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

Rob Davidson

“Erroll Garner had so much spirit when he played, so much joy, so much groove,” Michael Wolff recently told Michael Bourne. “That’s why I think he was such a successful pianist. No matter what he did — and he played really, for his day, very sophisticated outside harmonies — but everything he played swung.”

Wolff was at our Yamaha Salon Concert on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday. He played both in a solo stride vein and with a swinging trio, and both performances were filmed.

courtesy of the Artist

Roscoe Mitchell, “EP 7849”

The composer, multi-instrumentalist and educator Roscoe Mitchell has been a profound force in American experimental music for more than half a century – since the earliest stirrings of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, in the mid-1960s. His new double album is Bells For the South Side, recorded at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and just out on ECM.

Rob Davidson

Erroll Garner, the irrepressibly ebullient pianist, left an influence that runs deep but often diffuse: it isn't often that you hear someone who sounds just like him, but there's an awful lot of him in the language. Consider an exchange at our recent Yamaha Salon Concert between Kenny Werner and Andy Milne — a pair of super-literate, restlessly imaginative pianists, a generation apart. Their performance conjured Garner in spirit, without resorting to imitative devices, and set a high bar for responsive duologue.

T.J. Huff

First up in Take Five this week is a track from a notable left-of-center debut. You’ll also hear a John Coltrane classic played by two of his spiritual heirs, and a Mal Waldron standard finessed by a sturdy working band. Rounding out the lineup: a Cuban pianist in a meditative mood, and a self-described Timorese-Taiwanese-American vocalist and multi-instrumentalist transforming folk tales from around the world.

Last Thursday, on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday, WBGO held a Yamaha Salon Concert in midtown Manhattan, with a handful of superb pianists paying their respects. Among them was Christian Sands, who offered a solo medley with crystalline touch and bounding stride rhythm.

Then, following a brief exchange with Michael Bourne, he played a buoyant "Night and Day" with the evening's house rhythm team, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Allan Mednard.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award, which comes with a $25,000 prize, is widely described as United States' highest honor for jazz. Today, the NEA announced its four newest recipients of the prize: pianist Joanne Brackeen, guitarist Pat Metheny, singer Dianne Reeves and producer Todd Barkan.

Bart Babinski / ECM Records

What’s on your agenda toward the end of this week? If you live within reach of New York City, Take Five has some fantastic options for you — three competing shows on Friday night, and another one at lunchtime on Thursday. But even if you’re already booked (or situated out of range), you can hear some of the music we’re talking about, right this second.

For a long stretch of his early performing career, vibraphonist Gary Burton was always the youngest man on the bandstand. A child prodigy from Indiana, and then an onrushing force on the scene, he apprenticed with the great Nashville guitarist Hank Garland before going on tour with pianist George Shearing, followed by tenor saxophonist Stan Getz.

Courtesy Greenleaf Music

A few years ago, trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist Chet Doxas released the self-titled debut album by a band they called Riverside. Along with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Jim Doxas (Chet’s brother), they made the album a smart, springy tribute to the midcentury-modern multireedist and composer Jimmy Giuffre.

Swallow played with Giuffre in the early 1960s, so the project had a personal dimension. But Riverside’s second album, The New National Anthem, lands even closer to home — honoring Carla Bley, the resolutely original composer and pianist who has been Swallow’s life partner for more than 40 years. 

Jean Marc Lubrano

Two brilliant pianists. Two ebullient Cubans. Two intrepid young Englishmen. Two lovable standards, in new colors. The math may not seem to add up in this edition of Take Five, but the music — five winning tracks from as many different acts — most certainly does. (But who's counting, anyway?)

Bern Nix, a thoughtfully expressive guitarist in the jazz avant-garde, best known for his close association with composer and saxophonist Ornette Coleman, died on Wednesday at his home in New York City. He was 69.

His death was confirmed by Denardo Coleman — Ornette’s son, and the drummer in his fusionesque band Prime Time, which has recently been preparing for a memorial Ornette Coleman Festival at Lincoln Center in July.

Jure Pukl

The tune was familiar yet unfamiliar, an iconic object seen through a funhouse prism. It was “El Manisero,” the bedrock Cuban standard, refurbished with shadowy postbop harmony and a rolling montuno in 18/8 time. Portillo & Cauce was playing to a packed house at La Zorra y el Cuervo, one of the leading jazz clubs in Havana, and they couldn’t have sounded sleeker or more modern.

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


There's a memorable stretch in Hudson, the debut album by a new jazz supergroup of the same name, when a megaton of subtext finds expression in purely musical terms. It happens in the second half of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," a cover of the apocalyptic Bob Dylan song.

Sonny Rollins
Chuck Stewart/Courtesy of the artist

Sonny Rollins wasn't really thinking about the formation of an archive as he went about his life and career over the last 60 years — as a tenor saxophonist of unsurpassed stature, an artist of active spiritual and social engagement, and an embodiment of jazz's improvisational ideal.

John Abbott

The tracks in Take Five this week cover a range from heartsick to hopeful, from resigned to anything but. One track was recorded almost 80 years ago, but sounds as fresh as anything you’re likely to hear. Another has a political thrust clearly aligned with current events. That’s enough preamble for this week; let’s dive right in.

Dorothy Darr

Saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd has led some rather spectacular bands over the years — from his heralded late-1960s quartet to the Marvels, his current group with guitarist Bill Frisell. Passin’ Thru, due out on Blue Note on July 14, captures the unique intensity of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet, a decade-long proposition with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. 

Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET

Experimental music fans have a new festival to look forward to this fall: The October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music will take place in Philadelphia from October 5-8. Presented by Ars Nova Workshop in partnership with FringeArts, it will include Anthony Braxton, the eminent multi-reedist and composer; The Art Ensemble of Chicago, a pioneering group in the postwar avant-garde; and Claire Chase, flutist and founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble.  

Pianist and composer Gerald Clayton has been on the road in recent weeks, touring behind his accomplished new album, Tributary Tales. Tonight he begins a weeklong engagement at the Village Vanguard, with a trio. He led a slightly bigger crew when he played WBGO's Yamaha Salon Concert Series, at which this new video — for a moseying, Monkish ballad called "Wakeful" — was filmed.

Bernhard Ley

Mickey Roker, a soulful and deeply propulsive drummer who carried a torch for literate hard-bop in the decades after its commercial peak, died on Monday in Philadelphia, where he was a local jazz institution. He was 84.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Debra Roker, who cited natural causes but noted that he had lung cancer and diabetes, among other health issues.

The essence of jazz is improvisation, it's often said. But there should also be a special clause for collaboration or communion — the magic that can happen when two or more are gathered to a creative end. Take Five celebrates that ideal this week, with results all over the stylistic map. Start with a fresh take on a tricky bebop head, and keep it moving.

The low end has always been terra firma for Buster Williams, one of the all-time great bassists in modern jazz.

Sri Hari Moss

For those who know harpist and keyboardist Alice Coltrane as a recording artist, notably in a series of albums on the Impulse! label, there's a stretch from the late-1970s to the mid-2000s that might reasonably be described as a hiatus. But this period was joyously full of music — a fact known to her followers but only recently shared with the public in sanctioned form. 

Georgia Nerheim

It’s the middle of May, on the nose. There’s an old tune that begins with that premise, but we’re not going to revisit it here. Instead, Take Five brings you “Whatever Lola Wants,” as performed by Bria Skonberg — along with tracks by two Cohens and a Barber. We’ll also hear from a saxophonist who has been out on tour with Taylor Swift. And now, as he would have it: Onward!

Moses Boyd Exodus ended its performance at the 2017 South by Southwest music festival with a rampaging take on its trademark tune, "Rye Lane Shuffle." Drummer Moses Boyd, the band's young founder and namesake, rumbled freely on his toms, joined by a fervent-sounding Binker Golding on tenor saxophone. The groove that emerged was Nigerian Afrobeat by way of a modern jazz metropolis — one with every resource at hand.

Pierrick Guidou

Earlier this year, trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire held a weeklong engagement at the Village Vanguard with his excellent working quartet, featuring pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown. They recorded portions of the gig for what will be a double album.

That album — A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard, due out on Blue Note on June 9 — consists of 14 original compositions across a wide dynamic and expressive range. It opens with a pensive anthem called “Maurice and Michael (sorry I didn’t say hello),” which has a melody full of gulping intervals, over a rhythmic thrum that suggests the insistent tick of a clock, or a swaying metronome.

Mary McCartney

Our latest installment of Take Five draws from several big new releases, including what will likely be a blockbuster, Diana Krall's Turn Up the Quiet. But you should also take note of the other offerings, including a brisk new samba by guitarist Romero Lubambo and a teaser for this week's Village Vanguard debut by the Vijay Iyer Trio.

Beti Niemeyer

Ron Carter, one of the greatest bassists in jazz history, turns 80 today. WBGO is celebrating by playing his music on the air throughout the day, and there's certainly no shortage to choose from. But given that today also happens to be International Star Wars Day, it seems only appropriate to shout out a curio in his discography: Empire Jazz, released in 1980 on the RSO label.

Colorado Symphony

As you probably know if you spend any time online, today, May 4, is International Star Wars Day. It's a celebration rooted in a pun: "May the Fourth be with you." [Wookiee groan]

There hasn't often been a jazz angle to this special date, but one young saxophonist is giving it a shot, by releasing a video for a tune he calls "Dagobah." (If that place name doesn't ring a bell, this story's not for you.)

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