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

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Larry Willis, whose ringing authority as a pianist extended to swinging post-bop, blaring jazz-rock, Cuban rumba and free improvisation, died on Sunday morning at the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md. He was 76 and lived in Baltimore.

Concord Jazz

Along with two other recommended albums — a total of six. (We’re feeling generous.)

You don't have to look far, in 2019, to encounter the mystique of trumpeter Miles Davis. This month Rhino released Rubberband, a previously unheard, posthumously refurbished pop-funk studio album recorded in 1985.

Courtesy of the artist

The Latin Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences announced thier nominees for the 20th Annual Latin Grammy Awards today, with good news for pop-flamenco powerhouse Rosalía and pop star Alejandro Sanz. They're among a handful of Spanish artists who dominate this year's nominations, as observed by NPR's Felix Contreras in a piece for alt.Latino.

Paula Court / Whitney Museum of American Art

Pianist-composer Jason Moran has formed many relationships with visual artists over the last two decades, from Joan Jonas to Adrian Piper to Glenn Ligon. He’s now joining their ranks with a solo exhibition at The Whitney Museum of American Art.

Jason Moran, as the show is simply titled, opened today and will run through Jan. 5, 2020. Earlier this week, Nate Chinen spoke with Moran and curator Danielle Edwards for WBGO News.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Six years ago, soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett merged her devotion to Afro-Cuban music with her commitment to women’s empowerment, and created Maqueque — a hard-charging group that has since toured the world, received a Grammy nomination and been the subject of a recent episode of Jazz Night in America.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Harold Mabern, a pianist of percussive fire and boundless soul, with a language that pulled from hard bop, post-bop, Memphis soul and the blues, died on Sept. 17 in New Jersey. He was 83.

Jonathan Chimene / Jazz at Lincoln Center

The smooth, booming voice of Gregory Porter brought a galvanizing force to jazz when he broke onto the scene about a decade ago. It's a voice of exhortation, flowing out of the gospel church. A voice of dignity, in the mode of his hero, Nat King Cole. A voice of reassurance, whether aiming for the heavens or toward a single soul across the room.

The smooth, booming voice of Gregory Porter brought a galvanizing force to jazz when he broke onto the scene about a decade ago. It's a voice of exhortation, flowing out of the gospel church. A voice of dignity, in the mode of his hero, Nat King Cole. A voice of reassurance, whether aiming for the heavens or toward a single soul across the room.

For many observers of modern jazz, pianist Jason Moran became a known entity 20 years ago, with the release of his debut album. For Adrienne Edwards, curator of performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art, his name first circulated more recently, as a kind of rumor.

As a bassist and bandleader, Linda May Han Oh has demonstrated her gift for liquid dynamism, not only within her peer group but also with heroic elders like guitarist Pat Metheny.

Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net

Steve Dalachinsky, a contemporary poet unrivaled in his dedication to the jazz avant-garde, not only as a gimlet-eyed observer but also as a prolific collaborator and performer, died early Monday morning at Southside Hospital on Long Island.

Shervin Lainez

New music that falls just outside the jazz sphere, in one way or another.

Blue Note Records

Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?

Jacky Terrasson would surely answer that prompt with a grin. A jazz pianist who emerged in the early 1990s like a sprinter off the blocks, he has always brought a decisive dash to his music, along with a resistance to any form of stasis.

Whirlwind Recordings

What does our music sound like now?

We mean “now” as in right now — fall of 2019? There’s no simple answer to that question, but The Checkout is here to help. Taking our cue from the WBGO Fall Preview, a rundown of 88 picks for the new season, we’ll explore some of the albums poised to make an impact in the weeks to come.


A lot of the albums out this week deal with self-discovery and deep reflection on the nature of being human. The members of MUNA look at aging and personal growth on their latest, Saves the World; Lower Dens weighs the madness of a country driven by competition; and the country super group The Highwomen releases its highly anticipated, self-titled album, one that celebrates the power of women while pushing back on the unwritten rules that have allowed men to dominate country radio for so long.

Yossi Zwecker

Michael Brecker saw plenty of accolades in his time. Hailed as the preeminent saxophonist of his generation, he won 15 Grammy awards, and played on a number of hit songs. He was inducted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame in 2007, the year he died of a rare form of leukemia at 57. But Brecker never had the chance to prevail in an organized international competition, like the one that now bears his name.

Erroll Garner Jazz Project

The Century 21 Exposition, better remembered as the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, left an indelible mark on the skyline of that city: the iconic Space Needle was created for the event, along with the Seattle Center and its elevated monorail.

There were also major musical performances: a whole mess of them, by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra (conducted in one concert by Igor Stravinsky); by folksingers like Theodore Bikel and Josh White; and by jazz artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Nat King Cole. Also among that last cohort was pianist Erroll Garner, a star attraction at the height of his powers.

YouTube

And a smooth new groove from David Benoit and Friends.

John Rogers / NPR

Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” the country-trap single and pop-cultural juggernaut, just ended its record-breaking run at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, after a staggering 19 weeks. But while its chart-topping dominion may be over, its impact keeps rippling outward. It was probably only a matter of time before a jazz musician took the reins.

Connie Lester, whose robust and affirming style on saxophone proved a perfect fit for the soul jazz of the 1960s and beyond — notably in organ combos, and especially around a thriving scene in Newark — died on Tuesday in Edison, N.J.

He was 88. His death was confirmed by his daughter Toni Lester, who did not provide a cause.

An authoritative voice on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones, Lester also played clarinet and piano. He formed a sterling reputation as a sideman, over the course of a long career largely based in his home state of New Jersey.

Hollis King

Artists from five continents make up this week's playlist.

"There is never any end," John Coltrane said sometime in the mid-1960s, at the height of his powers. "There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at." Coltrane, one of jazz's most revered saxophonists, was speaking to Nat Hentoff about an eternal quest — a compulsion to reach toward the next horizon, and the next.

Baron Wolman

Electric Miles. Few word pairings in the jazz lexicon are apt to inspire so much contention and challenge and ferment.

What the phrase refers to, of course, is a period in the career of trumpeter Miles Davis, spanning the last third of his life. And while there are other important antecedents, the big bang of this period is an album recorded 50 years ago by the name of Bitches Brew.

Electric Miles. Few word pairings in the jazz lexicon are apt to inspire so much contention and challenge and ferment. What the phrase refers to, of course, is a period in the career of trumpeter Miles Davis, spanning the last third of his life. And while there are other important antecedents, the big bang of this period is an album recorded 50 years ago by the name of Bitches Brew.

Michael Lionstar / Knopf

An array of writers, musicians and friends will gather at The Center for Fiction on Wednesday, for “an evening of readings, music, reflection, and gratitude in celebration of the life and legacy of Toni Morrison.”

Morrison, who died on Aug. 5 at 88, was an American novelist of profound craft and penetrating vision, as well as a writer of oracular authority on the subjects of race and social justice.

David Redfern / Redferns/Getty

Bob Wilber, a saxophonist, clarinetist and bandleader who spearheaded a traditional jazz revival in the face of a postwar modernist boom, and kept the faith well into a new century, died on Aug. 4 in Chipping Campden, England. He was 91.

Blue Note Records

Along with the latest from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Buika, and Bushman’s Revenge.

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