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.

Like everyone else, I'm reflecting on Aretha Franklin tonight after getting word that she's in grave health and has entered hospice care in Detroit. Ree wasn't the first r&b singer to pull me in, but she's been a favorite for over 50 years, and I regard her as the figure whose musicianship and storied background as the daughter of the famed Reverend C.L. Franklin made her the ideal conveyor of gospel-infused soul music to the mainstream. Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Solomon Burke, Etta James and others paved the way, but Aretha took it to the masses.

I found impeccable footage of T-Bone Walker two weeks ago and have been on the search for more ever since. T-Bone's performance of "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong" was filmed in 1962 for a West German TV special, "Jazz Heard and Seen." He's accompanied by pianist Memphis Slim, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Jump Jackson, who were all part of that year's American Folk Blues Festival tour in Europe.

Charles Neville
Steven Sussman

Tom Reney pays memorial tribute to Charles Neville on this edition of Jazz Beat. 

Charles Neville
Steven Sussman

Charles Neville died on Wednesday, April 25, aged 79, at his home in Huntington, Massachusetts. He'd been ill for several months with pancreatic cancer.

April 6 was the bluesman Walter Horton's birthday. When I first read of him, his birth year was given as 1918, but now I see it listed as 1921, which if accurate means he was 51 when I first saw him at Joe's Place in 1972. He was touring with Chicago bluesmen Eddie Taylor (one of his earliest and longest colleagues) and Carey Bell (a young protege), both of whom were on his new Alligator album, Big Walter Horton with Carey Bell.

Steve Kuhn
Steven Sussman

I spoke with Steve Kuhn in 2004. The pianist had just released the album, Promises Kept, which fulfilled his goal of recording a program of original compositions with a string ensemble. The record was a posthumous tribute to his parents Stella and Carl Kuhn. Bob Blumenthal, a close observer of Kuhn’s career for several decades, said that “in giving full reign to his emotions, Kuhn has created both his most personal and his most beautiful recording.”

Jazz Beat 41 - Anat Cohen

Mar 16, 2018
Anat Banner - Jazz Beat
Courtesy of www.anatcohen.com

This edition of Jazz Beat features an interview that Tom Reney conducted with Anat Cohen in 2008 when she was the Billy Taylor Artist in Residence at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Jackie McLean
Steve Lehman

Jackie McLean, jazz legend and patron saint of the Hartford jazz community, was the subject of the 1979 documentary, "Jackie McLean on Mars." I attended its Hartford premier in 1980, and have watched it many times since, but thanks to a Jazz Wax post this week, I gave it another look this morning.  Jackie's charisma and patter alone make it worthwhile, but there's some great footage of the master playing "What's New," and discussing the challenges of maintaining his chops and keeping (or not) to a practice schedule.

Jazz Beat - Ruby Braff

Feb 2, 2018

In his latest edition of JazzBeat, NEPR’s Tom Reney turns the spotlight on Boston-born trumpeter Ruby Braff. Braff’s biography and his influences illuminate the period of jazz history that he inhabited. But the tone and style that you’ll hear in the episode’s music samples point to the timelessness of the music coming from his trumpet.

In the speech he gave before the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington in August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., employed the refrain, “Now is the time.” Was he inspired by Charlie Parker’s, “Now’s the Time,” the bop classic that Parker recorded in 1945? Bebop's urgency had implications stretching beyond music, and many found among the leading figures in modern jazz the embodiment of a new African American consciousness.

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