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.

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Anthony Barboza / Getty Images

One way or another, you've heard Grover Washington Jr.'s saxophone.

One way or another, you've heard Grover Washington Jr.'s saxophone. Perhaps on "Mister Magic" or another of his instrumental hits, like "Winelight." Or on "Just the Two of Us," the smash hit featuring Bill Withers.

José James, the eclectic, groove-minded jazz singer, has made no secret of his fondness for Bill Withers. There's a medley that James has been singing in concert for years, linking Withers' despondent anthem "Ain't No Sunshine" with an upturning grace note, "Grandma's Hands."

Sarah Escarraz

Marquis Hill, “Coming Out Of The Universe”

Unfathomable. Unimaginable. These are among the words used to describe the recent mass shooting in a rural Texas church, which left more than two dozen parishioners dead, eight of them children. For many of us, the inhuman horror of this act literally defies comprehension. The dimensions of the tragedy are all too familiar for Jimmy Greene.

The Rudy Calvo Collection Cache Agency

Ella Fitzgerald was a big star on the cusp of something bigger when she began an engagement at Zardi’s Jazzland, in the heart of Hollywood, during the first several weeks of 1956.

Eddie Aidoo

The sixth annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition takes place this Sunday, Nov. 12, at NJPAC, as part of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival.

Courtesy of Blue Note Records

As record labels experiment with formats and strategies in an online-streaming age, one major player in jazz is investing in what you might call a super-premium product tier. Blue Note Records has announced Blue Note Review, an objet d’art available only by subscription, twice a year, in a limited edition of 1,500 copies.

Thomas J. Krebs

Ron Miles, “I Am A Man”

There is always some big sky in the music of cornetist Ron Miles. That’s true as ever on his stunning new album, I Am A Man, due out on the Yellowbird label this Friday. You’ll also encounter a firm resolve, and a calm undercurrent of protest, in this album, which Miles named with the civil rights slogan in mind. He was thinking in part about “Condition Report,” a related piece by the contemporary artist Glenn Ligon, whose annotative scrawl is reprinted as a poem in the CD booklet.

C. Taylor Crothers / Concord Jazz

Chick Corea, the endlessly inquisitive keyboardist and composer, has made a point of collaborating far and wide throughout his career. But there’s a special category of music that rests on his bond with Steve Gadd, a drummer known both for the alert intelligence of his ear and the heavy pull of his groove.

Francis Wolff / Blue Note Records

One of the greatest jazz albums ever made was recorded 60 years ago today. It's A Night at the Village Vanguard, a live date by saxophonist Sonny Rollins, featuring a muscular backdrop of bass and drums. It's not a carefully plotted concept album, nor a manifesto, but a document with the slangy nonchalance of a conversation overheard on the street, extemporaneous and unburdened. It's a slice of musical vérité that captures a true master of the form on a good day, in a generous and jocular mood.

Frank Stewart / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Louis Hayes spent his youth creating the pulse of hard-bop, as a top-shelf drummer with artists like Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver. He turned 80 this year, marking the occasion with his own Blue Note Records debut as a leader, Serenade for Horace.

Louis Hayes spent his youth creating the pulse of hard-bop, as a top-shelf drummer with artists like Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver. He turned 80 this year, marking the occasion with his own Blue Note Records debut as a leader, Serenade for Horace.

Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images

Muhal Richard Abrams, a pianist and composer of staunch independence and sweeping influence, inseparable from his role as a founding father of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians [AACM], died on Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 87.

Miguel Zenón was 12 when he first experienced the devastation of a major hurricane in his homeland, Puerto Rico. That was Hugo, which hit as a Category 3 in 1989, and drove nearly 30,000 residents from their homes.

First Edition Arts / Flickr

The sixth TD James Moody Jazz Festival runs Nov. 4 through 12 at NJPAC, with more than a dozen concerts across a range of styles.

Elton Anderson / Concord Music Group

Two years ago, when Jamison Ross released his Concord Jazz debut, Jamison, you could have reasonably called it a curveball. To the extent that Ross was known in jazz circles, he was known as a drummer — and not just any drummer. I first got to know him by watching him take top honors at the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, prevailing in a heavy field.

Norah Jones didn't have much time to scale up her operation. She was a singer-songwriter of immense talent but intimate affect, accustomed to playing Lower East Side dives and folk cafés, when her debut album, Come Away With Me, became a sleeper smash in 2002. Then came the deluge: major television appearances, enormous stages, armloads of Grammy awards.

The Blue Note All-Stars released their official debut, Our Point of View, not quite a month ago, and one key takeaway from the album was the enduring shadow cast by Wayne Shorter.

Every musician in the group, from trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire to guitarist Lionel Loueke, is a student of Shorter’s legacy as a composer. The album features a brisk reworking of his “Witch Hunt,” from the 1966 album Speak No Evil, and Shorter even makes a cameo — along with a musical soul mate, Herbie Hancock — on a spooky version of “Masqualero.”

Chuck Stewart / Courtesy of Tompkins Square

If ever a jazz musician combined the far extremes of clarity and obscurity, it was pianist and composer Sonny Clark. Over less than a decade’s worth of recording, his precise, boppish touch and subtle sense of phrase rang out on dozens of albums, mostly on Blue Note Records: his own small-group efforts, like Cool Struttin’ and Dial ‘S’ For Sonny, as well as exceptional outings by the likes of Dexter Gordon, Lee Morgan and Johnny Griffin. Whatever the setting, Clark’s pianism elevates the level of play. He’s intuitive, nimble and soulful. Clarity is his calling card.

Keystone / Getty Images

Dizzy Gillespie, “Long Long Summer”

I listened to hours and hours of Dizzy Gillespie over the weekend — not an unprecedented act, though it carried a little more purpose than usual. That’s because Gillespie, the immortal trumpeter, composer-bandleader and bebop progenitor, had his centenary on Saturday.

Barbara Rigon / Ojai Music Festival

In this century, few artists in or around jazz have been closer to the whirling center of the action than Vijay Iyer. A pianist, composer, bandleader and educator — with accolades to show for each of those — Iyer is also an inspired consolidator, someone who brings divergent strands of theory and practice into dialogue. He does it all the time, but he really brought the idea into focus this past June, over four busy days in Southern California's ruggedly beautiful Ojai Valley.

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.


What kind of man is Gregory Porter? As it happens, he's already told us himself. "I'm a real good man," he sang in "Real Good Hands," one of a handful of sturdily built original songs from his 2012 album, Be Good. He was extending a suitor's reassurance there, addressing a future father-in-law. But we were invited to listen in and draw our own conclusions.

Courtesy of the artist

Take Five: new music by guitarist Pat Martino, pianist Marta Sánchez, trumpeters Dave Douglas and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.

The music of pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim conveys an extraordinary depth in stillness. More than perhaps any other improvising artist, he knows how to turn the solitary act of introspection into a communal experience that's both transporting and immersive.

Frans Schellekens / Redferns

Grady Tate, a crisp, swinging drummer who also enjoyed crossover success as a vocalist in a prolific recording career spanning more than 50 years, died on Sunday night at his home in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan.

He was 85. His death was confirmed to NPR by Wendy Oxenhorn, executive director of the Jazz Foundation of America, which provides a range of assistance to musicians. No cause was given.

Thelonious Monk, the incomparably influential jazz composer and pianist, would have turned 100 today, and across the country a healthy range of commemorative tributes is already underway. But the flagship event that bears his name has quietly been put on hold: the next Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, which at one point had been scheduled for this week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, will not happen in 2017.

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