Each year, our March issue is one of change, transition and reflection. Mostly this has to do with the magazine’s centerpiece, our annual collection of artist-to-artist tributes celebrating the lives and music of those we lost during the previous year. But this month there are other reasons for contemplation, and for thinking about how the end of an era will inform our future.
This issue marks the close of Nate Chinen’s column, “The Gig,” though this news should feel more like a commencement than a goodbye. Nate has left his post as a jazz and pop critic at the New York Times to head up the editorial program for online jazz content at WBGO and NPR. And while he’ll still be in the JT mix—a Chinen-helmed profile of Jack DeJohnette is in the works as you read this—his regular output of criticism will be reserved for his day job.
I wish him the absolute best at his well-deserved new gig, no pun intended, and would like to use his departure as an occasion to meditate a bit on his tenure as a columnist, which lasted for 12 years and 125 consecutive articles. To frame my professional relationship with Nate as a silly metaphor, he felt like the honor-student stepson you can kind of take credit for without actually raising. Hired in the early 2000s by my predecessor Christopher Porter, who was actively seeking out talented young voices in jazz writing, Nate came to publisher Lee Mergner and me beyond fully formed.
Over the years, we’d kick ideas around and I’d nip his prose or ask for a clarification here and there, but overall his column was a rare component of the magazine I could simply look forward to and not worry about. “High-profile” and “low-maintenance” are too often mutually exclusive terms when editors talk about writers, but that’s precisely the duality he delivered. He also brought a virtuoso command of language, diamond-sharp insight and a desire for topical versatility, from deep thinking about specific artists to diplomatic socio-political discussions to good humor. Remember: The “jazzbro” was born here.
As for future columns and columnists, I’m going to open it up moving forward, at least for a time, and tap writers in and out of the JT fold. To start, be sure to check out Ben Ratliff’s dauntless take on The Savory Collection. And expect more good things.