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

In the liner notes to John Coltrane's 1964 album Live At Birdland, Amiri Baraka (then writing as Le Roi Jones) contemplated the gift the saxophonist and his band offered with this music inspired by the horrific deaths of four Black girls in a Birmingham church bombing inspired by white supremacist hatred. "Listen," Baraka wrote. "What we're given is a slow delicate introspective sadness, almost hopelessness, except for Elvin [Jones], rising in the background like something out of nature... a fattening thunder, storm clouds or jungle war clouds.

This past February — before the phrase “social distancing” had entered our lexicon — the two of us, Greg Bryant and Nate Chinen, got together to hear some music.

Greg had recently moved up from Nashville to become the host of Jazz After Hours on WBGO. Nate, WBGO’s editorial director, suggested catching a set someplace before the overnight shift, which is how we found ourselves at the Jazz Standard for the Ravi Coltrane Quartet. 

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Rio Sakairi, Artistic Director at The Jazz Gallery, didn’t exactly come running into the age of virtual concert presentation.

“If I’m speaking honestly, I’m only doing this because people have been asking for it,” she says of the club’s new livestream, which kicks off tonight with a set by the Joel Ross Trio. “I’m not crazy about it. But I know the musicians are craving to play with each other, so for that, it’s great.”

Monica Jane Frisell

Along with a timely track by pianist Mike King, and a video exclusive by Joey Alexander.

The summer of 1968 looked like the summer of 2020. Americans were in the streets protesting racism, among other things. And a high school student in Palo Alto, Calif., got in on the action by enlisting the help of a jazz legend. Danny Scher came up with the idea to book Thelonious Monk to play his school's auditorium and now, a professional recording of this concert will be released publicly for the first time on July 31. The album is called Palo Alto.

Stacy Kimball

Artistry and activism have always been fully entwined in the music of Vijay Iyer.

So it should come as no surprise that he sees his livestream trio engagement at The Village Vanguard this weekend as a chance to engage with our cultural moment, and the topic of systemic racism. During a recent phone interview, Iyer reflected on what form that commentary might take.

Every working musician has a story to tell about the upending jolt of this spring, when the pandemic officially took hold. For pianist Brad Mehldau, that story begins with the interruption of his trio's European tour, and the cancelation of a planned trip back to New York.

Spencer Ostrander / Courtesy of the artist

Pianist Geri Allen, born on this day in 1957, was the common bond for countless musicians.

Among them are Vijay Iyer, a sworn disciple, and Kassa Overall, her longtime drummer. Last summer they recorded a duo session that would yield the closing track on Overall’s daring and acclaimed recent album, I Think I’m Good (Brownswood Recordings).

Jimmy Heath made one of his first appearances on record as a member of Dizzy Gillespie's band, late in 1949. Released on Capitol under the title Dizzy Gillespie And His Orchestra, it featured Heath on alto saxophone alongside his fellow Philadelphian, an up-and-comer named John Coltrane.

Courtesy of The Village Vanguard

Last Friday, Deborah Gordon set foot in The Village Vanguard for the first time in almost 12 weeks.

Ogata

Black lives matter. We hold this truth to be self-evident, and yet it needs to be said.

Over the past two weeks, since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, there has been a reckoning in America and around the world. And as we have seen before, musicians are responding in urgent fashion.

Robert Lewis

A few months ago, saxophonist-composer Tim Berne and guitarist-producer David Torn were on the road with their band Sun of Goldfinger when coronavirus restrictions went into effect.

NPR

“Our best musicians in the jazz tradition were radical imaginers,” says Samora Pinderhughes.

“Now you has jazz, jazz, jazz, jazz, jazz!”

Priscilla Jiminez

Along with some duo magic from Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch, and a ray of sunshine from Matt Wilson.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Organizers of the Jazz Coalition had a lot of phone calls to make this week.

The industry collective, which formed in response to the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic, spent the last month mobilizing behind its signature initiative: a Commission Fund designed to award $1,000 grants to an array of artists, in support of the creation of new work.

Courtesy of the artist

Lucky Peterson, a keyboardist, guitarist and singer whose blues career kicked off with a novelty hit at age 5, eventually sprawling over dozens of albums and thousands of high-octane gigs, died in Dallas, Tx. on May 17. He was 55.

His death was announced on his Facebook page. Blues guitarist Shawn Kellerman, his longtime friend and band mate, said the cause was a stroke.

Courtesy of the artist

Plus a taste of Michael Olatuja’s new album, featuring Regina Carter.

Richard Conde

To support its COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund, the Jazz Foundation of America is pulling out all the stops.

Trevor Smith / WBGO

Twenty-three years ago, I went out on my first reporting assignment and ended up in Amiri Baraka’s laundry room.

David Crow / Courtesy of the artist

Also: new music from the Joshua Redman Quartet, Leni Stern, Harold López-Nussa, and Big Heart Machine.

Ambrose Akinmusire was in the eighth grade, a budding trumpeter in Oakland, Calif., when he made his first excursion to a jazz club. Through a radio contest, he'd won tickets to the local mainstay, Yoshi's, unaware of the creative portal he was opening.

Woong Chun Al

Today is Keith Jarrett’s birthday, but he’s the one bearing a gift.

To be more precise, ECM Records has released a new track by the celebrated pianist: a sensitive treatment of “Answer Me, My Love,” recorded at the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall in Budapest, Hungary on July 3, 2016. It’s the first taste of an album scheduled for release sometime in the fall.

Jazz and the visual arts have always enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. Last year the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis put that bond front and center with an ambitious original program called Portraits of America: A Jazz Story.

David Brisco

Music of renewal, reassurance and reminiscence.

Aaron Jackendoff / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Richie Cole, an alto saxophonist, bandleader and composer with a steadfast commitment to the hard-driving verities of bebop, died on May 2 at his home in Carnegie, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. He was 72.

In an alternate timeline, I know precisely how I would have spent the evening of April 17. The dynamic South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini had been booked for an album-release engagement at Dizzy's Club, the in-house nightclub at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I was looking forward to hearing his band in that room — not only because Makhathini's stateside appearances are few and far between, but also because the urgent, questing spirit of his music is something best experienced in person and in close quarters, as a form of communion.

jazz at lincoln center

Bright moments for difficult times, in this week’s Take Five.

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