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

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.

Steve Mundinger / Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

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.

William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress via flickr.com

Take Five celebrates Monk at 100 with new tracks by Johnny O'Neal, Wadada Leo Smith, Barry Altschul and The 3Dom Factor, John McNeil & Mike Fahie, and Sam Newsome with Jean-Michel Pilc.

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

Roger Thomas

Famoudou Don Moye was in his early 20s, an expatriate jazz drummer working in Paris, when he got the invitation to join the Art Ensemble of Chicago. With it came a friendly admonition, from the group's trumpeter and most inveterate trickster, Lester Bowie.

"Lester told me: 'Don't even mess with this if you don't want to be part of history,'" Moye recalls, laughing. "This was early 1970, when I was just coming into the band. Of course I said, 'Hell, yeah!'"

Justin Bettman

Antonio Sánchez, the virtuoso drummer and composer, can often be found on tour — tending rhythmic fires for guitarist Pat Metheny; leading Migration, his own dynamic post-bop band; or performing his solo drum score at screenings of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), the 2014 Alejandro G. Iñárritu film. 

Antonio Sánchez, the virtuoso drummer and composer, can often be found on tour — tending rhythmic fires for guitarist Pat Metheny; leading Migration, his own dynamic post-bop band; or performing his solo drum score at screenings of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), the 2014 Alejandro G. Iñárritu film.

Adama Jalloh / Brownswood Recordings

Zara McFarlane, “Pride”

Zara McFarlane enjoys a sterling reputation as a soul-jazz vocalist in the UK, where she self-produced her first EP in 2010, and has won an array of prestigious awards since. So far she’s more of a blank in the States, but that could change on the strength of Arise, her searching, audacious and authoritative third album, just out on Brownswood Recordings.

Jazz singing has always been a tree with firm roots, but a wild entanglement of branches. Its sound and shape are mutable, prone to outside influence and local inflection. Take the two artists featured in this week's episode of Jazz Night in America, recorded at the 2017 San Jose Jazz Summer Fest — each a cultural ambassador as well as a cosmopolitan, with the elusive ability to bring any audience along for the ride.

It was a Thelonious Monk composition — the elegant and wistful ballad "'Round Midnight" — that first made Joey Alexander a topic of conversation.

Robert Birnbach / 2017 San Jose Jazz Summer Fest

Jazz singing has always been a tree with firm roots, but a wild entanglement of branches. Its sound and shape are mutable, prone to outside influence and local inflection.

Anna Webber

Christian McBride doesn’t need a big band to make a big impression, as he’s shown us countless times — on the bass, on the bandstand and in the booth. But when he finally did assemble a big band of his own, he saw  results: The Good Feeling, on Mack Avenue, won the 2011 Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

Pete Turner / Courtesy of Pete Turner Studio

Pete Turner, a master photographer whose striking use of color and composition defined the visual aesthetic for some of the most iconic jazz albums of the 1960s and ‘70s, died on Sept. 18 at his home on Long Island, N.Y. He was 83.

David Virelles, “Fitití Ñongo”

Mystery is a great abiding constant in the music of the Cuban pianist David Virelles. Gnosis, his new album on ECM, literalizes that idea: its title alludes to spiritual knowledge of the sort that belongs to the ancients.

Esperanza Spalding — the multiple Grammy-winning bassist, singer-songwriter, bandleader and composer — maintains a fierce commitment to the unfolding moment.

Martin Ziman

Fred Hersch, “Eronel”

Introspection has never been a hurdle for Fred Hersch, but the pianist is reaching new depths in that area lately. His glowing and revelatory memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, publishes this week. And his gorgeous companion album, a solo effort bearing the perfect title {open book}, is just out on Palmetto.

NPR

Almost every era of jazz has its resident Blue Note crew: artists who embody the beating heart of that label’s sound.

Gary Peacock Trio, “Rumblin’”

Bassist Gary Peacock has been a model of inuitive equipoise since the 1960s, when he was working in trios led by pianists Clare Fischer, Bill Evans and Paul Bley. Over the last few years — since the dissolution of a marquee unit with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette — Peacock has led a fine piano trio of his own, which releases its second album, Tangents, Friday on ECM.

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