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.

Scott Mullett
Ewing Arts

When you look up names beginning M-U-L-L in jazz indexes, Gerry Mulligan (and sometimes Moon Mullins) is about all you get. But for Central and Western New Englanders, and lots of folks who knew him at Berklee in Boston, Scott Mullett was a name worthy of the reference books, a larger than life figure from the White Mountain State, as jovial as all get-out, and a monster saxophonist.

Roswell Rudd
Rudy Lu

Roswell Rudd died on December 21. He was 82 and had been ill with prostate cancer. Roswell, who alluded to his centuries-old American roots in a composition entitled "Yankee No How," lived a remarkably full life of musical exploration and collaboration.

Kevin Mahogany
The Kansas City Star

You've probably heard by now that Kevin Mahogany died on Monday, December 18, at his home in Kansas City, Missouri. A heart attack claimed his life at age 59. I heard Kevin many times in person, got to introduce him on various stages, and talked with him about the musical legacy of Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Big Joe Turner and other legends from his hometown. He had a profound and humble sense of himself as a keeper of the flame.

December 18 marks the 100th anniversary of Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s birth in Houston, Texas. Vinson straddled two divides, jazz and blues, swing and bebop, and was a double threat as a singer and alto saxophonist. He got started in his teens with Milt Larkins, who led a renowned, though unrecorded territory band whose ranks included Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Tom Archia, and Wild Bill Davis. Larkins toured primarily in the Midwest and occasionally shared the bill and backed the bluesmen T-Bone Walker and Big Bill Broonzy.

Paul Butterfield in Woodstock, 1976
Catherine Sebastian

Paul Butterfield, who died 30 years ago, was born on December 17, 1942. Most of us who had any connection with Butterfield back then were more saddened than surprised when we learned of his death on May 4, 1987, at 44.

Fenton Robinson
B.L.U.E.S.

Dear Reader: Please don't mistake this blog as an endorsement of cigarette smoking. I chain-smoked Pall Malls, Kools, Marlboro Lights and other coffin nails for 23 years and have never regretted the cold turkey dues I paid in quitting them 26 years ago. But the display ad seen below, which I found posted on the Facebook page for "Dave's Orbit" last week, was just too cool to ignore. It shows the bluesman Fenton Robinson posed between a garland of hip poetics in a Newport ad that ran in Ebony magazine in January 1970.

George Avakian in 2003
Ian Clifford / WBGO

One of the first album covers to grab my attention as a kid was Ambassador Satch. Released in 1956, it pictured Louis Armstrong in a formal cutaway jacket, contrasting gray vest, and striped trousers, and it conveyed a composed elegance about the man that belied the outsized figure I'd felt bemused by when I saw him on television. I would have been seven or eight when I began rifling through the small stack of albums that my parents owned, mostly symphonic and Broadway musical, and this lone record with a black face on the cover.

Jon Hendricks, who died on Wednesday at 96, was for over seven decades an artist who embodied the characteristic “sound of surprise” that the late New Yorker writer Whitney Balliett coined to describe jazz. Jon’s came in two forms, first as a singer who came to prominence with the vocal trio, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross in the late ‘50s, and in his extraordinary skill as a lyricist. 

This rare footage of Coleman Hawkins playing "I Wish I Were Twins" was discovered by Harry Oakley and posted on YouTube four years ago. I've just come upon it for the first time, five pages deep into a Google search. I'm sure you'll agree that in the annals of jazz, as well as the archive of Hawk's filmed performances, it should pop up at the slightest mention of his name.  

Jazz Beat - Fats Domino

Nov 14, 2017

Tom Reney's memorial tribute to Fats Domino credits the great pianist as a founder of rock 'n' roll and an exemplar of New Orleans rhythm and blues, and addresses a schism between jazz and r&b.

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