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

Record Store Day, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is a consumer ploy in the guise of a cultural event. Or, depending on your vantage, maybe it's the other way around. Whatever the case, record stores across the country and around the world are happily (or gamely) bracing for impact: Record Store Day 2017 falls this Saturday, April 22, with a wave of exclusive releases, in-store appearances and other retail enticements.

This year's class of NEA Jazz Masters is as accomplished as they come, with Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, Dr.

Robert Ashcroft / Courtesy of the Artist

Growing up in the Ironbound District of Newark, New Jersey, Wayne Shorter savored almost nothing more than the suggestion of a daring escape. “When we got our bicycles, we would go down to the marshes, where Newark Airport is now, and ride the bikes a little bit into the soft earth, and in those tall weeds,” he said. “We’d go as far as we can — like, dare each other: 'How far can you go?'”

Keith Major

When pianist Gerald Clayton titled his fine new album Tributary Tales, he had a few different connotations in mind. A tributary is a stream that feeds a river or lake; it's also a gift paid in tribute, or a political state that serves a superior power. Clayton was thinking about his relationship to the jazz lineage, and the ways in which various experiences and influences flow into a larger whole.

Ernest Gregory / courtesy Chick Corea Productions

This week, Take Five is all about duos: from all-star summit meetings, like the one pictured above, to collaborative new partnerships like the Upstate Project, jointly led by singer-songwriter Rebecca Martin and pianist-composer Guillermo Klein. The unifying thread is deep colloquy bound by mutual respect — along with the sheer quality of the music.

It has been a long and eventful road since tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington released The Epic, his aptly named triple album, in 2015. The rare jazz album to become a pop-culture touchstone, it introduced the world to his close-knit Los Angeles crew, the West Coast Get Down, as well as to his burly, beseeching sound.

Josh Goleman / Courtesy of the artist

For the last 17 years, The Bad Plus has been a model of musical cohesion. Its members — bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King — have been an indivisible front, welcoming the occasional guest but never a substitute, according to the strictest ideal of a working band. As the saying goes, it has always been larger than the sum of its parts.

 

John Rogers

Take Five this week turns out to be a celebration of working bands — from the Bandwagon, led for more than a dozen years by pianist Jason Moran, to Natural Information Society, which bassist Joshua Abrams established not quite a decade ago. We'll also hear brand-new tracks by the Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, a new-breed organ trio called Hearing Things, and the agile group led by bassist Linda May Han Oh.

Frank Sinatra Enterprises

Frank Sinatra was well into his Rat Pack era, the reigning American embodiment of masculine suavity and aplomb, when he teamed up with a maestro of Brazilian music to make one of the most exquisitely tender albums of his career. That album, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, has lost none of its luster since it was first released 50 years ago. In fact, a newly remastered anniversary edition extracts additional depth from Claus Ogerman’s orchestrations, which frame Sinatra’s voice like a Rolex on a velvet cushion.

Sexmob
courtesy of the artist

Sexmob first came together, just over 20 years ago, as the Downtown Scene version of a bar band: pugnacious and maniacal, insubordinate but astute. The group — Steven Bernstein on slide trumpet, Briggan Krauss on saxophones, Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums — could always be found one night a week at the Knitting Factory's Tap Room, putting pop tunes through the wringer for a boisterous crowd.

Carol Friedman

Randy Weston, the powerfully expressive pianist, composer and NEA Jazz Master, turned 91 on Thursday, though he gives the impression of someone at least a decade younger. He’s celebrating his birthday on the bandstand, with a four-night Jazz Standard engagement that draws from an ambitious new double album, The African Nubian Suite.

“When you go to Africa, you become very humble,” Weston told Sheila Anderson in a recent Salon Session at WBGO. “You realize that you are from thousands and thousands of years of civilization, and how much we have to learn from these people.”

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.

Shannon Finnegan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dee Dee Bridgewater found a moment in her acceptance speech at the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert, on Monday night at the Kennedy Center, to sound a note of thanks for the NEA itself. “They have provided the possibility for artists to dream,” she said, “and to share their art and their creativity with people all around these United States, and all around the world.”

“That’s something,” she added. “It’s something to protect.” The stress on her last word was unmistakable, and it sparked a round of applause.

Robert Lewis

Matt Mitchell has a rare depth of insight on the music of saxophonist Tim Berne — not only as the pianist in Snakeoil, one of the most accomplished bands of Berne’s career, but also as an aficionado, and maybe even an obsessive. All of which is glowingly apparent on førage, a deep-focus, often astonishing album that features Mitchell’s solo piano readings of Berne’s compositions.

Arthur Blythe, whose bracing, gusty sound on alto saxophone was an essential feature of the New York loft scene in the 1970s, and a proud fixture of the post-bop vanguard in subsequent decades, died on Monday in Lancaster, California. He was 76.

Deneka Peniston

Hard bop isn’t a limiting factor for David Weiss. As a trumpeter, bandleader and composer, he has moved broadly within the style, notably with the Cookers, the all-star unit he founded almost a decade ago. But Weiss has also branched well beyond hard-bop — most recently on Wake Up Call, the fourth album by Point of Departure. 

Jacob Blickenstaff

What’s in a name? You could pose that question to Jazzmeia Horn, whose grandmother envisioned a destiny for her, or the Jazz Passengers, whose founders had designs both tongue-in-cheek and sincere. Or ask Supersilent, which is often anything but silent. Or Sexmob, which... actually, never mind. Here are five great tracks from all of the above, plus Roxy Coss, whose name you should know by now.

There's no shortage of poignant moments in I Called Him Morgan, Kasper Collin's mesmerizing new documentary about the life and death of jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan. One moment, about half an hour into the film, has stuck with me since I first saw it, lingering like an afterimage or the hook from a song.

Muldrow Meets Mingus

Mar 23, 2017

At a glance, Georgia Anne Muldrow isn't the obvious pick to create an interpretive tribute to the bassist and composer Charles Mingus. She was born in 1983, four years after Mingus died at 56. Her music stands well outside the jazz perimeter, aligning more with the Afrocentric current that flows through underground hip-hop, avant-R&B and psychedelic soul.

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.

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