Here we go with the second of the two major Jazz Grammy races; Best Instrumental Jazz Album. Like the award for the vocalists, this award seems to carry a bit more prestige than the others, whether it’s deserved or not. Also like the Jazz Vocal Album award, this year’s race features its strongest field in quite a while. Any of these five nominees would be a worthy winner. But as in all of the other categories, name recognition and industry politics will likely play a role in who comes out on top. A couple of notable things: First, although Hall of Famers Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter released new projects this year, neither has been nominated in this category. Second, two record labels split the all of the nominations for the category, Concord Jazz and Mack Avenue.
The nominees are:
The New Gary Burton Quartet: Guided Tour (Mack Avenue Records)
Guided Tour is the second offering from Gary Burton’s latest group, a strong aggregation, which includes four virtuoso players, including Julian Lage who is a terrific young guitarist and the amazing Antonio Sanchez on drums. The music is easy-going and extremely well performed. However when I first heard it, it left me a bit cold and that feeling has never gone away. Nevertheless, I pick them as a favorite to win because of Burton’s familiarity with the voters.
Terri Lyne Carrington: Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (Concord Jazz Records)
One of the most pleasant surprises of the Grammy ceremony two years ago was Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy win for her brilliant album The Mosaic Project. On this follow-up, Ms. Carrington decided to do something fairly daring; re-imagining the one of the holy books in jazz’s canon, the Money Jungle album that featured the once in a lifetime trio of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. With Gerald Clayton on piano and Christian McBride on bass, Carrington thankfully chooses not to recreate the originals but instead uses them as starting points for some interesting interpretations. Guest spots from Lizz Wright, Antonio Hart and longtime Carrington mentor Clark Terry help to give fresh perspective. It’s a tight race in this category and Ms. Carrington has won before. I’d give her a solid chance to do it again.
Gerald Clayton: Life Forum (Concord Jazz Records)
Life Forum represents another in a string of Grammy nominations for this increasingly busy young pianist. It was a departure from his previous trio focused efforts and included vocalists (Gretchen Parlato and Sachal Vasandani) and horns (Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, Logan Richardson). These additions added a spark and warmth that had been missing from Clayton’s prior albums, making it his most listenable project. But because he is the “baby” of this bunch, he is a long shot to win on Sunday night.
Kenny Garrett: Pushing the World Away (Mack Avenue Records)
Pushing the World Away is Kenny Garrett’s second consecutive nomination in this category. It was kind of surprising to see Garrett return with another strong album within 12 months of his last one (Seeds from the Underground) but Mr. Garrett said that he felt that he “had a lot of music” in him after the last project. Which may explain why Pushing the World Away sounds relatively similar to its predecessor. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world as I felt that Seeds… was one of 2012’s best Jazz albums and one of the bests of Garrett’s long career. I wouldn’t make him the favorite but I’m getting a sneaking feeling that he just may pull this off.
Christian McBride Trio: Out Here (Mack Avenue Records)
This is a back to basics trio date with two very exciting featuring the best (and busiest) bassist in jazz with two young cohorts; pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. There’s nothing new here but what they do, they do stunningly well. It’s three world-class musicians, playing some standards, some originals and a couple of fun surprises. I’m personally rooting for these cats but based on Grammy’s history in this category, I don’t think they will win.
So here is my bottom line unscientific prediction:
- Should Win: Christian McBride Trio
- Will Win: The New Gary Burton Quartet
In the next post, we will touch on what is surprisingly, the most eclectic group of nominees in this year’s jazz categories – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.