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).

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Just last week, guitarist Pat Metheny finished the Australia and New Zealand leg of an international concert tour, in support of his new album. Then his band flew on to South America and learned that a remaining slew of dates — in Brazil and Chile, and all over Europe — had been canceled due to the coronavirus.

Francis Wolff / Blue Note Records

Not many small groups were working harder in the late 1950s, to greater acclaim, than Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.

"It definitely feels deeply odd to be thinking about an album rollout at this time," reflects pianist Aaron Parks. "But on the other hand, as a listener and as somebody who's affected by this as well, I know how much I'm needing to get my mind off of this."

As both a saxophonist and vocalist, Camille Thurman is a rare jazz double threat. She says "the horn is a voice, and the voice is a horn," and this consideration of the interconnectivity of her instruments informs her work as a performer, composer and educator.

On this segment of Jazz Night In America, we hear music from Thurman's band at Dizzy's Club, and parts of a performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in which she is the first woman to play a full season in 30 years.

Last year, Sons of Kemet were one of the standout acts of the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn. This year, the festival is one of countless gatherings that has been cancelled due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. For the music industry — and especially for bands like Sons of Kemet, which rely on the energy of live performance — the disruptions caused by social distancing have been devastating. To explain those problems, NPR's Rachel Martin spoke to Nate Chinen from member station WBGO and Jazz Night in America.

Rayon Richards

What do you do if you’re a jazz musician with a lot of time on your hands?

As New York City and other places enact restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus, we’re sure to see myriad responses to that question. If you happen to be Benny Benack III, the trumpeter and singer probably best known as a front man for Postmodern Jukebox, the answer might involve putting a novel spin on a songbook standard.

Trevor Smith / Jazz Night in America

Musicians mobilizing from their living rooms. Clubs broadcasting to a virtual audience. What began as a stopgap measure may be our new normal, at least for a while. Consult our guide.

Tjasa Gnezda

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary music.

This edition of Take Five delivers on that front, with selections from noteworthy albums on the near horizon or in the immediate rearview. Each track goes to some places you might not expect — so buckle up and settle in.

Becky Harlan / NPR

"I think a part of growth in general is being comfortable in your own skin," says Linda May Han Oh, "and being comfortable with really who you are."

"I think a part of growth in general is being comfortable in your own skin," Linda May Han Oh says, "and being comfortable with really who you are."

What that means in her case is manifold: A jazz bassist of undeniable authority, with the working affiliations to show for it; a Malaysia-born, Australia-raised resident of Harlem, N.Y.; a composer-orchestrator of burgeoning stature; an artist working to change perceptions of "women in jazz," both through positive action and just by being her bad self.

Updated on Saturday, March 7 at 11:45 a.m. ET

McCoy Tyner, a pianist whose deep resonance, hammering attack and sublime harmonic invention made him a game-changing catalyst in jazz and beyond, died Friday, March 6, at his home in New Jersey. His death was confirmed by his manager. No cause of death was given. He was 81.

Siphiwe Mhlambi / Blue Note Records

Last year, pianist Nduduzo Makhathini played a crucial supporting role on an album rooted in the culture of the Nguni people, who can be found throughout his native South Africa.

Anna Webber

Christian Sands hails originally from New Haven, Conn., which among other things is a port city on Long Island Sound. That detail sheds some small but useful light on Be Water, his reflective new concept album, which arrives on Mack Avenue on May 22.

courtesy of the artist

Along with the latest magical hookup by Béla Fleck and Toumani Diabaté.

Christien Jaspars

“Who would have guessed it would finally be my turn?” wrote Ibrahim Ferrer on the album sleeve of his second solo album, Buenos Hermanos.

Richard Smith / WBGO

"Growing up where I grew up — it's everything." If there's a touch of defiant pride in Kris Funn's voice as he says these words, maybe that's only natural: Funn, a highly regarded bassist, is talking about Baltimore.

"Growing up where I grew up — it's everything." If there's a touch of defiant pride in Kris Funn's voice as he says these words, maybe that's only natural: Funn, a highly regarded bassist, is talking about Baltimore.

Hubert Williams

In all likelihood, you know the voice of Rob Crocker. A steadfast announcer at WBGO for the last two decades, he has history with our station going back nearly to its inception.

This week, Rob received the Roy Wilkins Black History Month Award from the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the NAACP. “They were really gracious,” he says. “I had tremendous appreciation for the honor.”

Roberto Masotti / ECM Records

Jon Christensen, a Norwegian drummer whose firm yet flowing pulse helped shift the parameters for European jazz, notably as one of the most widely recorded sidemen on ECM Records, died on Tuesday in Oslo. He was 76.

Amazon Music

Including the latest from Reverso, co-led by Ryan Keberle and Frank Woeste.

Courtesy of the artist

Among the many things Jason Moran has demonstrated over the last 20 years is this: the man knows his way around a love song.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Norah Jones, Charles Lloyd, Makaya McCraven and Diana Krall are among the artists set to appear at the 2020 Newport Jazz Festival, Aug. 7-9 at Fort Adams State Park.

The festival revealed these names today as part of a first wave of artist announcements — some 30 acts, spanning a few different generations and stylistic modes.

Ralph Quinke / ECM Records

Lyle Mays, a keyboardist, composer and orchestrator who helped carve a new channel for contemporary jazz with The Pat Metheny Group, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 66.

Nina Simone was living alone in France, and feeling the weight of her isolation, when she recorded what would become Fodder on My Wings in 1982. But the album — which Verve/UMe will reissue on April 3, making it available for the first time on streaming services — hardly stays in a despondent key.

Paul CHARBIT / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Lawrence “Lo” Leathers was a drummer much beloved in the jazz community, in his adopted home of New York City as well as his hometown of Lansing, Mich. He was vividly remembered in song, in stories and in spirit on Monday night, during a memorial at Dizzy’s Club.

Sylvain Gripoix

Along with choice new music from Jeff Davis and Kandace Springs.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Lucien Barbarin, a playfully suave and boisterous trombonist who carried a torch for traditional New Orleans music, most visibly as a featured soloist with Harry Connick, Jr. and a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, died on Thursday. He was 63, and lived in Slidell, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.

Kevin Antoine

Bob Gullotti, an endlessly creative jazz drummer hailed as a guru by several generations of musicians, both for his instruction at the Berklee College of Music and his work in an experimental trio called The Fringe, died on Saturday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic/Getty

In the midst of a turbulent and shocking season for the Recording Academy, some signs of stability could be found in the results of the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.