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

The first time around was special, and everyone knew it. But ask any member of the former Joshua Redman Quartet — Redman on saxophones, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass, Brian Blade on drums — and he'll confirm there was some magic in the air when they reconvened last fall at The Falcon in New York's Hudson Valley, breaking a 25-year hiatus.

David Redferns / Redferns

It’s never a bad time to celebrate Art Blakey, the indefatigable drummer, towering bandleader and peerless mentor.

But the occasion of a new release by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, just out on Blue Note, is reason enough to hijack this edition of Take Five with a Blakey beat. This hardly begins to scratch the surface of his monumental recorded legacy — but it gives some picture of what he was about. Beginning with a cut from the newly unearthed album, it goes on to cover some of his work as a sideman, and later as a guardian of tradition.

Stephanie Berger / Courtesy of the artist

Twelve years ago, we came perilously close to losing Fred Hersch. The acclaimed pianist and composer, who has been living with HIV since the mid-1980s, fell gravely ill: at one point he was put in a medically induced coma for two months.  

WBGO

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been sorely missing live music. But in at least one sense, we haven’t lost the experience of real-time musical exchange.

John Abbott

Also: a made-in-quarantine album by Miles Okazaki, and the marital duo of Jana Herzen and Charnett Moffett.

Frank Stewart / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Wynton Marsalis has always been deeply engaged in the subject of American race relations.

Wynton Marsalis has always been deeply engaged in the subject of American race relations. The issue was a crucial part of his education as a young musician in New Orleans, and it has been a core preoccupation of his own work going as far back as Black Codes (From the Underground), a trailblazing album from 1985.

Jemal Countess/WireImage

Johnny Mandel, a composer and orchestrator who brought emotional depth and a sophisticated sheen to the realms of popular song, television and film, died on Monday at his home in Ojai, Calif. He was 94.

Freddy Cole, whose debonair yet unassuming vocal style lighted his way through a distinguished jazz career in and out of the shadow of his older brother, Nat King Cole, died on Saturday, June 27, at his home in Atlanta, Ga. He was 88.

His manager, Suzi Reynolds, did not specify a cause of death but said he had been suffering of late from cardiovascular issues.

(Complete with a dessert course served by Benny Green.)

Clay Walker

Freddy Cole, whose debonair yet unassuming vocal style lighted his way through a distinguished jazz career, in and out of the shadow of his older brother Nat “King” Cole, died on Saturday at his home in Atlanta, Ga.

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.

Pages