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).

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