2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #5 – Best Latin Jazz Album

Out of all of the Jazz Grammy Categories, it gives me the most satisfaction to write about this one. Not because of the albums nominated, which are frankly, an uneven bunch, but because the Grammy nominating committee has righted a wrong that they committed last year when they dropped this category altogether.  Thanks to the efforts of Bobby Sanabria and a host of other Latin Jazz musicians, scholars and aficionados, this award has been restored to its rightful place. The fight should not end here as there are a number of other categories that NARAS needs to reinstate, however this is a step in the right direction

The nominated albums are:

Flamenco Sketches – Chano Dominguez (Blue Note)

There are many who loved this project, which is essentially a reimagining of Miles Davis’ legendary Kind of Blue album, using Flamenco and other Latin rhythms; I am not one of them.  While I don’t think that it was necessarily a horrible idea, for me there is something missing in the execution. Mr. Dominguez is a gifted pianist and he and his bandmates give it their all, but except for a couple of spots (the stunning title track and “Blue in Green”), the project doesn’t mesh as well as one would hope. Apparently however, the Grammy nominating committee does not share my view and this album has been nominated.

¡Ritmo! – The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band (Clavo)

Clare Fischer passed away in early 2012. He was widely respected as a practitioner of Latin and Brazilian music and many musicians who have gained fame in Latin music, such as Poncho Sanchez and Alex Acuña have passed through his groups. With all due respect, while Mr. Fischer penned some timeless Latin tunes (“Morning” and “Pensativa”, to name two) and wrote many marvelous arrangements for artists ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Prince, IMO his Latin Jazz recordings often lacked clave, the rhythmic intangible that is a key to great Latin music. On this album, there are as usual, some good tunes and solid arrangements by Clare Fischer; conducted by his son, Brent. But there is an overall politeness to these proceedings which prevents the album from being anymore than just “good”.  And I’m sorry but  a number of the statements made by Brent Fischer in the accompanying video (including the jaw-dropping assertion that ¡Ritmo! “is the first all Latin Jazz CD in a big band setting”) are at best, ignorant.

Multiverse – Bobby Sanabria (Jazzheads)

How sweet it must be for Bobby Sanabria. He not only spearheaded the successful  drive to have the Best Latin Jazz Album category restored to the Grammys, but his latest album Multiverse, is also nominated for the award. Multiverse doesn’t stray far from the formula that has made Mr. Sanabria a successful Latin Jazz bandleader for the better part of two decades – hard driving horns, relentless rhythm and a big dose of Nuyorican swagger. It’s danceable, listenable and great fun. Based on all that he has invested in getting this category back on the list, I’m personally rooting for Sanabria to win on Grammy night. But he does have some formidable competition from the two remaining nominees.

Duos III – Luciana Souza (Sunnyside)

Duos III is the marvelous Brazilian vocalist’s second nomination for a 2013 Jazz Grammy, the other coming in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category for Book of Chet, which was released simultaneously with this disc. Duos III is the final album in Ms. Souza’s Brazilian Duos trilogy. Accompanied only by one of a trio of master guitarists, Romero Lubambo, Marco Pereira and Toninho Horta, Ms. Souza is as captivating as ever, as she effortlessly interprets some well-known and not so well-known Brazilian tunes. Frankly, I could listen to this record all night and not tire of it.  I know that she says that this is the last one but with music this good, I’m hoping that someone will convince Ms. Souza to record a fourth “duos” volume in the near future. It’s another strong contender to win the Grammy.

New Cuban Express – Manuel Valera New Cuban Express (Mavo)

New Cuban Express may be the breakout album for the young Cuban born pianist.  It’s not a Latin Jazz album in the traditional sense, but it’s an amalgam of Latin jazz, funk and 70’s fusion. If you’re thinking of something along the line of Irakere during its heyday, then you’re on the right track.  Valera does great work from start to finish but his fellow Cuban, the formidable alto saxophonist Yosvanny Terry gives the leader a run for his money, with his skittishly powerful lines threatening to steal the show. I’d have to say Mr. Sanabria and Ms. Souza are the favorites but it wouldn’t be a crime if Mr. Valera was the Grammy winner.

Tracks from these and other Grammy nominated jazz albums can be heard on Curt’s Café Noir, our 24/7 web radio station,through February 10. We feature these tracks daily, from 4 pm – 6 pm on “The Grammy Show”. Click here to listen.

The final Grammy post will feature “Jazz in Exile”; albums by jazz artists that were nominated for Grammys this year, in categories outside of jazz.

Until then, The Jazz Continues…

One Response to “2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #5 – Best Latin Jazz Album”

  1. “2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #5 – Best Latin Jazz Album
    Curt’s Jazz Cafe” was a good post. If only there was way more web blogs similar to this specific one in the world wide web. Regardless, thanks for your personal precious time, Hayley

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