Today’s Jazz Stars Interpret Disney Classics

Ever imagine The Bad Plus doing music from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast? How about Joshua Redman doing a cover of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story? Those notable artists are among the dozen contributing to the forthcoming compilation Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.

The title of the album comes from the song “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat,” from The Aristocats, which is given an upbeat, grooving treatment by Roy Hargrove’s quintet. You’ll also hear Disney classic songs like “The Bare Necessities” and “It’s a Small World After All” performed by a diverse lineup. “I wanted to get a group of people together who would represent the many styles of jazz,” says producer Jason Olaine, who also called Dave Brubeck, Esperanza Spalding, Regina Carter, and Nikki Yanofsky for the recording.

Writing in the album liner notes, Ashley Kahn praises the top-drawer prowess of the performers: “It’s exceedingly rare that one finds this range of talent on one jazz album. If one desired an accurate measure of today’s scene in all its flavors and formats, here it is on one disc.”

I’m looking forward to hearing this. Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat is in stores February 15.

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.

2004 Grammy Nominees

There are no real surprises in the list of jazz Grammy nominees for 2004. For Best Contemporary Jazz Album, you’ve got the usual suspects of Yellowjackets, David Sanborn, and Randy Brecker. The reunited Crusaders pick up a nomination as does Nicholas Payton’s fusion recording Sonic Trance. Another “trumpeter gone wild” this year – Roy Hargrove – picked up a nod for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for the RH Factor song “I’ll Stay” featuring D’Angelo. Among his competitors in that category is Stanley Clarke with Glenn Lewis and Amel Larrieux for “Where Is the Love” from 1, 2, to the Bass. In the “what the hell?!” category, Pat Metheny’s One Quiet Night CD is nominated for Best New Age Album (but that means someone else will win Best Jazz Album).

The Grand Unification Theory by Stefon Harris gets a deserved nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group. Also up for the Grammy in that category are Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Pat Martino, and, most likely to win, Wayne Shorter. Shorter’s “Sacajawea” is a candidate for Best Instrumental Composition, as is Michael Brecker’s “Broadband” from his thrice-nominated release Wide Angles.

Visit the Grammy site for a complete list of Grammy nominations. The awards will be presented on February 8 and be broadcast on CBS.