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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Anna Yatsekevich

John Raymond’s Real Feels, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” 

Direct emotional expression isn’t always easy to come by in jazz’s ultramodern wing, but John Raymond has made it a priority in Real Feels, his primary band. A deeply sympathetic trio featuring Raymond on trumpet and flugelhorn, Gilad Hekselman on guitar and Colin Stranahan on drums, it’s the latest evidence of jazz’s fruitful exchange with melodic indie-rock and singer-songwriter fare.

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The jazz and blues winners at the 60th Grammy Awards are in, and they mostly went to seasoned heads and strong favorites. But this ​year’s Grammys also reinforced just how flexible jazz and blues artists tend to be, moving across a range of categories and in a variety of styles. 

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.

Chris Tobin / WBGO

The Baylor Project — a flagship of the vocalist Jean Baylor and the drummer Marcus Baylor, partners in music as in marriage — will be in the running for two Grammy awards this month. Tellingly, the nominations are in different genre categories: Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Traditional R&B Performance.

Peter Gannushkin

Kris Davis and Craig Taborn, "Love in Outer Space"

Fred Hersch is no stranger to the art of introspection. As a pianist, a composer, a bandleader and a sideman, he has always combined clarity of projection with a willingness to go deep. His latest expression of interiority is a graceful and revealing memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, which takes shape as a gradual declaration of selfhood, in personal as well as artistic terms.

John Rogers / WBGO

“Art hurts. Art urges voyages — and it is easier to stay at home.” Gwendolyn Brooks wrote those words just over 50 years ago, for her poem “Chicago Picasso.” They resurfaced late on Friday night at the New School Tishman Auditorium, as part of the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Marathon.

A bar fight breaks out during a pivotal scene in Django, the musically crisp yet mournful new wartime drama by Étienne Comar. As the fracas unfolds, the band keeps playing, with a blithe bemusement that seems to say: This happens all the time. But these are far from normal times.

Chris Tobin

The polyglot queen of "New Flamenco" doesn't have to work to captivate a room. Buika's voice, a deep entanglement of late-morning sunlight and curling smoke, takes care of all that — as she effortlessly reminded us during a recent visit with her band, in advance of a Winter Jazzfest concert on Friday at the Town Hall. 


Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.


A continuity and a break: That's the history of The Bad Plus in a nutshell. An acoustic piano trio with the combustion properties of a post-punk band, it emerged in the early 2000s to an uproar — its surging attack and shrewd repertoire were framed as a radical split from the jazz tradition. Gradually a more perceptive view emerged, one that acknowledged where the band was really coming from.

A little over 75 years ago, Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire introduced "I'm Old Fashioned," a graceful, guileless ballad that dismisses the latest trends in favor of timeless romantic verities: the glow of moonlight, the holding of hands, "the starry song that April sings."

John Rogers / NPR

The Winter Jazzfest, which descends on New York City every year at this time, is more than a show of superabundance. While it's true that the festival's defining trait is a dizzying sprawl and variety of acts — and this year's edition, the 14th, is no exception — there are other reasons for its claim as the most important jazz event of the year.

Peter Adamik

Take Five kicks off 2018 in high style, with music that stretches forward.

Courtesy of Motema

We ring in the new year by remembering “Our Favorite Things – 2017,” a review of notable jazz and blues releases as chosen by WBGO announcers:                             

FARRAD ALI

 

Wayne Shorter didn't release any new music in 2017. But that's not to say the eminent saxophonist, composer and NEA Jazz Master had anything less than a banner year.

 

Henry Hayes / Courtesy of Berklee College of Music

New Year’s Eve is always an epic night for music in New York City, if you don’t mind spending a little extra (or maybe more than a little) and wading through a crowd.

Ilene Cutler / Courtesy of Verna Gillis

Roswell Rudd, a trombonist whose jubilant blare and yawping wit made him a singular fixture in the jazz avant-garde — as a bandleader, a member of The New York Art Quartet and a frontline partner for titans like saxophonist Albert Ayler — died on Friday morning at his home in Kerhonkson, N.Y.

Cem Kurosman

What defined the conversation around jazz this year? There’s no simple answer to that question, but trying is always a worthwhile struggle ­— especially in the company of my fellow jazz critics, who devote most of their waking hours to the subject.

John Rogers for NPR / johnrogersnyc.com

Every year around this time, the jazz community takes the measure of its highlights and bright moments — along with a tally of its losses.

 

And while it's true that important jazz artists leave us every year, 2017 was tougher than most. We bade farewell to avant-garde pioneers like Muhal Richard Abrams and Sunny Murray, genre-blending synthesists like John Abercrombie and Larry Coryell, and behind-the-scenes giants like Nat Hentoff and George Avakian.

This was an excellent year for jazz on record, across every possible iteration of style. (If you're seeking evidence for the claim, consult the 2017 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.) But it's always worth pointing out that albums only tell part of the story, which often assumes different dimensions at street level, where the music pulses in real time.

Robert Glasper's music is a study in convergences. A pianist, bandleader and composer with a strong foothold in modern jazz, he belongs no less to the terrain of contemporary gospel, alternative hip-hop — and R&B, the category under which he won his first two Grammy awards (of three). Glasper has carved a signature out of this cross-genre dialogue; consult his recent explainer for Jazz Night in America, about the jazz roots of some famous hip-hop samples.

Courtesy of the artist

A couple of weeks ago, saxophonist Jeff Coffin called up two musician friends. His first question to them was simple: How would you like to make a Christmas album? His next question was a little more pressing: Are you free over the next few days?

A couple of weeks ago, saxophonist Jeff Coffin called up two musician friends. His first question to them was simple: How would you like to make a Christmas album? His next question was a little more pressing: Are you free over the next few days?

Paul Payabyab-Cruz

Jazz has generated more than its share of holiday staples throughout the years, from Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas to the Vince Guaraldi Trio finessing “Christmas Time is Here.” One sturdy recent addition to the canon has been Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O, by a smart, scrappy unit consisting of Jeff Lederer on reeds, Paul Sikivie on bass and Wilson on drums.

Brooks Brothers

Take Five presents a roundup of five new holiday tunes, with a throwback bonus.

Chris Dave possesses innumerable gifts as a drummer, but chief among them is the ability to make a groove just feel ... right. This isn't as simple or straightforward a feat as it sounds. And it can be a recipe for invisibility, at least among the general listening public.

Nathan West

Julian Lage Trio, “Atlantic Limited”

Not too long ago, Julian Lage formed a first-rate trio with bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen, casting it loosely in the image of a similar unit led by his chief guitar hero, Jim Hall. The band released its debut album, Arclight, last year, coming in for some just acclaim. Now there’s a follow-up on the horizon: Modern Lore, which Mack Avenue will release on Feb. 2.

Lawrence Sumulong / Jazz at Lincoln Center

More than three dozen acts have been added to the NYC Winter Jazzfest, finalizing the festival lineup for 2018. Among them are Nicholas Payton & Afro-Caribbean Mixtape, the vocal group Duchess, Fay Victor’s SoundNoiseFUNK, and the Eli Degibri Quartet. They will all appear on the Winter Jazzfest Marathon, a two-day crush of shows on Jan. 12 and 13. The festival itself sprawls to eight days, the longest edition yet, though with fewer groups performing than in 2017.

Rob Davidson / WBGO

Nominations for the 60th Grammy Awards were announced this morning. Here are the nominees in the Jazz field. Pianists Billy Childs and Fred Hersch are each multiple nominees, in the album and solo categories. So is saxophonist Chris Potter. Stay tuned to WBGO and wbgo.org for more commentary about the awards.

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