Simon Rentner

Host and Producer, The Checkout

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.

He is the host and producer for The Checkout, which showcases new music “on the other side of jazz” by some of the best artists on this planet including Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper, Hiatus Kiayote, Hermeto Pascoal, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, Henry Threadgill, Cassandra Wilson, and many others.

Aside from working in media, he is a curator and producer of concerts in New York City at spaces such as The Beacon Theatre, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Town Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, The (old) Knitting Factory, Le Poisson Rouge, and Bryant Park. Some of the artists he’s presented include Hugh Masekela with Abdullah Ibrahim, The Punch Brothers, Cecil Taylor, Rosanne Cash, and the late Andrew Hill.

In addition to The Checkout, Rentner has hosted and produced content for NPR, PRI, WGBH, and WNYC. He’s won PRINDI awards for his news stories on The WBGO Journal. He’s produced long and short content for Jazz Night in America, Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio (hosted by both Ed Bradley and Wynton Marsalis), Toast of the Nation, Afropop Worldwide, Marketplace, and The Leonard Lopate Show.

His radio shows also feature celebrated voices and minds, not limited to music, such as, Jessica Lange, Ellsworth Kelly, Lee Friedlander, Mark Morris to name a few. He’s also covered the music cultural histories from Colombia, France, Sierra Leone, Mali, Argentina, Madagascar, Venezuela, Peru, Canada, and, naturally, the United States.

Ways to Connect

Keith Major

Gerald Clayton's recent recording Tributary Tales isn't an album of tributes, but rather one inspired by rivers. The metaphor also works for this pianist in the natural flow of his life: the way he streams from one musical situation to another, whether it's with saxophonist Charles Lloyd, guitarist John Scofield or his own ensemble.


Yusaku Aoki

Before the influential broadcaster and tastemaker Gilles Peterson was breaking talent on the BBC, he was climbing rooftops as a radio pirate, championing great black music. Now he’s the industry standard in creating diverse playlists that explode musical boundaries.


Giulietta Verdon-Roe

There's a lot of buzz in Europe about Yazz Ahmed. The Bahrain-born, British-based artist says she discovered her voice on trumpet and flugelhorn by stumbling on a Rabih Abou-Khalil recording featuring Kenny Wheeler. On this edition of My Music on The Checkout, she tells her fascinating story behind her own Arabic-jazz recording "La Saboteuse."


Scott Friedlander

Listen to drummer and composer John Hollenbeck reflect on 20 years of his Large Ensemble with his new album, All Can Work, on New Amsterdam Records. The band celebrates the album's release tonight at Le Possion Rouge.


Stella K

It's a bit dizzying keeping up with Michael League of Snarky Puppy and GroundUP Music. He's perpetually on the road, dropping new music videos, signing new artists, and making new connections. But he carved out some time to tell us about a few artists we should be checking out.


Ignatius Mokone

The trumpeter, scholar and freedom fighter Hugh Masekela died this morning in Johannesburg, at 78. The Checkout has periodically checked in over the years with this South African jazz master — though he'd be the first to say that he wasn’t a jazz artist, nor is jazz an American art form.


WBGO

Michael Mwenso has led high-profile residencies and amassed an ardent following, becoming a staple of the New York City jazz scene. But he has no recordings to speak of — something The Checkout is here to remedy with “Songs of Empowerment and Uplift,” a suite captured live in concert.


Shervin Lainez

Mark Guiliana’s trademark isn’t limited to one style, but rather accentuated across a broad spectrum of modern sounds, from Brad Mehldau to David Bowie. His most recent album, Jersey (Motéma), is an acoustic jazz effort that honors his roots in the Garden State. ​He recently brought his drums to our studio in Newark to demonstrate his evolution in rhythm, from one beat to the next.


Kiel Scott

This year supplied no shortage of notable and often inspiring music — sounds that flirt in and outside jazz. Here are a few you should listen to.


Just two and half years ago, Stephen Bruner — the artist otherwise known as Thundercat — said he never thought his voice would ever overshadow his virtuoso six-string bass guitar playing. Then came Drunk, the standout album he released this year, which put his vocals and songwriting at the center of the frame. 


Anna Yatskevitch

 

There are plenty of reasons to root for Ben Allison. He's a commanding bandleader, a virtuoso bassist, a proprietor of his own record label, and now an electric bassist and audio recording engineer. But the most impressive dimension to the artist is the artist himself — his songwriting especially.


Juan Carlos Villarroel

It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by all of the young talent working in jazz today, many of whom reside in our backyard in New York City. Meanwhile, there are arguably more skilled musicians than ever playing the music outside the United States. Here are four mega-talented Dutch artists you may not know, but should.


Kevin Millet

Leyla McCalla has traveled a winding path as a musician, from the European classical canon to the folkways of her Caribbean heritage. Born into a Haitian-American family in Queens, she was raised in Maplewood, and brought up in the New Jersey public school system. 


There are few artists as plugged-in to music's future as Mark de Clive-Lowe. So it's also exciting when this forward-thinking jazz pianist gets the opportunity to investigate an ancient myth from his ancestral past.

Avishai Cohen
Simon Rentner for WBGO News

The So What's Next? Festival in the Netherlands recently wrapped up its fifth edition.  The Checkout from WBGO's Simon Rentner was there to report on the event that focuses on modern sounds that are "jazz and beyond." 

Click above to hear Simon Rentner's report.

He is the self-proclaimed Planetary Prince, a progressive pianist who seeks inspiration from emotion and the galaxy. On this Checkout podcast, he shares his debut as a recording artist.


Alex Jonas

Is she a crooner from from the bygone era of Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf? Or is she an artist from the cyborg future? ALA.NI tells us she's neither, firmly living in the present.


Courtesy of the artist

New York Voices veteran Lauren Kinhan returned to her alma mater, the Berklee College of Music, for a special performance captured November 8, 2017. 

Music may be one of the first modes of human expression. As Matthew Stevens also notes, about his latest album, Preverbal: “the need to express ourselves has existed far earlier than our need to make sense of it.”

akamu / akamu.net

The pianist, composer, and teacher Muhal Richard Abrams, a visionary artist with no patience for compromise or excuses, leaves the jazz community in mourning.


William Thoren Photography

This freaky son of Newark, N.J. didn't always used to funk it up. Back when he was working in a barbershop, he was influenced by a lot of jazz, and aspiring to be a famous doo-wop singer. 

"Our customers were James Moody; I delivered milk to Sarah Vaughan," he says. "Wayne Shorter lived on Huntington Street. I lived on Bergen street, one block apart. Larry Young Jr., I remember when he sang doo-wop."

ERIKA GOLDRING / GETTY IMAGES FOR PILGRIMAGE MUSIC & CULTURAL FESTIVAL

 

The blues have traveled far and wide over the last century — exerting a vast cultural influence worldwide, yielding myriad offshoots, and generating fortunes for some of the biggest musical acts of our time. But it's also still the product of local conditions, and bound by hardscrabble local concerns.

Sachyn Mital

This past April, The Checkout and Jazz Night In America attempted to make a little jazz history. We asked the legendary pianist Abdullah Ibrahim to reimagine, rearrange, and reinterpret music from his early 20s. Back then, he was a member of a short-lived but influential group called The Jazz Epistles, whose other members included trumpeter Hugh Masekela and saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi.


Cristina Gaudalupe

Reid Anderson from The Bad Plus says he didn't always have a knack for writing elegant, catchy tunes. As the bassist reveals on The Checkout, the composer says he discovered his voice by doing the opposite: writing overly complicated melodies.


Jimmy Katz

The Checkout Live at Berklee kicks off its new season with guitarist Lage Lund. Watch him showcase all new compositions during this intimate performance — working with drummer Johnathan Blake, with whom he has played with for over a decade, and bassist Jared Henderson, a new member of his trio.

Sarah Geledi

He calls himself one of Mississippi’s last true original bluesmen. And this true American original has the sound and story to back it up.

Delia Dobrescu

Is there such a thing as a good melody, in absolute terms? Branford Marsalis thinks so. The saxophonist joins singer Kurt Elling to share some of those from their recent album, Upward Spiral.

  

John Rogers / For NPR

Before Mary Halvorson became the critic's choice for jazz guitar, she was excelling as a biology student at Wesleyan University, until she met one formidable professor.


One of The Checkout's surprise favorite recordings from last year was Channel The Spirits, by the British electro-jazz trio known as The Comet Is Coming.


Isaiah McClain / WBGO

In jazz, where so much of the artistry rests on virtuosity and tradition, immense talent is sometimes hidden in plain sight. Such is the case of Sullivan Fortner, a New Orleans piano phenom who just recently decided to showcase his rare vocal ability on The Checkout.


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