Tom Reney

Jazz à la Mode Host

Tom has been producing Jazz à la Mode since 1984.  He began working in jazz radio in 1977 at WCUW, a community-licensed radio station in Worcester, Massachusetts. Before his career in radio began, Tom had many formative experiences hearing and meeting some of the icons of jazz and blues, all of which ignited his passion for sharing the music with others. Tom earned a BA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he majored in English and American Studies.

In addition to his hosting duties at New England Public Radio, Tom writes NEPR's jazz blog and produces our JazzBeat podcast, and lectures occasionally on music and cultural topics at UMass, Amherst, Smith, Hampshire, and Mt. Holyoke Colleges. He and his wife Margaret live in Holyoke.

Ways to Connect

Father Gerald Pocock and Duke Ellington
The Catholic Register

“Is God a three-letter word for love?” Reverend Gerald Pocock jotted that rhetorical question down on a piece of stationary when he was visiting Duke Ellington at a Montreal hotel in 1969, and Ellington incorporated it into his Third Sacred Concert with the elaboration, "Is love a four-letter word for God?" The Catholic Reporter's obit for Father Pocock, a Roman Catholic priest, reports that he died on September 4 in Ottawa at age 92.

Illinois Jacquet
Illinois Jacquet Foundation

Scott Hamilton, the great tenor saxophonist and keeper of the flame, posted concert footage of Illinois Jacquet playing “Blues for Louisiana” on Facebook on September 6. 

William P. Gottlieb

In the latest edition of Jazz Beat, Tom Reney takes a look at the time that Duke Ellington’s orchestra met jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt in Paris, and the concerts and recordings that came out of that meeting. This JazzBeat is peppered with wonderful examples of swinging jazz by Django and the Ellingtonians.

Walter Becker at the Beacon Theater, New York City, on November 16, 2016
Gregory Pace / /BEI/Shutterstock /AP

Leave it to Marian McPartland to host a relaxed, conversational hour with Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker, and to foster the novel experience of hearing them ask questions of her. It should come as little surprise to fans of Steely Dan to know that the band's co-founders were jazz heads throughout their lives, and that their meticulously crafted records employed such jazz greats as Jerome Richardson, Phil Woods, Wayne Shorter, Victor Feldman, Plas Johnson, Pete Christlieb, and Supersax with Warne Marsh, Bob Cooper, and Med Flory. 

Lester Young was born 108 years ago, on August 27, 1909, in Woodville, Mississippi. The state's been the birthplace of countless blues legends, but very few jazz artists, and fewer still who grew up there. (What's up with that?) Two of those few, Gerald Wilson and Teddy Edwards, got out early, as both moved on to benefit from the excellent music education curriculum in the Detroit public schools. As for Lester, Woodville wasn't much more than a dateline in his life, as Algiers, Louisiana, which sits across the river from New Orleans, became his family's primary residence until he was ten.

It doesn’t require more than a casual knowledge of blues to know that there were two prominent figures in the music named Sonny Boy Williamson. On his new album, Brain Matter, Randy Newman declares unequivocally for one of them, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, as the one true owner of that moniker. In his song, "Sonny Boy," a sprightly cadence drives the pianist's dreamy narrative about the Jackson, Tennessee, native's short, productive life.

Jimmy Rowles
Sy Johnson / All Music

Tomorrow is Jimmy Rowles's 99th birthday anniversary. The Spokane, Washington, native was quirky, unpredictable, and utterly compelling, making even the most hackneyed standard sound fresh, alive, and better than you'd remembered it. He had a unique harmonic sense that left plenty of room for surprise. He's reputed to have known more tunes than anyone else in the business, and he knew potential when he heard it. Diana Krall took lessons with him in 1983 before she enrolled at Berklee, and he (and bassist Ray Brown) encouraged her to sing.

Jane Ira Bloom at the Dickinson Homestead in 2016
Emily Dickinson Museum

Last Friday, I had the honor of presenting to Jane Ira Bloom the Jazz Journalists Association 2017 Award for Soprano Saxophonist of the Year. Jane was at Amherst College to perform her new work, "Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson." The August 11 concert was sponsored by the The Emily Dickinson Museum in conjunction with a Dickinson conference.

http://paulbutterfield.blogspot.com/2014/01/

One of the most widely-circulated films of Paul Butterfield in action is the footage that D.A. Pennebaker shot of the Butterfield Blues Band performing  "Driftin' and Driftin'" at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 17,1967. Butterfield's adaptation of Charles Brown's "Driftin' Blues" became the slow blues staple of his repertoire for the next five years. Brown was the singer-pianist with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, a Nat Cole Trio-style combo that played the blues in Los Angeles supper club and scored big with the classic "Merry Christmas, Baby."

Diahann Carroll, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington in Paris Blues
Herman Leonard / Morrison Hotel Gallery

Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington recorded only one album together, and it was a long time in coming.  The Great Summit was made for Roulette Records in 1961, decades after these giants of jazz had come to prominence in the twenties, and several years after George Avakian proposed such a meeting for Columbia Records in 1955.

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