New Grammy Category Reorganization Eliminates Contemporary Jazz

Grammy AwardIt’s going to be a lot tougher for modern jazz instrumentalists to get recognition starting next year. The number of categories to be recognized at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2012 will drop from 109 to 78. You can check out the Recording Academy’s press release for the reasons but here’s what is of interest to contemporary jazz fans.

There is no longer a Best Contemporary Jazz Album or a Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group category. The Jazz field drops to four awards: Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Jazz Instrumental Album, and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. On one side, I like that there doesn’t have to be an adjective to separate contemporary jazz from other jazz. It’s part of the big jazz family. On the other hand, it’s going to be tougher to compete with every type of jazz.

The Pop field also sees a category eliminated that contemporary jazz artists were frequently nominated in: Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Spyro Gyra and George Benson are artists that immediately come to mind that were nominated in that category in the last few years. Best Pop Instrumental Album remains so there is a chance there. Bela Fleck and Fourplay have been nominees in the category.

In another blow to instrumentals, the Best Rock Instrumental Performance has also been eliminated. I remember Pat Metheny winning that years ago for “The Roots of Coincidence” but don’t recall any other jazz artists being in contention since.

What are your thoughts on these changes? Add a comment!

Jazz Grammy Nominees – Same Old

The nominees for the 51st Grammy Awards have been announced. I don’t have anything to say about this year’s jazz nominees that I haven’t already said. It’s a lot of familiar names if you’ve followed the nominees and winners in the past. My criticism from three years ago is still valid. Except for maybe the Yellowjackets’ Marcus Baylor, none of the nominees in the Best Contemporary Jazz category are under the age of 50. I’m not saying that these guys don’t deserve it. It’s a call out to the Academy to break out of their predictable, perpetual cycle of nominating names they recognize. Surely someone else deserves a shot. Or is this it? There are no “new,” award-worthy contemporary jazz musicians?

The Day After: Jazz Is #1

Grammy winners usually see a bump in sales. So, what is the best-selling recording today on Amazon.com? It’s not Amy Winehouse and it’s not Kanye. Jazz rules the music sales charts today. Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters may double its sales in one day. It’s only sold about 53,000 copies since it’s release last autumn.

Herbie Sales Jump 967%

I know I’ve written a lot about this already but this is one of, if not the, biggest thing to happen in jazz in years. I’ve already posted about the immediate sales impact for River: The Joni Letters, Herbie Hancock’s winning recording for the Grammy Album of the Year. Now the sales for the week are in. Sales jumped an astronomical 967%. It vaulted from 159 to 5 on the Billboard Top Albums chart. A jazz album in the top five?! Has that happened in my lifetime? It sold 54,000 copies. I thought it had sold 53,000 total so far but Variety says the 54k number is just short of its cumulative sales. It’s awesome to see jazz in the mainstream press, as it’s increasingly rare unless it’s an obituary. Herbie will receive more mainstream exposure on Friday, February 22, when he’ll perform with singer Luciana Souza on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Herbie Hancock Wins Music’s Highest Honor

“Unbelievable,” said Quincy Jones after he read the winner of the Album of the Year Grammy. My reaction would have needed to be bleeped. River: The Joni Letters by Herbie Hancock, a pure jazz recording, won the music’s biggest award. Herbie said it was the first time in 43 years that a jazz album has won that. What a great thing for jazz.