, which also features a healthy dose of their music, recorded on the bandstand at Dizzy's Club in New York.

Herbie Hancock took a moment during the International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert to address some fraught geopolitical realities.

Not that Hancock, in his dual capacity as UNESCO goodwill ambassador and chairman of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz, got into specifics, or really needed to. Speaking from a podium at Hamer Hall in Melbourne, Australia on Tuesday night, he just extolled the spirit of cooperation and exchange in jazz, "at a time when internal and external relationships among so many countries are unsettled."

What is the sound of Australian jazz? You'd be hard pressed to answer that question definitively, but one response can be heard on Insurgent, by trumpeter Mat Jodrell.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Gilad Hekselman has become one of the leading guitarists of his generation through a combination of factors, including his warm, lyrical sound and his willingness to push into the red. He features both sides of that aesthetic equation on his recent album Ask For Chaos, featuring a working trio as well as ZuperOctave, a more fusion-forward band.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Tom Guarna is a guitarist of keen insight and broad experience, all of which he brought to this recent performance at the Yamaha Salon.

Guarna appeared on the series — usually a spotlight for pianists — as part of a guitar-centric triple bill organized by WBGO's John Newcott. (We'll soon post the two other performances, by For Living Lovers and the Gilad Hekselman Trio.) The set's rhythm section is first-rate by anyone's standard: David Kikoski on piano, Joe Martin on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums.

Gabriel Bertogg

Along with Wadada Leo Smith’s salute to Rosa Parks, Wynton Marsalis’ soundtrack to Bolden, and Tom McDermott’s take on a Joplin rag.

Anna Yatskevich

Stretch your horizons this week in Take Five.

Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington, two of the biggest names in jazz, will join forces for a North American co-headlining tour this summer.


The National Endowment for the Arts inducts its 2019 Jazz Masters on April 15.

In advance of the main event — a tribute concert at the Kennedy Center, which we’ll livestream here at WBGO — we’re celebrating the new class of honorees in Take Five.

Mark Sheldon

Emmet Cohen is the winner of the 2019 American Pianists Awards, one of the most prestigious events of its kind.

Cohen, 28, hails from New York City, where he earned a masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music. He has released several albums, including Dirty in Detroit, released last year. He will appear at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola on April 16, with his trio.

In 2005, even as the flood waters that rose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina subsumed his home along with countless others, Allen Toussaint was reluctant to leave his city. But the elegant architect of New Orleans rhythm and blues was left with no other option. Just a day after his evacuation, in an interview with Rolling Stone, he described the experience less in terms of what had been lost than what could yet be gained.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Along with saxophonist Michaël Attias and trombonist Joe Fiedler.

Rippy Austin

John Coltrane looms as a towering influence for any tenor saxophonist in the jazz tradition.

Teodross Avery has known this to be true from the beginning of his musical journey, more than 30 years ago — though he recently discovered how powerful it can be to bring Coltrane’s music back down to human scale. This is the core strategy on Avery’s cathartic new tribute, After the Rain: A Night For Coltrane, which will be released on the Tompkins Square label on May 10.

Anna Yatskevich

Broken Shadows, which makes its debut at the Village Vanguard this week, could be fairly pegged as a tribute. But that falls short of capturing what the band is about. 

Arne Reimer

And a premiere by bassist André Carvalho, whom you should get to know.

Courtesy of the artist

"When I was younger," Sherrie Maricle says, "it was almost a mission to blend in with all the men I was playing with. Not to be viewed as female in any way."

But Maricle, a drummer inspired by the precision and power of Buddy Rich, found her calling as a leader of women — specifically, as leader of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, which recently marked 25 years as a proving ground, a pipeline and a rejoinder to any lingering bias that this music is a masculine domain.

"When I was younger," Sherrie Maricle says, "it was almost a mission to blend in with all the men I was playing with.

Nat King Cole’s centennial falls this Sunday, March 17.

It’s a perfect invitation for a tribute — and Michael Bourne is the perfect guide. He’ll devote the entirety of this Sunday’s Singers Unlimited show to the music and legacy of Cole.

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

Jean-Pierre Leloir

Resonance Records became a leading purveyor of historical jazz recordings thanks to two artists in particular: guitarist Wes Montgomery and pianist Bill Evans.

The label, which recently observed its 10th anniversary, has released five Montgomery albums, and three by Evans — all of the music sanctioned for the first time, and most of it previously unissued in any form. Resonance is now about to return to the well with Evans in England, a live 1969 recording by the Bill Evans Trio, and Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings, an assortment of early material by Montgomery.

Nate Chinen / WBGO

Bobby Sanabria was a teenager, growing up in the Bronx, when he placed his first call to a radio station. The station was WRVR, a beacon of jazz in the New York area at the time, and he was calling to request a song by vibraphonist Cal Tjader.

“I asked for ‘Cuban Fantasy’ — the live version from an album called Concert on the Campus,” Sanabria recalls. “Willie Bobo takes an incredible timbale solo on that track. As a percussionist, that was something I knew I needed to study.”

Carolina Sanchez / Red Bull Content Pool

Makaya McCraven — a drummer-producer-bandleader-composer who sums up his MO with the evocative term "beat scientist" — has lately been on the hottest of hot streaks. His album Universal Beings was hailed as one of the best albums of 2018, by outlets ranging from The New York Times to Rolling Stone. (In the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, it came in at No. 4.) For McCraven, who lives in Chicago, this vaulting acclaim is just the latest evidence that he's onto something vital and new.

Makaya McCraven — a drummer-producer-bandleader-composer who sums up his MO with the evocative term "beat scientist" — has lately been on the hottest of hot streaks. His album Universal Beings was hailed as one of the best albums of 2018, by outlets ranging from The New York Times to Rolling Stone. (In the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, it came in at No.

David Redfern / Redferns/Getty

Ira Gitler, a passionate critic and proponent of modern jazz during its rise, and a tireless chronicler of its history thereafter, died on Saturday at a nursing facility in New York City. 

He was 90. His death was confirmed by Fitz Gitler, his son.

Few writers on jazz have ever loomed as large as Ira Gitler, who opined prodigiously for more than 60 years, in publications like Metronome, JazzTimes and DownBeat, for which he served as New York editor for a time.

Bill Frisell has made no secret of his fondness for the music of James Bond films. An elite jazz guitarist with a gift for shadowy lyricism, he recorded the title theme to You Only Live Twice a few years ago for an album of movie music. Frisell then included the main Goldfinger theme on Small Town, his painterly duo effort with bassist Thomas Morgan.