Grammys 2012 Nominees – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

The nominees in this category are mostly familiar names, with the possible exception of Miguel Zenón. Two of the albums here probably ended up in this grouping because of the elimination of the Latin Jazz category.

The Nominees Are:

Randy Brecker with DR Big Band – The Jazz Ballad Songbook (Half Note): Track “All or Nothing at All”

Frankly, this nomination is a bit of a  head scratcher.  Randy Brecker is a gifted musician without a doubt, and the Danish Radio Big Band has done some fine work on many, many recordings.  But the arrangements here border on pedestrian and the whole date feels as generic as its title.  The exception is our feature track, which is first rate.  Still, don’t be surprised if Mr. Brecker wins this award, based mostly on name recognition.

Christian McBride Big Band – The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue)

The finest jazz bassist under 40 has now added a big band to his impressive repertoire. The Good Feeling is a solid first effort with a number of impressive tracks and creative arrangements from Mr. McBride’s pen.

Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra – 40 Acres and a Burro (Zoho): Featured Track: “40 Acres and a Burro”

Arturo O’Farrill continues to do his father’s legacy proud, as he has created another thought-provoking album, that has as much for your mind as it does for your feet. If this album were in the Latin Jazz category, it would be a strong contender. But now, it’s a bit of a longshot.

Gerald Wilson – Legacy (Mack Avenue)

Gerald Wilson has been arranging leading big bands since the days of Basie, Ellington and Goodman and he shows no sign of slowing down at age 93, writing arrangements that are dense, complex, brassy and swinging all at once. This album, Legacy is up to the fine standards that he has been hitting regularly for the past 15 years. A sentimental favorite.

Miguel Zenón – Alma Adentro [The Puerto Rican Songbook] (Marsalis Music)

Another album that would have likely competed in the now defunct Latin Jazz category, Alma Adentro is a stunning work of art. (A Curt’s Cafe Best of 2011) Mr. Zenón is at the top of his artistic game and it shows in the brilliance of his arrangements of these songs by some of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated composers.  Because he is a relative unknown, Zenón is not considered a favorite in the voting, but this is the best album of those nominated. If there’s any justice, Alma Adentro will win.

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