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

Courtesy of the artist

Along with a previously unheard Stan Getz gem from 1961.

Eli Johnson / Courtesy of Big Ears Festival

At one point during the final stretch of this year's Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn., you could have pried yourself away from a distortion-jacked Sun of Goldfinger show to join a clutch of fans hurrying over to see The Art Ensemble of Chicago. In making that calculation (a typical one, for Big Ears), you'd have been weighing two wildly different experiences with one notable thing in common: Both groups have an affiliation with the sonically adventurous label ECM Records.

At one point during the final stretch of this year's Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn., you could have pried yourself away from a distortion-jacked Sun of Goldfinger show to join a clutch of fans hurrying over to see The Art Ensemble of Chicago. In making that calculation (a typical one, for Big Ears), you'd have been weighing two wildly different experiences with one notable thing in common: Both groups have an affiliation with the sonically adventurous label ECM Records.

There comes a moment in almost any performance by vibraphonist Joel Ross when he seems to slip free of standard cognitive functions and into a bodacious flow state. Invariably, he's in the midst of a heated improvisation. Maybe he's bouncing on his heels, or bobbing like a marionette. His mallets form a blur, in contrast to the clarity of the notes they produce. The deft precision of his hammering inspires a visual comparison to some tournament-level version of Whac-A-Mole.

Two eminent avant-garde elders, a chameleonic vocal improviser, and a pioneering community organizer and presenter will make up the 2020 class of NEA Jazz Masters, according to an announcement this morning by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The four incoming inductees — saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, bassist Reggie Workman, vocalist Bobby McFerrin, and jazz advocate Dorthaan Kirk — will officially be recognized next April 2, during a tribute concert and ceremony at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco.

Erin Patrice O'Brien

Along with the latest from guitarist Will Sellenraad, keyboardist Romain Collin, and trombonist Kalia Vandever.

Craig Lovell / Courtesy of the artist

If you're even a casually observant jazz fan, you might think you know a thing or two about Joe Lovano. 

 

A tenor saxophonist with dozens of albums to his name, most of them made during a roughly 25-year tenure on Blue Note Records, Lovano is one of the most instantly identifiable musicians on the jazz landscape and on the New York scene. But he didn't come from nowhere.

If you're even a casually observant jazz fan, you might think you know a thing or two about Joe Lovano. A tenor saxophonist with dozens of albums to his name, most of them made during a roughly 25-year tenure on Blue Note Records, Lovano is one of the most instantly identifiable musicians on the jazz landscape and on the New York scene. But he didn't come from nowhere.

John Zorn, the prolific and brilliantly iconoclastic composer, realized a dream of sorts last year when he released The Book Beriah — a box set of 11 new albums, featuring as many different groups interpreting music he had written for that purpose.

Silvia Saponaro

Along with new music by Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy, the Mark Dresser Seven, and a supertrio of Dave Douglas, Uri Caine and Andrew Cyrille. 

Courtesy of the artist

Pianist and composer Chick Corea isn’t typically slotted into the category of Latin jazz — but he’s had a substantial influence on its sound, and been influenced in turn.

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

Renata Raksha

Along with the latest by Kneebody and Sarathy Korwar.

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.

Siimon

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.

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