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.

October’s quite a month for big-time jazz birthdays, and this year it’s ringing with major milestones, including the centennials of Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie, the 95th of Illinois Jacquet, and the 90th of the ever-ready Lee Konitz, who's still touring and making records.

Tom Reney looked into the legends of the two bluesmen known as Sonny Boy Williamson for this Jazz Beat podcast refuting some of what Randy Newman asserts in his new song, "Sonny Boy." Hear deep background on these blues greats, as well as Newman's tune, and blues classics by Sonny Boy I and II, and Billy Boy Arnold and Mose Allison.

Thelonious Monk
Jean-Pierre Leloir

It's now 35 years since Thelonious Monk's death in 1982, and over 45 since his last significant recordings were made. The pianist was 30 by the time he made his first session as a leader for Blue Note, and it took another decade before he began to develop a dedicated following and the respect of critics. 

It's been over twenty years since the late Steve Lacy last came to town, but the memory remains vivid of his annual visits to the Iron Horse in Northampton. 

Bud Powell Revisited

Sep 27, 2017
Bud Powell
Robert James Campbell

Today is Bud Powell's 93rd birthday anniversary. In this 21st century moment in which police brutality and shootings of African Americans have become matters of national outrage and discord ranging from the 'hood to the gridiron to a reactionary and divisive White House, it must be noted that Bud was a victim of a severe beating by Philadelphia police in 1945. 

Father Gerald Pocock and Duke Ellington
The Catholic Register

“Is God a three-letter word for love?”

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. 

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.

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