2014 Jazz Grammy® Preview #5 – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Our final Grammy preview touches on the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. While this category used to be home to the ghost bands of the great big band leaders, it has now become a place where you will find some of the most creative arranging and writing in jazz; from artists who often don’t even get to be heard on what remains of jazz radio (terrestrial and internet).

The nominees are:

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society: Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam Records)

This is by far the most ambitious project of any of those nominated in this category. Darcy James Argue conceived Brooklyn Babylon in collaboration with graphic novelist Danijel Zezelj, whose work evokes a mythic Brooklyn where the borough’s past, present and future collide. What you have musically is, well, everything. There are sections inspired by Sousa’s marches, others inspired by classical music; another inspired by New Orleans Second Lines and still more where you have a swinging 4/4 big band. It’s exactly what you’d expect if every musical culture in the history of Brooklyn managed to collide and intermingle. This music is never boring and at times inspiring. I’m afraid though that most Grammy voters won’t get it and therefore won’t vote for it.

Randy Brecker, Wlodek Pawlik Trio & Kalisz Philharmonic: Night in Calisia (Summit Records)

Now Randy Brecker on the other hand, they get.  This recording is the result of a musical contribution to the celebration of the 1850th anniversary of Kalisz, the oldest city in Poland. The culmination took place in June of 2010 with a concert called ‘’Night in Calisia’’. The event was such a success the musicians decided to go into the studio to record the project nearly two years after the concert. The prolific trumpeter and the Polish pianist/composer Wlodek Pawlik, have created a beautiful slice of symphonic jazz. It’s not groundbreaking but it sounds like it is so Grammy voters will love it. Randy Brecker is also a name that they know. This album stands a very strong chance of winning.

Brussels Jazz Orchestra (feat. Joe Lovano): Wild Beauty (Half Note)

Wild Beauty features the great Joe Lovano’s inimitable tenor sound, blowing hard over some of his own compositions wrapped in terrific  Gil Goldstein arrangements performed by the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. It’s one of Lovano’s most accessible sets and hearing it here reminded me what a fine writer Lovano is. Lovano’s tunes make this my favorite set of all of those nominated. When you add in Lovano’s relative renown, this set has to be considered a co-favorite with the Brecker album.

Alan Ferber: March Sublime (Sunnyside Records)

Trombonist Alan Ferber’s March Sublime features mostly his compositions and arrangements, performed by some of the best session players in New York today. The arrangements are very good and they are performed very competently. Ferber’s band is a contemporary one, that is to say that they concentrate not on the swing era but on the style of big band music that has been written and performed in the latter decades of the 20th Century and into the 21st. Though this is a nice album, I think that it is a long shot to win today.

Dave Slonaker Big Band: Intrada (Origin Records)

Intrada is veteran West Coast composer/arranger Dave Slonaker’s  first album as a leader. He has filled it with hard-hitting brassy arrangements that swing like mad. Intrada hearkens back to the time when all of the late night talk shows had big bands, stocked with some of the best jazz cats on the left coast, paying the rent and making their intros and outros cook. Again, this album is a Grammy long shot but it’s an impressive showcase for Slonaker’s skills.

So here is my final bottom line unscientific prediction:

  • Should Win: Darcy James Argue
  • Will Win: Randy Brecker

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read my previews. I hope that you’ve found them informational even if you disagreed with me.  I will be live tweeting during the pre-show, when these awards are being presented.

Until the next time, The Jazz Continues…

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