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

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.


In the 1990s, two seemingly limitless creative minds forged an important relationship. Now, almost three decades later, that bond is reaching its cosmic potential.


Before he became one of the most sought-after drummers of his generation, Antonio Sanchez was in Mexico City, training to be a top gymnast.  While mastering his floor routine – and destroying his young body in the process – he picked up drum sticks and his focus shifted to music.

Sandrine Lee

One of the legends of this music, drummer Jack DeJohnette, recently formed a new superband called Hudson, with John Scofield (guitar), John Medeski (keys), and Larry Grenadier (bass). The band's self-titled new album is mostly indebted to the music from the Woodstock rock revolution of the 1960s. But in this Checkout podcast, we get into the deeper cuts, where DeJohnette summons his Native American ancestors with "Great Spirit Peace Chant" and another original composition he calls "Song For World Forgiveness."


Petru Ivu Photography

Did you know there was a vibrant jazz scene in Romania? We certainly didn't — until witnessing it firsthand, on the ground at the Bucharest Jazz Festival. Let us introduce you to A-C Leonte, a jazz-trained singer and violinist now veering into the realm of electronica.


Cristi Mitrea - corporate, PR and event photography

 

Ari Hoenig burns bright in New York's underground jazz scene, regularly getting shine almost every Monday at Smalls Jazz Club. There you can witness firsthand what many hardcore jazz fans revere: his deft use of polyrhythms, metric modulations, and displacements.

It's always exciting when a new composition is unearthed from a behemoth in American art.  In this case, it's a composition by Ornette Coleman, the pioneering saxophonist and iconoclast, who continues to be studied, celebrated and misunderstood. In this Checkout podcast, David Murray debuts the original Ornette Coleman tune called "Perfection," with drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and the late pianist Geri Allen.


Francois Bisi

The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal kicks off with a major debut featuring one of its local artists. Rising star and Montrealer Malika Tirolien, formerly from the French Caribbean, is the frontwoman for Michael League's new project Bokanté, which is attracting a lot of buzz as of late. In this Checkout podcast, Tirolien talks about Strange Circles, the band's recording debut, and how League discovered her while he was on tour with his primary band Snarky Puppy.


Metin Oner

The Microscopic Septet, a mid-size jazz combo with orchestral ambitions, has lived through many eras of jazz, beginning in New York City in the early 1980s. Back then, the band became a centerpiece in the city's downtown scene with John Zorn (an original member), Wayne Horwitz, and The Jazz Passengers. 

Its co-leader, Phillip Johnston, said he wanted to create music "too smooth for the avant-garde yet too knotty for the masses." In this Checkout studio session, they play the blues — as on their latest album, Been Up So Long, It Looks Like Down To Me.

As jazz becomes more cerebral and gnarly by day, trumpeter and singer Wayne Tucker chases a sound closer to the heart. This instinctive, emotive approach to music has caught the attention of many — including some artists outside the genre, like Taylor Swift and Elvis Costello, with whom Tucker has toured. 

The Wayne Tucker Group recently came into our studio, giving a performance that featured his bright sound, feel-good melodies and a rhythm that, in his words, grooves "Harder Than Robots." 

Banda Magda
artist

Banda Magda creates a worldly music with unrelenting energy. Led by Magda Giannikou, a singer-songwriter and accordionist from Greece, this ambitious, rhythm-minded band came together at the Berklee College of Music, among an international coalition of players. In this podcast, Banda Magda returns to their alma mater in Boston for a special concert.


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