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.

Jazz Grammy Analysis Part 1

This year’s Grammy selections in the jazz categories surprised me. The nominees and winners are frequently predictable if you’ve paid attention to the categories in the last 20 years. This year’s omissions are perplexing. The Chick Corea Elektric Band reunited for a concept album. A concept album by a fusion era leader not recognized by the Recording Academy? Almost. “The Long Passage,” a challenging piece from the CCEB’s To the Stars, earned Corea a Best Instrumental Arrangement nomination. That’s it. Diana Krall released her first recording that contained recent music that she wrote and wrote with husband and frequent Grammy-nominee Elvis Costello. The Girl in the Other Room garnered much praise. She received zero nominations, though Al Schmitt and Tommy LiPuma received nominations for engineering and producing it. Gifted singer Jane Monheit moved to the Sony label this year but still didn’t get recognized, though Vince Mendoza did for arranging “Dancing in the Dark” from her Taking A Chance On Love CD.

Grammy Report

OK, I watched the Grammys and wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. The Foo Fighters and Chick Corea collaboration was great. I’m thinking Chick was ready for a smoke and a lay after rocking with those guys. I was surprised to see Arturo Sandoval perform with Justin Timberlake. I love the jazz and pop/rock combos, but I would like to see the pop/rock guys tackling a jazz song instead of the other way around. Even better, I’d like to see the return of jazz artists performing their own music on the broadcast.

So who won? You have to go to the Grammy site to find out. In the last few years, the broadcast quickly showed them on the side when getting ready to go to break. This year, they gave up and said go to the web site. The “Metheny Always Wins” mandate holds true – he’s the winner of Best New Age Album. No surprise to see Wayne Shorter pick up Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Alegria. Randy Brecker, Michel Camilo, Dianne Reeves, Michael Brecker, and Chick Corea were other jazz Grammy winners.

Thanks to OutKast closing the show, I’m going to have “Hey Ya!” in my head all night.

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.

Jazz Grammy Winners

History holds true as the Pat Metheny Group won the Best Contemporary Jazz award at the Grammy Awards on February 23. Metheny beat out excellent releases by John Scofield, Joe Zawinul, Yellowjackets, and Larry Carlton. Metheny didn’t win every award he was nominated for tonight, though. B.B. King took home the Best Pop Instrumental Performance for “Auld Lang Syne” against Metheny, Dave and Jeff Koz, Moby, and Kirk Whalum.

The Caribbean Jazz Project won the Best Latin Album. The Dave Holland Big Band won for Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Herbie Hancock picked up a couple of Grammys. He won Jazz Instrumental Solo for “My Ship” from the Directions In Music CD. He also got the award with Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove for that release in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group category. Diana Krall bested the other women (no men nominated in this category?!) for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Dave Grusin won Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for “Mean Old Man” from James Taylor’s October Road. And the magic holds true when Take 6 and Stevie Wonder get together. The guys won R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for “Love’s in Need of Love Today” from the America – A Tribute To Heroes release.