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

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…

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