Nate Chinen

Director of Editorial Content

Nate Chinen joined WBGO as the Director of Editorial Content at the start of 2017. In addition to overseeing a range of coverage at WBGO.org, he works closely with programs including Jazz Night in America and The Checkout, and contributes to a range of jazz programming on NPR.

Before joining the WBGO team. Chinen spent nearly a dozen years as a jazz and pop critic for the New York Times. He also wrote a long-running monthly column and assorted features for JazzTimes. He is a ten-time winner of the Helen Dance-Robert Palmer Award for Excellence in Writing, presented by the Jazz Journalists Association. The same organization presented him with its award for Best Book About Jazz, for his work on Myself Among Others, the autobiography of impresario George Wein.

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.

Ways to Connect

Courtesy of Arnaud Boubet / Private collection

Thelonious Monk’s soundtrack to Les liaisons dangereuses, the provocative French film directed by Roger Vadim, will be released as a double album this spring. Arriving in a year of centennial tribute to Monk, the genius pianist and jazz modernist, it registers as a fresh discovery: while this music was recorded in 1959, it has never been available outside the context of the film, which is out of print.

Dimitri Louis

A basket. A box. A notebook. A bumper. Every track in this week's Take Five has a title that evokes some material object, for reasons both comic and constructive. Beyond that commonality, there's a staggering range here, with one recording that's almost 80 years old and one or two others that sound like the near future. 

Chuck Berry, who died on Saturday at 90, was nothing short of a pioneer in American music: a guitar slinger who created the very template for rock 'n' roll; a singer who embodied the youthful, rambunctious desires of the age; a songwriter capable of compressing an epic tale into a few tight verses. He was also a runaway highlight of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which made for more than a little controversy at the time. 

Shervin Lainez

Anat Cohen is a clarinetist and saxophonist with an irrepressibly buoyant sense of rhythm, and throughout her career she has had a special bond with the music of Brazil. That affinity takes center stage on two new albums: Outra Coisa, a duo effort with the guitarist Marcello Gonçalves, and Rosa Dos Ventos, with the choro ensemble Trio Brasileiro. She’ll release both on Anzic Records on April 28.

Gulnara Khamatova

Louis Hayes has logged his share of session hours for Blue Note Records, as the impeccably swinging drummer for label stalwarts like Grant Green, Curtis Fuller and, indelibly, Horace Silver. Now comes his turn in the driver’s seat: Hayes will make his Blue Note debut as a leader with Serenade for Horace, due out in May.

As that title suggests, the album is a tribute to Silver, the pianist and composer with whom Hayes first made his name during the mid-to-late 1950s.

Chart Room Media

Tommy LiPuma, who died on Monday at 80, was a record producer with a golden touch, and a track record virtually unmatched in his field. LiPuma was honored alongside his fellow NEA Jazz Master, saxophonist Jimmy Heath, at WBGO’s 2011 Champions of Jazz Benefit. That evening included performances by Natalie Cole, pianist Danilo Pérez and singer Lizz Wright, who hailed LiPuma on Facebook earlier today as “one of the first friends I made in this wild business.”

Other tributes have begun to pour in from some of the artists LiPuma produced, and from listeners that his albums reached. But there’s a special sort of insight that can be found only among those who worked alongside him day after day, behind the scenes in the record business. Below, find a sampling of those voices.

For tens of millions in the Northeast, the name of the hour is “Stella” — as in Winter Storm Stella, the Weather Channel-branded nor'easter now bringing heavy snowfall to a number of cities along the I-95 corridor. I’m among those presently hunkering down (and later, shoveling out), but my first involuntary response was to start humming a familiar melody.

Jazz musicians are forever adept at taking the old and making it new. That skill is on brilliant display in Take Five this week, notably on a remake of a tune first heard on a Miles Davis album in 1963. You'll also hear a spin on a rustic old fiddle tune, and an emulation of Ornette Coleman's melodic language — a reminder that "new" can be as much a state of mind as a place in time.

Jane Kratochvil

The cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, born on this day in 1903, came to his jazz career in a burst of youthful impertinence. For a white musician of his background — born into a striving German-American community in Davenport, Iowa — jazz was strictly disreputable stuff, and not just for its African-American ownership.

The music went hand-in-hand with a spirit of illicit associations — as well as an association with illicit spirits, which is what ultimately ended Beiderbecke’s life at the tragic age of 28.  

Mike Davis is 25, and plays Beiderbecke’s instrument with reverential flair. But he had a different path in most respects.

Jimmy Katz / The Kurland Agency

Gary Burton opened his first set at Birdland on Tuesday night with “Bud Powell” — a tune by his longtime collaborator Chick Corea, set at a boppish saunter. Standing behind his vibraphone, four mallets ablur, Burton seemed in his element, perfectly at ease. There was no indication that this was a historic engagement: he was kicking off his final week-long run in a New York club, as part of a Farewell Tour.

Dave Valentin, a jazz flutist of virtuoso control, brisk rhythmic flair and a sprawling expressive language, died on March 8 in the Bronx. He was 64.

His manager, Richie Bonilla, confirmed his death. Valentin suffered multiple strokes over the last five years.

Bob Gore

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. In the spirit of the occasion, it’s worth spotlighting the Women's Jazz Festival at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, which runs through the end of the month.

The kickoff event in the series, which took place on Monday night, was organized and anchored by harpist Brandee Younger, a leading voice on her instrument.

Jay Gilbert

There are many paths to a killer groove, and few fixed parameters. The most important criterion is an intangible: just how good, how essentially right, does it feel? Every new track featured in this installment of Take Five is a winner in that respect, whether we’re talking about a hard-swinging churn or a minimalist swirl. As a bonus, you’ll see a first-rate drummer do a goofy dance.

Misha Mengelberg
Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET

Misha Mengelberg, a Dutch pianist and composer who embodied an irreverent yet fully fluent relationship to the jazz tradition, both in his influential solo career and as a founder of the Instant Composers Pool (ICP), died on Friday in Amsterdam. He was 81.

His death was confirmed by Susanna Von Canon, the manager of the ICP Orchestra.

Trombone Shorty has never made a secret of his affinity with New Orleans: the man and the milieu are inextricable, in musical as well as attitudinal terms. So it’s no surprise that the first single from his forthcoming Blue Note Records debut is a revamped classic from his hometown, “Here Come the Girls.”

Richard Kessler and John Zorn
Ang Santos / WBGO

The Stone, an internationally prominent performance space for avant-garde and experimental music in New York City, has secured a new home. John Zorn, its founder and artistic director, announced on Wednesday that after a scheduled farewell to its original location in the East Village, it will be revived in March 2018 as The Stone at the New School, inhabiting the Glass Box Theater at 55 West 13th Street in Manhattan.

Jordan Kleinman

John Patitucci is a bassist of lightning reflex and strong footing, equally comfortable laying down firm bedrock or dancing around a melodic idea. That flexibility extends to his career: he’s the longtime anchor of the Wayne Shorter Quartet; a linchpin in its spinoff trio, Children of the Light; and a former wing man to keyboardist Chick Corea and drummer Roy Haynes, among others.

Craig Taborn Quartet
Bart Babinski / for ECM Records

Sometimes a theme emerges by chance, revealing itself in the moment. That’s true of this week’s installment of Take Five, featuring new music by a range of smart and searching pianists. A couple of these tracks are from brand-new albums, and a couple are from albums due later in the year. Each is an illustration of deep focus and alert chemistry, along with first-rate pianism.

Zoran Jelenic

George Burton has been a pianist to watch in Philadelphia, his hometown, for almost 20 years now — since the late 1990s, when I was a close observer of the scene, and he was a jazz performance major at Temple University. Burton has since put in countless sideman hours with artists both local (saxophonists Odean Pope and Bootsie Barnes) and international (singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello), not to mention intergalactic (the Sun Ra Arkestra). But he hadn’t released his own album as a leader until last year. 

Horace Parlan, an astute and soulful pianist whose unique style was informed by the partial impairment of his right hand, died on Feb. 23 in Næstved, Denmark.

 

He was 86. His death was confirmed by the jazz historian Frank Büchmann-Møller. 

 

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Danny Clinch

Buried somewhere in the fathoms of YouTube is a recent clip of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, apparently filmed with a smartphone in Santiago de Cuba. The band, synonymous with the ebullient spirit of New Orleans, is playing a staple of its book, Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras." What's notable about this version of the song, from December of 2015, is the punchy assist provided by some Cuban percussionists, who fall right into step with its second-line groove. 

Whatever else you might say about the themes of La La Land — that it's a film about the ins and outs of young romance, or the pros and cons of creative ambition, or the movie musical as a renewable art form, or the culture of Hollywood, or the state of jazz (more on that in a sec) — you'd have to acknowledge the line it draws between illusion and disillusion.

Buried somewhere in the fathoms of YouTube is a recent clip of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, apparently filmed with a smartphone in Santiago de Cuba. The band, synonymous with the ebullient spirit of New Orleans, is playing a staple of its book, Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras." What's notable about this version of the song, from December of 2015, is the punchy assist provided by some Cuban percussionists, who fall right into step with its second-line groove.

 

Tigran Hamasyan knows his way around a dreamscape. As a pianist and composer, he draws inspiration from jazz, folkloric and classical sources, in ways that feel both hypermodern and practically ageless. This synthesis is well captured in the video for his composition “The Cave of Rebirth,” which has its premiere here. 

 

Old and new, invention and reinvention: this week, Take Five is a study in contrast and dualities. It's also a heads-up for several albums we're looking forward to this spring, and some gigs that you should have on your calendar. Listen up and dive in.

Or would the better title be “FACEMELT”? In any case, the tune is an original from  saxophonist Donny McCaslin's recent album Beyond Now. Take a look at this galvanizing, live-wire video, which has its full premiere here, and you be the judge.

Solitude can be a complicated proposition for Keith Jarrett. He’s the most celebrated improvising solo pianist in the world, and has held that distinction for the last 40 years. But he will be the first to inform you that his concert performances are a social interaction — an experiment in which he responds to the mood and psychic energy of a room, like a sensitive instrument.

Jazz Night in America / WBGO and NPR

 

"It can be maddening to deal with a political environment where it seems like the truth has no purchase anymore," says Darcy James Argue, the hyper-literate composer who leads the Secret Society, a postmodern big band. Argue has spent a lot of time recently thinking about that maddening environment — not just as a matter of civic engagement during a chaotic election season, but also because it forms the crux of Real Enemies, his most recent work.

 

Al Jarreau, a nimble, charismatic singer who bridged contemporary jazz and smooth soul in a career that yielded both popular success and critical regard, died on Sunday at Los Angeles. He was 76.

 

His death was confirmed by his manager, Joe Gordon. Jarreau had announced his retirement from touring just last week, after being hospitalized in Los Angeles for exhaustion.

 

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