Grammy Nominees from A Jazz POV

The nominees for the 50th Grammy Awards was announced yesterday. As always, it’s interesting to see whom the Recording Academy has deemed worthy of music’s highest award. This year, I’m happy to see a few younger musicians being recognized in jazz (though you can expect bigger name artists to go home with the award). Let’s take a look.

I was interested to see what other four recordings would be up against Pilgrimage, the last studio recording by the late Michael Brecker, for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. The Academy frequently nominates and rewards posthumously and Pilgrimage is deserving of recognition. Whoa – it’s not there! WTF? It’s up for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group. I’m not sure how that worked out. Instead, here are the nominees for Best Contemporary Jazz Album:
Party Hats from Will Bernard. A nice surprise. Bernard was also part of the T.J. Kirk recording If Four Was One which was also nominated in 1997.
Downright Upright from Brian Bromberg. Bromberg’s acoustic bass project with some fellow Grammy nominees and past winners like Jeff Lorber, Kirk Whalum, and Lee Ritenour gets a nod.
Re-imagination from Eldar. Excellent! The Academy recognizes a young true talent.
River: The Joni Letters from Herbie Hancock. A legend covering songs composed by a legend? Instant win by the Academy. It’s also up for Album of the Year, which it also could win. It’s great to see jazz in that category.
He Had A Hat from Jeff Lorber. Probably one of the best recordings in the career of this longtime contemporary jazz contributor.

Also tapped for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group with Brecker are Joshua Redman, John Patitucci, Joe Lovano and Hank Jones, and the Bill Charlap Trio. Though Brecker’s last studio recording will win, I was surprised to find out that, according to the Grammy winner database, Redman hasn’t won a Grammy. Patitucci has only won as part of the Wayne Shorter Quartet. Patitucci is the bassist on Pilgrimage.

For Best Jazz Instrumental Solo, we have Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Paul McCandless, and Terence Blanchard. Blanchard’s track is from his moving A Tale Of God’s Will (A Requiem For Katrina). Blanchard has established himself as a top composer – it’s time that is recognized. Maybe a win in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category will help that.

The category I would expect to see Blanchard in is Best Instrumental Composition. In that category, Harry Connick, Jr., Maria Schneider, Mark Walker, Philip Glass, and Bela Fleck are nominated. Fleck’s nomination is for “Spectacle” from his The Enchantment collaboration with Chick Corea. Vince Mendoza could win Best Instrumental Arrangement for “In A Silent Way” from the Joe Zawinul collaboration with the WDR Big Band, Brown Street. I’m happy to see New York Voices on the Grammy list – Jay Ashby, Darmon Meader and Kim Nazarian are up for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for ” In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” from A Day Like This.

Other nominees you might be interested in: Beastie Boys, Dave Koz, Spyro Gyra, Joni Mitchell, and Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals are up for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. I’d like to see the Beasties win because I enjoyed their all-instrumental The Mix-Up this year and I’d like to see more established artists try this. Maybe they’ll win for Best Pop Instrumental Album. The other four nominees in that category are Spyro Gyra, Kirk Whalum, Dave Koz, and Chris Botti. I think Joni will win the Performance award and the Beastie Boys should win Album. Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Freddy Cole, Kurt Elling, and Tierney Sutton will compete for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Randy Crawford and Joe Sample are up for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance with “All Night Long” from their collaboration Feeling Good. Me’shell Ndegeocello, Vikter Duplaix, and Alice Smith are nominated in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance category. Ndegeocello’s nomination is for a cover of “Fantasy” from Interpretations: Celebrating The Music Of Earth, Wind & Fire. I’ve played a few good nu jazz tracks from the BBE catalog and I’m inspired to see the label receive nods for Duplaix and Smith.

The complete list of nominees is on the Grammy site. Winners will be announced live on CBS on February 10 (though jazz awards are presented earlier).

2006 Jazz Grammy Nominees

The nominees for the 49th annual Grammy Awards were announced this morning. It’s the only visible awards show that recognizes all genres of music, including jazz. The selections for Best Contemporary Jazz Album are the most interesting (and exciting) I’ve seen in years: Bela Fleck, Groove Collective, Sex Mob, Christian Scott, and Mike Stern. It’s possible that there will be an answer to my question of why no one under the age of 50 won a jazz Grammy last year. Nominees in the other five jazz categories include Ornette Coleman, Randy Brecker, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Garrett, Chick Corea, Diana Krall, and Branford Marsalis. You can view the details and complete list of nominees for those categories here.

Fleck was also nominated in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance category where he’ll compete against a George Benson and Al Jarreau pairing among others. The Benson/Jarreau release also is a contender for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals. Larry Carlton rocked out on his recording Fire Wire this year, which received a Best Pop Instrumental Album nod. His smooth jazz group, Fourplay, is also up for that award along with Spyro Gyra, Gerald Albright, and Peter Frampton. Terence Blanchard’s DVD, Flow: Living In The Stream Of Music, was nominated for Best Long Form Music Video.

Since I played one of his tracks this year, I must mention that Bob Sinclar was nominated in the Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical category. Ironically, the track I played, “The Ghetto,” was remixed by atjazz. The Grammy sheet spells his name “Sinclair” but I think it’s Sinclar.

2005 Grammy Wrap

Hey, I predicted it! Bill Frisell won for Best Contemporary Jazz Recording. None of the rest of the batch inspired me this year so, for the rest of the winners, see the list at the Grammys site.

None of the major jazz award winners are under the age of 50. I don’t have any kind of problem with the age of the winners. There’s no doubt that Herbie Hancock, Nancy Wilson, and McCoy Tyner are masters of their craft. However, does the Recording Academy believe that there is no jazz musician under the age of 50 that is worthy of an award?

The Academy has demonstrated that they can recognize new talent by nominating Russell Gunn, Stefon Harris, and Liquid Soul in previous years. Yet these “youngsters” never win. It’s always Herbie, Metheny, Brecker (both), and the same guys every year. It’s like voting members check off names of artists they’ve heard of when coming to the jazz section of the ballot. I believe that worthy music is being created by younger artists and should be recognized. Jazz is growing creatively but there is little reflection of that. So, note to the Academy: Just like you’ve done with the “major” nominations, it’s time that you paid attention to fresh jazz. Listen to all jazz recordings that come your way. Talk to your peers about new artists that catch your ear. Ignore name recognition. Think fresh. Maybe even create a Best New Jazz Artist category if you can’t give a Grammy to an artist who has already established himself or herself many times before.

I know that major jazz labels are releasing less and less jazz recordings in favor of vocalists. I know that I can count of the number of major jazz labels on one hand. These labels have enough influence to promote the small number of artists of their roster. New talent isn’t being signed as often by these labels. Smaller labels can’t make their voices heard loud enough. I know there are a lot of factors that result in the repetition of nominees and winners. I could go on for several thousand more words about it and likely will in the near future. I continue to be inspired by jazz and plan on continuing to fight for its recognition.

Grammy Jazz Analysis Part 2

Nominees in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album (For albums containing 51% or more playing time of INSTRUMENTAL tracks.) Shouldn’t they replace the word “album” with “recording?”

Nominees are: Journey by Fourplay, Unspeakable by Bill Frisell, In Praise of Dreams by Jan Garbarek, The Hang by Don Grusin, and the Strength EP from Roy Hargrove (The RH Factor).

The Academy has nominated Bob James and Larry Carlton several times over the last 30 years. James has won with his collaborations with Earl Klugh (1980) and David Sanborn (1985). So collaborations with James can win but Fourplay has yet to score and the stronger competition will make sure that doesn’t happen this year either.

Garbarek returned to the studio after six years with American-Armenian violist Kim Kashkashian and African-French drummer Manu Katch?. The trio’s emotive recording earned accolades.

The Strength EP, from Roy Hargrove and his RH Factor, is a small follow-up to the band?s debut that is big on sound. The great tunes here are firmly rooted in R&B and jazz making this one of the most accessible fusion projects in a while.

Grusin’s The Hang didn’t impress me when I first listened to it but when I saw the performance on DVD, my impression changed. If the Academy sees the DVD too then they might give overdue recognition to these artists who were an important part of keeping jazz going in the 1980s.

However, I think the Grammy will go to Bill Frisell. Many reviews have credited Unspeakable as Frisell’s jazziest album to date. The fact that it was nominated shows that the Academy knows his work. I speculate that they have been looking for a way to recognize him and this is it. Then again, I thought that the Academy would give Joe Zawinul the award two years ago for Faces and Places. By saying that, I mentally overrode my own recognition that Metheny Always Wins (and, of course, the Pat Metheny Group beat Zawinul for their Speaking of Now release).

The Grammys are televised this Sunday. I would write about the show but I won’t have anything to say. They (and I don’t know who to point the finger to) are completely abandoning jazz on air this year.