Archive for chick corea

2014 Jazz Grammy® Preview #3 – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2014 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2014 by Curtis Davenport

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 ProjectOn 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.

Album Review: Chick Corea – The Vigil

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 4, 2013 by Curtis Davenport

chick corea - the vigil

THE VIGIL – Stretch Records CJA-34578-02 www.concordmusicgroup.com Galaxy 32 Star 4; Planet Chia; Portals to Forever; Royalty; Outside of Space; Pledge for Peace; Legacy

PERSONNEL: Chick Corea, piano, Motif XF8, Moog Voyager; Tim Garland, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Charles Altura, electric guitar, acoustic guitar; Harien Feraud, bass; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Pernell Saturnino, percussion; Gayle Moran Corea, vocals; Stanley Clarke, bass; Ravi Coltrane, saxophone

At 72, an age when many are looking to take things a bit easier, Armando Anthony Corea is busier than ever. For the past decade, the 20 time Grammy Winner has been releasing new albums at the rate of a little over one per year. There have been trio dates, duos with Gary Burton and a couple of Return to Forever reunion tours. I think that those RTF reunions had an effect on Chick because his new album The Vigil has a decidedly RTF flavor.

Don’t misunderstand; The Vigil is not a Return to Forever album. Mr. Corea spends about half the time playing acoustic piano and he even drops a traditional 4/4 swing on a couple of tracks but after the last few projects with Burton, Eddie Gomez, the late Paul Motian, et al, I thought that perhaps Mr. Corea had said goodbye to his electric self after RTF played their last live sets in 2011. Thankfully, he had not. The album cover, with its decidedly L. Ron Hubbard-esque artwork, should tell you right away that the ‘Electric Chick’ is still with us.

This seven song set is Corea’s first album of all original tunes in over a decade. ‘Electric Chick’ throws the first punch on “Galaxy 32 Star 4”; a driving sharp-edged track with Chick burning up his synthesizers with glee and ample support from French bassist Hadrien Feraud and Marcus Gilmore, a world-class drummer whose work I’ve enjoyed for a while before finding out just today that he is the grandson of the legendary Roy Haynes (which explains a lot). Chick is shredding, Gilmore is throwing bombs and Feraud and percussionist Pernell Saturnino are setting a rock solid bottom. It’s a really powerful start. “Planet Chia” brings us ‘Acoustic Chick’ playing those rock infused Spanish rhythms that have been his trademark for decades. British saxophonist Tim Garland does some terrific work on soprano as Chick and Feraud egg him on. A Corea number like this would not be complete without a guitarist. Charles Altura, a name that is new to me does some impressive work here. “Portals to Forever” is an overt nod to RTF with Corea taking us on a 16 minute tour of the group’s signature styles both electric and acoustic. “Royalty” is a tribute to the great Mr. Haynes, Corea’s “hero, mentor and friend”, whom he met when they both played with Stan Getz in the mid 60’s. It’s a beautiful swinger in three with Corea setting down a relaxed line over which Garland blows a Getz-like tenor and Gilmore steps into his grandfather’s shoes; ably moving the tune forward while keeping impeccable time.

The album’s masterpiece however is “Pledge for Peace”; a seventeen minute tribute to the music and spirit of John Coltrane. This work unfurls in sections, like a symphonic movement. The dissonant intro gives way to an up-tempo mid section with Corea, Gilmore and special guest Stanley Clarke feeding off of each other as if they play together every night. After an epic bass solo by Clarke in the middle, it only seems natural to have a Coltrane tenor solo; and so we get one, from Ravi Coltrane, who seems to have fully come into his own over the last two or three years. His solo is one of his most impressive and fully realized that I’ve ever heard from him. There are still slight elements of his dad’s work in it but more than anything else I felt that this was his own style. Ravi may never be able to fully escape his father’s formidable shadow but he has finally carved out his own space. It’s an amazing track.

The core group that plays with Chick Corea on The Vigil is part of a new band that he has put together. That’s very good news. It’s also good news that he has written some very compelling music for this album. Because what it tells me is that we can expect a lot more great performances from a legend who is not going to be content to rest on his laurels.

2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #7 – Best Instrumental Composition

Posted in 2013 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2013 by Curtis Davenport

And it all comes down to this…

Our final look at the jazz artists nominated for 2013 Grammy Awards are in a category that I’m almost embarrassed to say that I initially overlooked.  It would make sense that the nominees in this category would be mostly jazz musicians, since you don’t hear a great deal of pop instrumentals these days. Though there are a few names that you don’t hear often these days, this category like the others is full of the familiar.

The nominees are:

Chuck Loeb for “December Dream”, from Fourplay’s Esprit De Four (Heads Up International)

Guitarist Chuck Loeb is the newest member of this contemporary jazz supergroup and from the sounds of this tune, he fits in just fine with the other three cats. It’s a very pleasant melody and a nice performance as well.

Chick Corea for “Mozart Goes Dancing”, from Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s Hot House (Concord)

He’s baaaaack! Chick Corea, who threatens to have a Christopher Cross type evening (look him up youngsters) as far as Jazz Grammy’s go, has been again nominated in this category for the only new composition on Hot House. Actually, I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind if he was the winner here. Mozart Goes Dancing is very ingratiating and the performance favorably reminds me of some of the Third Stream pieces that John Lewis wrote for the Modern Jazz Quartet in the sixties. So yeah, I’m pulling for Chick this time.

Chris Brubeck and Dave Brubeck for “Music of Ansel Adams: America” performed by the Temple University Symphony Orchestra (BCM&D)

The late great Dave Brubeck and his son, Chris composed this work in tribute to the legendary photographer Ansel Adams. This symphonic work is rendered even more impressive when seen in its original setting, accompanied by the stunning black and white photography of Mr. Adams.

Bill Cunliffe for “Overture Waltz and Rondo”, performed by the Temple University Symphony Orchestra (BCM&D)

Mr. Cunliffe, the noted jazz pianist, arranger and producer wrote this Third Stream style work. While it’s very nice I didn’t find it to be that memorable overall. Nice trumpet work by Terell Stafford on the recording.

Bill Holman for “Without a Paddle”, from The Pete Christlieb & Linda Small 11 Piece Band’s High on U (Bosco)

Bill Holman has been on the scene for over 60 years, first gaining notice with Stan Kenton, I’ve been a fan of tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb since first hearing his solo on Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” when I was in high school. Christlieb has been a longtime admirer of Mr. Holman, so it’s nice to see them come together on this album, which consists of all Holman compositions and arrangements.

This wraps up our Grammy previews, thanks for reading them. Now let’s sit back and see who takes home the awards!

Until then, the jazz continues…

2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #3 – Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Posted in 2013 Grammys with tags , , , , on January 16, 2013 by Curtis Davenport

The Best Jazz Instrumental Album race this year includes no surprises. Each nominee is a seasoned veteran with a strong following, so the race is likely to be close. Still, I would have loved to see a few of the younger (read: under 50) generation crack this lineup.

The nominees are:

Further Explorations – Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez & Paul Motian (Concord)

This disc also was nominated in the Best Improvised Jazz Solo category. It’s a two-disc Bill Evans tribute recorded live at the Blue Note in NYC. Mr. Corea is joined by two of Evans’ most renowned sidemen, Eddie Gomez on bass and the late Paul Motian on drums. Corea and company capture the essence of Evans while leaving just enough space for their own distinct musical personalities to peek through. A number of famed tracks written by or associated with Evans are here and everyone is on their game. It’s a nice homage to one of the legends of piano. Not my favorite of the bunch, but it’s a very fine album and it stands a pretty good chance of winning the Grammy.

Hot House – Chick Corea and Gary Burton (Concord)

The Grammy nominating committee can’t seem to help itself. If Chick Corea releases an album, they have to nominate it. Not that this is in any way a bad record, I just feel that there were a few more albums out there by artists with less familiar names that were more deserving. Mr. Corea and Mr. Burton have performed together many times over these decades and they have an outstanding musical rapport. The energy flags in spots, but it’s a solid album overall. Another possible Grammy night favorite because of who is involved.

Seeds from the Underground – Kenny Garrett (Mack Avenue)

This is my personal favorite of the nominated albums, one of our Best Jazz Albums of 2012 but it’s not likely to win because it is surrounded by legends. This is Mr. Garrett’s best album in over a decade. His band is tight, his solos are inspired and his writing is top-notch, with a couple of the tunes having the potential to become jazz standards. This is the third album by Garrett to get a Grammy nom. He is yet to win. Again, considering who the other nominees are, Mr. Garrett is a long shot in this category but I’m rooting for him.

Blue Moon – Ahmad Jamal (Jazz Village)

I said it in my Best Jazz Albums of 2012 post and I’ll say it again here – Blue Moon is Ahmad Jamal’s best album in four decades.  Mr. Jamal covers a program mostly consisting of standards from the Great American Songbook and jazz, with his usual flair. What sets this album apart is the strong support that he gets from his sidemen, Herlin Riley, Reginald Veal and Manolo Badrena. The results are thoroughly modern (as in 21st Century), yet also timeless. This is my sentimental favorite. Corea and Metheny are likely to beat him out, but I wouldn’t be at all disappointed if they didn’t.

Unity Band – Pat Metheny (Nonesuch)

Pat Metheny has won 19 Grammys (you read that right) over the course of his illustrious  recording career, so we know that the Grammy voters love him.  Unity Band is a return to a more conventional style after his experimental forays on his last few releases. It’s a kind of retrospective of the varied sounds that made him famous, so every Metheny fan will find something to like here. It’s also a very good album. The result – Pat Metheny will most likely win his 20th Grammy on February 10th.

These tracks and others from Grammy nominated jazz albums can be heard on Curt’s Café Noir, our 24/7 web radio station on Live365, right up until February 10. We feature these tracks daily, from 4 pm – 6 pm (EST) on “The Grammy Show”. Click here to listen.

The next Grammy post will feature the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album – a category with only three nominees. Until then, The Jazz Continues…

2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #1 – Best Improvised Jazz Solo

Posted in 2013 Grammys with tags , , , , , , on January 5, 2013 by Curtis Davenport

Last year, we took an impromptu look at the jazz artists nominated for Grammy Awards a couple of days before the telecast. It turned out to be one of our most popular posts in 2012.  Because we don’t want to mess with success, we’ll do it again in 2013.

This time though, we’ll start a bit earlier and continue periodically until the awards are presented on February 10. Let’s start with the jazz equivalent of Record of the Year; Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

The Nominees Are:
“Cross Roads” – Ravi Coltrane – soloist (From the album Spirit Fiction [Blue Note])


On Spirit Fiction, Ravi Coltrane starts to fulfill the potential that has long been predicted for him. If it has taken him a while, cut him some slack, being the son of John Coltrane and playing the same instrument as his legendary dad is an insane load to bear. IMO, “Cross Roads” is not the album’s strongest track but it’s nice to see Ravi’s work recognized.

“Hot House” – Chick Corea and Gary Burton – soloists (From the album Hot House [Concord Jazz])


There seems to be an unwritten Grammy rule – if Chick (or for that matter, Herbie) release anything in a given year, it is required to get a Grammy nomination. This album pulled down two noms, one for the title song in this category and another for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Hot House, the album, is very good and “Hot House”, the track, is one of two standout cuts on disc, so the nod is not unexpected. Corea and Burton play with gusto here and their interplay is top-notch. Name recognition makes this one the favorite to take home the trophy.

“Alice in Wonderland” – Chick Corea – soloist (From the album Further Explorations (Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez & Paul Motian) [Concord Jazz])


Surprise! Another nomination for Chick Corea (see the above rule). This is a fine performance of the Bill Evans tune by Chick, bassist Eddie Gomez and the late Paul Motian, from their live tribute album to Evans, recorded a couple of years ago. This album is also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Mr. Corea is in his element here and he gets great support from his bandmates, both well-known Evans trio veterans. There’s nothing new or really surprising here, but it works. Also stands a good chance to win because of the presence of Chick and two other legends.

“J. Mac” – Kenny Garrett – soloist (From the album Seeds from the Underground [Mack Avenue])


For my money, this is the best of the nominated tracks. “The Real Kenny G” is on fire on this tribute to one his major influences, the great Jackie McLean. Garrett is inspired and he clearly inspires the rest of the band – listen to pianist Benito Gonzalez pushing Garrett before Gonzalez explodes with his own solo. A dynamite track from a dynamite album (which is another of the Best Instrumental Jazz Album nominees). Maybe the Corea votes will cancel each other out and “J. Mac” will emerge victorious. We’ll wait and see (and hope).

“Ode” – Brad Mehldau – soloist (From the album Ode [Nonesuch])


I must start by confessing that I’m not as big of a fan of Brad Mehldau as many other people are. I don’t dislike his playing and I certainly respect his artistry, but his style often leaves me cold. That being said, “Ode” is one of my favorite Mehldau tracks. It has a lighter touch than a lot of his work and because of that, I found myself thoroughly engaged from beginning to end. Again, “Ode” may be blocked by the Corea firewall, but it deserved to be nominated.

These tracks and others from Grammy nominated jazz albums can be heard on Curt’s Café Noir, our 24/7 web radio station on Live365, right up until February 10. We feature these tracks daily, from 4 pm – 6 pm on “The Grammy Show”.

In our next Grammy post, we discuss the Best Jazz Vocal Album nominees. Until then, The Jazz Continues…

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012 – The Complete List

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2012, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2012 by Curtis Davenport

To wrap up our discussion about our favorite jazz albums of 2012, we’ve brought everything mentioned in the three prior posts together into one comprehensive list. The link in each album title will take you to the album’s page on Amazon.com, if you’re interested in buying or downloading it.

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz of 2012 – The Complete List

In Alphabetical Order by Album Title

Album Title

Artist(s) Label
Accelerando Vijay Iyer ACT
Angelic Warrior Tia Fuller Mack Avenue
Be Good Gregory Porter Motéma
Be Still Dave Douglas Greenleaf
Black Radio Robert Glasper Experiment Blue Note
Blue Moon Ahmad Jamal Jazz Village
Claroscuro Anat Cohen Anzic
Don’t Look Back Mary Stallings HighNote
Flip The Script Orrin Evans Posi-tone
Four MFs Playin’ Tunes Branford Marsalis Marsalis Music
Girl Talk Kate McGarry Palmetto
Heritage Lionel Loueke Blue Note
House of Legends Courtney Pine Destin-E
I Carry Your Heart (Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams) Alexis Cole Motéma
Lyrical – Volume 1 Milton Suggs Skiptone
Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 Years Virginia Mayhew Renma
The Only Son of One Wayne Escoffery Sunnyside
Prisoner of Love Marianne Solivan Hipnotic
Seeds From the Underground Kenny Garrett Mack Avenue
Triveni II Avishai (Trumpet) Cohen Anzic
     
A FEW MORE GOOD THINGS    
Colombe David Reinhardt Trio 101 Distribution
Echoes of Indiana Avenue (Best Historical Album) Wes Montgomery Resonance
Hot House Chick Corea and Gary Burton Concord
Lifesize Mirror Monét Entertainment One
Radio Music Society Esperanza Spalding Heads-Up / Concord
     
2011 Album Revisited    
Keep It Movin’ Shimrit Shoshan

Self-Release / CD Baby

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012 – A Few More Good Things…

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2012, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by Curtis Davenport

To wrap up 2012, I have a few more discs released this year that were not part of the first twenty, but are worth your time and listening attention. They are:

Colombe – David Reinhardt Trio (101 Distribution)

david reinhardtThe 26-year-old grandson of the legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt is a very good guitarist in his own right. Unlike his grandfather, David is focused on Bop and Soul-Jazz. Colombe, his first album released in the U.S., is quite impressive. We’re looking forward to hearing more.

wes montgomeryEchoes of Indiana Avenue – Wes Montgomery (Resonance)

2012’s best historical album was a real find. These are recordings of Wes in 1957-58, in the studio and in Indianapolis clubs, when he was struggling to be heard. These sides prove that he was already near the top of his game. Kudos to Resonance Records, not only for the solid remastering but also for the terrific packaging, which includes great photos and interviews.

 corea and burtonHot House – Chick Corea and Gary Burton (Concord)

Forty years after their landmark duet album, Crystal Silence, and after numerous other collaborations with groups of various sizes, Corea and Burton are back to basics on this album of duets. They are 71 and 69 respectively, but they haven’t lost a step as they alternately challenge and complement each other. There was nothing boring about this reunion.

Lifesize Mirror – Monét (Entertainment One)

monet lifesize mirrorR&B, Jazz, and Neo-Soul create a gorgeous mosaic on this album by this criminally underheard flutist/vocalist/educator/actress. Monét’s sound on flute is reminiscent of Bobbi Humphrey, but this young lady brings much more to the musical table than her famed predecessor.  The music here is way too intelligent and creative to be pigeonholed as “smooth jazz”, so we’ll just call it a thinking person’s groove.

Radio Music Society – Esperanza Spalding (Heads-Up)

esperanzaSpeaking of gifted ladies who refuse to be pigeonholed, Ms. Spalding terrified many hardcore jazz types with her decidedly pop based new album, her first since her shocking Best New Artist win at the 2011 Grammys®.  When you get past all the “jazz forsaking” arguments that have been made, what you have left is an eclectic (Jack DeJohnnette, Joe Lovano and Q-Tip all make guest appearances) and delightful album of great music by a prodigiously gifted young woman who is going to get it done her own way, jazz police be damned. You go girl!

A 2011 Album Revisited

Keep it Movin’ – Shimrit Shoshan (Self Released)

Shimrit-Shoshan-Keep-It-MovinThough she was far from well-known, even in the jazz world, a shockwave went through our little community when it was reported that Shimrit Shoshan had died on August 19, 2012, of cardiac arrest, at age 29. The Israeli born pianist had released her first album in 2011 and it showed that she had a world of promise and nothing but good things ahead of her.

I first became aware of her via an article in Jazz Times, which discussed the variety of worlds that the young woman was involved in to support her budding musical career. Due in large part to her striking good looks, she found work as a backup dancer in music videos and as model/muse for a New York based fashion designer. She also sold gems in the diamond district and taught music to underprivileged kids in Harlem. Her story fascinated me, so I tracked down a copy of her album that same day. I found her playing to very impressive and complex and her solos were challenging; she was no dilettante.

I began to play her album on the station and had some brief correspondence with Ms. Shoshan via Twitter.  I kept tabs on her career and I was looking forward to seeing what was next.

Unfortunately, that encouraging beginning turned out to also be a tragically frustrating coda. So we look back at Shimrit Shoshan’s Keep It Movin’. If you are unfamiliar with this disc, check it out. You’re likely to experience the same mixed emotions that I now feel.

That will wrap it up for our Best Jazz of 2012 list. Tracks from all 25 of these albums can be heard daily on Curt’s Café Noir, from noon – 5 pm (ET), daily, starting on December 27, 2012 and continuing into January 2013.

We will also publish another post after this one which will include the names of each album and a link to where they can be purchased. Because if jazz is to survive, we have all got to do our part by buying the music that we love that is made by living artists.

Have a Jazzy New Year. Until the next time, the jazz continues…

Grammys 2012 Nominees – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2012 Grammys, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2012 by Curtis Davenport

This category is also dominated by familiar names; with one very promising newcomer.

The nominees are:

Gerald Clayton – Bond: The Paris Sessions (Emarcy/Decca): Track “If I Were A Bell”

Though this is only Mr. Clayton’s second album as a leader he is a young veteran at 27, having shedded for many years alongside his dad and uncle, in the Clayton Brothers and working with many of the other gifted young cats on the scene.  Bond… is a very good album; with the pianist and his trio seamlessly moving between standards and originals.  It may not be enough in this field laden with transcendent names, but we’ll see.

Corea, Clarke & White – Forever (Concord): Track “Armando’s Rhumba”

Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, the famed rhythm section of ’70′s fusion giants Return To Forever; jamming over 2 discs worth of favorites from their 2009 “RTF Unplugged” Tour. Nothing new here, but what there is, is top notch – a bunch of well known vets, doing what they do best. You would have to consider them one of the favorites to take home the trophy.

Fred Hersch – Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto)

Fred Hersch was the first pianist to be asked to play a solo gig at the hallowed jazz club in 2005. He has now returned from a life threatening coma in 2009, to record and release this brilliant solo set. Again, he is a relative unknown in this field, but he would be a very deserving winner. (Note:  the accompanying track is not from Alone at the Vangaurd, but features another wonderful Hersch solo performance “Valentine”.)

Joe Lovano & Us Five – Bird Songs (Blue Note)

Another strong contender; Joe Lovano and Us Five brought the goods on this Charlie Parker tribute. It was more than a Bird regurgitation, but a reimaging of some of the tunes that Parker made famous. It was one of our Best of 2011 albums and I personally hope that Grammy rewards them as well.

Sonny Rollins - Road Shows – Vol. 2  (Doxy/Emarcy/Decca)

You know how Grammy feels about legends. And you also know that this album was a brilliant snapshot of Mr. Rollins 80th Birthday concert in 2010 (Another of our Best of 2011). Sonny Rollins is also a name that most of the non-jazz voters have heard of…Translation – like it or not, this is Newk’s award to lose.

Yellowjackets – Timeline (Mack Avenue): Track “Why Is It (Live)”

These cats would normally be in the “Best Contemporary Jazz Album” category, but I forgot, that doesn’t exist anymore (sarcasm).  In any case, Yellowjackets have been doing it for 30 years and they sound better than ever. If there were still two separate categories, they would be hands down winners.

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