Simon Rentner

Host and Producer, The Checkout

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Africa, South America, and Europe.

He is the host and producer for The Checkout, which showcases new music “on the other side of jazz” by some of the best artists on this planet including Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper, Hiatus Kiayote, Hermeto Pascoal, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, Henry Threadgill, Cassandra Wilson, and many others.

Aside from working in media, he is a curator and producer of concerts in New York City at spaces such as The Beacon Theatre, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Town Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Le Poisson Rouge, and Bryant Park. Some of the artists he’s presented include Abdullah Ibrahim, The Punch Brothers, Cecil Taylor, Rosanne Cash, and the late Andrew Hill.

In addition to The Checkout, Rentner has hosted and produced content for NPR, PRI, WGBH, and WNYC. He’s won PRINDI awards for his news stories on The WBGO Journal. He’s produced long and short content for Jazz Night in America, Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio (hosted by both Ed Bradley and Wynton Marsalis), Toast of the Nation, Afropop Worldwide, Marketplace, and The Leonard Lopate Show.

His radio shows also feature celebrated voices and minds, not limited to music, such as, Jessica Lange, Ellsworth Kelly, Lee Friedlander, Mark Morris to name a few. He’s also covered the music cultural histories from Colombia, France, Sierra Leone, Mali, Argentina, Madagascar, Venezuela, Peru, Canada, and, naturally, the United States.

Ways to Connect

Emra Islek


This Saturday night, join John Ellis, Andy Bragen, and me in a pre-concert conversation about their new jazz opera before the 11-piece jazz chamber ensemble performs their Jazz Gallery commission featuring vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Miles Griffith.

On Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m., The Checkout presents DOMi & JD Beck in a live webcast from Berklee’s Café 939 The Red Room.

Courtesy of the artist

The Checkout Live at Berklee presented some of jazz’s finest modern masters in concert. They all happen to be women.

Drummer Terri Lynne Carrington, pianist Kris Davis, bassist Linda May Han Oh, flutist Elena Pindherhughes, flugelhornist Milena Casado Fauquet, saxophonist Tia Fuller and vocalist Nadia Washington joined students from The Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice band in a not-to-be-missed concert.

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Anat Cohen and Oded Lev-Ari sat in the audience at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles last Sunday afternoon, holding their breath. 

Their most recent release — Triple Helix, featuring the Anat Cohen Tentet — was up for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album at the 62nd Grammy Awards.

Courtesy of Artists

During the wintertime, there’s always an avalanche of music-related storylines hitting our Inbox. Between the results of 2019 NPR Jazz Critics Poll and a shovel-load of exciting releases on the horizon, writers Francis Davis, Nate Chinen and I have you covered.

Domenica Tello

New York City’s Winter JazzFest stretches to Brooklyn for the first time this year — arguably offering its best punch of innovative programming, with artists like Kneebody and Daedelus both performing at the Music Hall of Williamsburg as a part of tomorrow’s marathon.

Norman Bryant / Courtesy of the artist

Theo Croker vividly remembers his first lesson with Detroit’s brass hero Marcus Belgrave.

It was an encounter that rattled Croker to his core — leaving him in tears and forcing him to come to grips with his shortcomings and aspirations. Though he was already studying trumpet at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and a grandson of the New Orleans trumpet great Doc Cheatham, that first lesson called everything into question.

Harrison + Weinstein

The 62nd annual Grammy Awards take place on Sunday, Jan. 26 — and Melissa Aldana will be there, as a nominee in the category of Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

Aldana, a tenor saxophonist originally from Santiago, Chile, earned the nod for her performance on “Elsewhere,” from her critically acclaimed album Visions (Motéma).

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One annual Checkout tradition is to pinpoint innovative takes on the holiday canon.

This year we welcomed Martina DaSilva and Dan Chmielinski to deliver a lesser-known take of “Greensleeves,” a gorgeous selection from the Brazilian songbook, and a slick arrangement of the blockbuster hit “Last Christmas,” by Wham!

Steve Gordon /


Twenty-five years have passed since South Africa ended the cruel social experiment of apartheid, which divided its citizens, locked up its people of color and brought decades of havoc and pain.


South Africa's jazz musicians were at the center of the conflict. They symbolized everything the white nationalist regime hated: freedom, thinking and racial mixing. Jazz Night in America has already told the story of pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and trumpeter Hugh Masekela, prominent South African artists who went into exile, seeking refuge overseas.

What makes Black Music the most culturally appropriated music on Earth? Saxophonist David Murray, bassist Rashaan Carter and the rappers Kokayi and Saul Williams have some ideas.

Tayla Nebesky

Marta Sánchez — a pianist from Madrid, now based in New York City — is celebrated for her inventive use of counterpoint and rhythm, as displayed on her radiant new album, El Rayo de Luz (Fresh Sound New Talent).

Josh Wool

When Tom Oren won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition last year, he was a third-semester double major at the Berklee College of Music. On Wednesday night, Oren led his trio in a farewell concert there, presented by The Checkout Live at Berklee.

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Saxophonist and educator George Garzone may not be well known outside of Boston, but if you ask any woodwind player at the Berklee College of Music, he’s nothing short of a jazz legend.

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When I landed in Turkey last summer for the 26th Istanbul Jazz Festival, I knew I was arriving at an ancient crossroads — where East meets West, old meets new, and culture still thrives in dazzling convergence.

What I didn’t expect is how Istanbul constantly reminded me of New York City: the sheer density of the place, its relentless energy, its occupants rushing about the sprawling metropolis.

Monica Jane Frisell / ECM Records

One thing I’ve noticed over two decades’ worth of interviews with Vijay Iyer, the award-winning pianist and composer, is that he doesn’t instinctively start talking about himself. He’s much more inclined to spread the musical gospel and teachings of the masters before him. 


Vincent Peirani is an accordionist and composer who, earlier this month, won Album of the Year in the prestigious Victoires du Jazz, an annual awards ceremony in France. On this edition of My Music, we’ll join Peirani on a listening tour of his winning album, Living Being II - Night Walker (ACT Music).

Courtesy of Artist

George Garzone, stalwart tenorman and hero of Boston's thriving jazz scene, performs with The Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors.

Stella K

We know Justin Stanton as one of the original members of Snarky Puppy, a band that thrives in a state of constant collaboration. But this trumpeter and keyboardist considers it important to find moments for himself, looking inward as a composer — as on his debut album, Secret Place.

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As the French multi-instrumentalist known as FKJ boarded a plane early this year, he turned to his manager, Kate Cudbertson, and asked: “Why are we going to Bolivia, again?” The huge risk of filming a remote concert at Salar de Uyuni — the world’s largest salt flat, high in the Andes — was starting to sink in. But they both knew they might be on the verge of making something for the ages. 

courtesty of artist

Samora Pinderhughes lives in a constant state of metamorphosis. Five years after his Transformation Suite, this brilliant pianist and singer-songwriter is ready to burst out of his latest cocoon with Venus.

Pinderhughes says the name refers not to the planet but rather a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet — “Venus smiles not in the house of tears” — that sets the bloom of love against the weight of tragedy.

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.

Courtesy of Artist

It’s easy to get excited about Pedro Martins, a young multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter from Brazil.

On this edition of My Music on The Checkout, we’ll get to know Martins, who at 26 has toured with Kurt Rosenwinkel and released his own album on the guitarist’s Heartcore label. It was Rosenwinkel who gave Martins the confidence to step out as a vocalist — featuring him in that capacity on a song called “Kama.”

Kim Fox

Luciana Souza has one wish for humanity in a troubled time: “That we all can make a difference in every way that we live.”

Souza is a singer-songwriter originally from São Paolo, Brazil, and her words carry a certain tragic resonance as the world watches the Amazon rainforest burn. But she spoke those sobering words last March, on The Checkout Live at Berklee College of Music, right before paying homage to her country’s all-time greatest songwriter, Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Stella K

The New York Gypsy All-Stars perform a modern strain of gypsy jazz unlike any other. By combining fiery Balkan wedding grooves with ancient Turkish traditions, these conservatory-trained musicians are quick to show off their virtuosity while also creating an intoxicating atmosphere for the dance floor.

Bruno Bollaert

There’s nothing fake about David Murray.

Adam Kissick / NPR

Before he made his leap to stardom as the musical director of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jon Batiste already showed signs that he wanted to change the world for the better.

Batiste, 32, will headline a special concert at the Newport Jazz Festival next Friday, at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He has a new album releasing on the same day: Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard (Verve), which was recorded during an engagement last fall.

Justin Bettman

Drummer/composer Mark Guiliana traverses many musical landscapes, from modern jazz (Brad Mehldau), Tunisian oud music (Dhafer Youssef), Hasidic reggae (Matisyahu), or legendary rock (David Bowie.)

Jim Mcguire

Charlie Haden left us five years ago, but his influence and musical contributions are still being felt today.


Last year, Impulse! Records posthumously released a tranquil recording featuring the double bassist in an intimate duo setting with the pianist Brad Mehldau, titled Long Ago and Far Away. They performed together in 2007 at the Enjoy Jazz Festival in Germany.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

The Mexico City-born artist Antonio Sanchez has always been outspoken about immigration, a subject he addresses on his new album, Lines In The Sand.

For Sanchez, a five-time Grammy award-winning drummer and composer, activism came naturally; in a sense, he never had a choice in the matter. His calling as a crusader for human rights is indelibly linked to an immigration story in his family, which took place before he was born.