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

Jaki Byard
Patrick Hinely, Work/Play®

I spent a horribly jazz-deprived time in Eugene, Oregon, in 1977, where the only saving grace was the Prez Records shop, which was named for Lester Young and operated by a true believer. But over the length of the fall semester, there was only one area performance by a jazz combo.

Dave McKenna
Christopher Lydon

May 30 is the birthday of both Dave McKenna and Benny Goodman. Dave played with Benny on occasion, including a mid-fifties gig at Basin Street East. We've all heard about the terrifying "ray" that Benny would shoot in the direction of anyone disagreeable; well, I saw Dave dead aim one of his own the last time I saw him in person. It was his 70th birthday, May 30, 2000, a Sunday afternoon concert at the Congregational Church in Belchertown, Mass.

Ricky Riccardi, author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, told Facebook readers this week that he's on assignment from Jazz at Lincoln Center to select a group of ten Louis Armstrong recordings for a Spotify playlist. I'm sure you understood the kind of pressure a list like this presents to obsessives of our kind. In this case, Ricky's playlist will be widely consulted and scrutinized, for he's emerging as one of the most prominent and reliable of Armstrong experts.

Jackie McLean
Steve Lehman

May 16 was Jackie McLean's 86th birthday anniversary. The first time I met the great saxophonist he exclaimed, "I listen!" Then he pulled me in closer and said, "And we contribute." I was aware of pledges from the McLeans by then, but still, what a way to be greeted by the master.

To local readers who knew Tom McClung, the news of his death on Sunday at age 60 at his home in Normandy is being greeted with a combination of shock and incredulity. The pianist was a fixture on bandstands throughout the Connecticut River Valley for over twenty years before he moved to Paris in 1997, primarily to assume a permanent role with the Archie Shepp Quartet. Tom's absence left a big hole on the local scene, but he helped us maintain a hope that he was gone only temporarily by returning home on a near annual basis to pay a visit and play a concert.

Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson, and George Wein (in polo jersey), 1970, New Orleans
Michael Smith / The Historic New Orleans Collection

Tom Reney looks back at Duke Ellington’s “New Orleans Suite,” and the crucial role that Duke and festival producer George Wein played in the establishment of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which just completed its 49th annual presentation in the Crescent City. Wein’s insistence that any festival he produced would include Ellington, who “stayed only in the finest hotels,” and feature integrated ensembles was a spur to ending rigid segregation practices in New Orleans.

Connie Kay
Tom Copi / Getty Images

Lately I've grown accustomed to hearing Joe Lovano and other bandleaders introduce drummers as players of "drums and cymbals." Connie Kay, a cymbals master who was born 90 years ago today, qualified for that delineation decades ago.

Tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi hears in Joe Henderson a powerful mix of the astrological elements Earth and Air. “He can be playing some far out stuff [Air] and all of a sudden he comes back [to Earth] and grounds it and plays some groove that knocks you off your feet. He’s amazingly smart and fleet.”

Steve Davis
UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center

Today is Steve Davis's 50th birthday, which means he was born in the middle of the first month of the Impossible Dream season of the Boston Red Sox. Stevie-D is one of the most ardent Red Sox fans on the planet, but more importantly, he's a master trombonist; a tireless teacher, mentor, bandleader, and denizen of jam sessions near and far; and a dedicated keeper of a lineage that includes J.J.

In the latest edition of Jazz Beat, Tom Reney explores the legacy of the bassist Scott LaFaro, who was a leading innovator in modern jazz and a member of the Bill Evans Trio. LaFaro was tragically killed in an auto accident in 1961 at age 25, and he’s the subject of an outstanding biography by his sister Helene LaFaro-Fernandez. Tom’s appreciation of LaFaro includes numerous samples of his music.

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