Archive for 2013 grammys

2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #6 – Jazz in “Exile”

Posted in 2013 Grammys with tags , , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by curtjazz

For our penultimate (I know that I said this would be the last one, but there will be one more after this) look at jazz artists nominated for Grammys in 2013, we will look at three categories in the R&B field that feature one artist who is generally considered to be a jazz musician. These albums/performances got no love from the Jazz Grammy nominating committee but those in the R & B area had the good taste to recognize them.

Best R&B Performance

“Thank You” – Estelle (from All of Me [Home School/Atlantic])

“Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.) – Robert Glasper Experiment Featuring Ledisi (from Black Radio [Blue Note])

This is one of two nominations for Glasper’s much discussed Black Radio album. The heralded young jazz pianist let his R&B and hip hop influences show all over the disc. I for one found it exciting and refreshing (see CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012). Many other jazz traditionalists scoffed at it. On this track Glasper featured Ledisi, an R&B vocal powerhouse, who has also shown a past appreciation for jazzy things. If the track sounds familiar it’s because this is a vocal version of “F.T.B.”, which is a track on Mr. Glasper’s 2007 album In My Element. The lyrics and the stronger beat are a nice touch. Glasper is up against some tough competition here but to my ears “Gonna Be Alright” compares favorably with the other nominees… I wish him the best.

“I Want You” – Luke James [Mercury]

“Adorn” – Miguel [RCA/Bystorm Entertainment]

“Climax” – Usher (from Looking 4 Myself [RCA])

Best Traditional R&B Performance

(“Grown Folks Music”… Now we’re back in my wheelhouse! Therefore, I will drop a few comments)

“Lately” – Anita Baker [Blue Note]

Good to hear from Anita. Sounds like something from her classic ‘80’s period. Looking forward to the rest of the album.

“Love on Top” – Beyoncé (from 4 [Columbia])

Catchy tune by Mrs. Carter – great beat; irresistible hook.

“Wrong Side of a Love Song” – Melanie Fiona (from The MF Life [SRC])

My goodness! This girl can SANG! A memorable retro torch song.

“Real Good Hands” – Gregory Porter (from Be Good [Motéma])

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter’s sophomore album was every bit as good as his debut.It was one of our Best of 2012.  But again, it was criminally ignored in the Jazz Vocal Grammy category. At least he did get a nod from the R&B voters for this soulful track. The cut is a winner but Porter is up against some real stiff competition. It’s a Grammy night long shot.

“If Only You Knew” – SWV (from I Missed Us [Mass Appeal/E1 Music])

SWV (Sisters With Voices). It’s good to hear this trio of NYC natives reunited. They sound as good as ever and they demonstrate excellent taste with their cover of this Philly Soul classic made famous by Patti Labelle.

Best R&B Album

Black Radio – Robert Glasper Experiment (Blue Note)

This nomination speaks volumes. The jazz world isn’t open minded enough to consider this work of art but the supposedly shallow, profit minded world of R&B is. I’ll say it again; I view this album as breaking needed new ground in a 21st century direction for jazz. But I admit to being in the minority. There are some fine albums in this category that are more along the lines of mainstream R&B, so a win here by Mr. Glasper isn’t probable but it is definitely possible.

Back to Love – Anthony Hamilton (RCA)

Write Me Back – R. Kelly (RCA)

Beautiful Surprise – Tamia (Plus 1)

Open Invitation – Tyrese (Voltron Recordz) 

You can hear tracks from Robert Glasper, Gregory Porter and other Grammy nominated jazz artists and albums 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.

Our last post (we mean it this time!) about the 2013 Grammys will feature the nominees for “Best Instrumental Composition”, a category which happens this year to feature all jazz artists.

Until then, the jazz continues…

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

Posted in 2013 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2013 by curtjazz

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…

2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #2 – Best Jazz Vocal Album

Posted in 2013 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by curtjazz

To borrow from Maddux and Glavine in those classic Nike commercials, “people dig the singers”. So the next category that we’ll cover in our 2013 Jazz Grammy Preview always draws a great deal of public interest, whether it’s warranted or not.

Here are the nominees for Best Jazz Vocal Album, along with a few of my opinions:

Soul Shadows – Denise Donatelli (Savant)

This is the second nomination in the past three years in this category for this former CNN reporter turned jazz vocalist.  When Lights Are Low, her previously nominated disc, stuck to the straight ahead side of the street; however Soul Shadows mixes things up a bit, leaning heavily on African, Brazilian and Latin poly-rhythms  The overall result is an album with a lighter, more contemporary sound than its predecessor. Ms. Donatelli is a very fine singer, with an engaging voice and Geoffrey Keezer’s production hits all the right notes. However, because she is still relatively unknown and Grammy voters love familiarity, Soul Shadows is a long shot on February 10.

1619 Broadway (The Brill Building Project) – Kurt Elling (Concord)

Kurt Elling has become a perennial nominee in this category – this is his tenth nomination. He deservedly won in 2010 for his excellent Coltrane/Hartman tribute Dedicated to You. However his last two discs, including this one, though nominated, have been a bit of a disappointment. 1619 Broadway has a marvelous concept and it does have a few bright spots but overall, it misses the mark. It’s another long shot on Grammy night, due mainly to the presence in this category of a couple of Big, Shiny Names that are going to draw a lot of voter attention.

Live – Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest (Concord)

Say “hello” to Big, Shiny Name #1. The legendary seven-time Grammy winner (and thirteen-time nominee) looms over this category on awards night like the proverbial 800 lb. Gorilla.  Live is a good album but it’s not a great one.  Like Sinatra in his later years, the 72-year-old Mr. Jarreau is not what he used to be but he can still hit the high points occasionally and he knows how to use what he’s got left to his advantage.  Because of who he is, Al Jarreau stands an excellent chance of taking home his eighth Grammy in February, with his only likely competition coming from the other Big, Shiny Name.

The Book of Chet – Luciana Souza (Sunnyside)

Here you have it folks, the best of the albums nominated in this category but it stands very little chance of winning the Grammy. Ms. Souza, the fine Brazilian jazz singer is one of the least known of the nominees in the U.S. and that is going to hurt her with the voters; which is a shame, because this album, one of two of hers that were nominated this year, is sublime.  This Chet Baker tribute is appropriately spare and consistently moving.  Ms. Souza and her pianoless trio meld ten songs closely associated with the vocal side of the jazz icon, into a seamless, haunting statement. Is it melancholy? Yes, but it is also gorgeous. Under different circumstances, The Book of Chet would be a favorite. But now, it is a likely also-ran.

Radio Music Society – Esperanza Spalding (Heads Up)

And last but not least, we have Big, Shiny Name #2. Radio Music Society is Esperanza’s first album since her upset Best New Artist Grammy win in 2010 (which sent many of us jazz pundit types running through the streets in various stages of bet-losing undress).  Whether this album is “jazz” or not has been argued ad infinitum, so I won’t rehash that here. The bottom line is that it is nominated in this category and Esperanza Spalding is now almost as well-known as Al Jarreau. Therefore she stands about as good of a chance of winning this year’s Best Jazz Vocal Album Grammy as the old scat master.

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

In our next Grammy related post, we will discuss the nominees for the other “big” jazz award – Best Jazz Instrumental Album. 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 curtjazz

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…

2013 Jazz Grammy Nominees

Posted in 2013 Grammys with tags , , , , , , on December 5, 2012 by curtjazz

Okay Jazz Family here are the 2013 Grammy Nominees in the Jazz categories:

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

 
Cross Roads
Ravi Coltrane, soloist
Track from: Spirit Fiction
[Blue Note]

Hot House

Gary Burton & Chick Corea, soloists
Track from: Hot House
[Concord Jazz]

Alice In Wonderland

Chick Corea, soloist
Track from: Further Explorations (Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez & Paul Motian)
[Concord Jazz]

J. Mac

Kenny Garrett, soloist
Track from: Seeds From The Underground
[Mack Avenue Records]

Ode

Brad Mehldau, soloist
Track from: Ode (Brad Mehldau Trio)
[Nonesuch]
 

Best Jazz Vocal Album

Soul Shadows
Denise Donatelli
[Savant Records]

1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project

Kurt Elling
[Concord Jazz]

Live

Al Jarreau (And The Metropole Orkest)
[Concord]

The Book Of Chet

Luciana Souza
[Sunnyside Records]

Radio Music Society

Esperanza Spalding
[Heads Up International
 
 

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Further Explorations
Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez & Paul Motian
[Concord Jazz]

Hot House

Chick Corea & Gary Burton
[Concord Jazz]

Seeds From The Underground

Kenny Garrett
[Mack Avenue Records]

Blue Moon

Ahmad Jamal
[Jazz Village]

Unity Band

Pat Metheny Unity Band
[Nonesuch]
 

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Centennial: Newly Discovered Works Of Gil Evans
Gil Evans Project
[ArtistShare]

For The Moment

Bob Mintzer Big Band
[MCG Jazz]

Dear Diz (Every Day I Think Of You)

Arturo Sandoval
[Concord Jazz]
 

Best Latin Jazz Album

Flamenco Sketches
Chano Domínguez
[Blue Note]

¡Ritmo!

The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band
[Clare Fischer Productions/Clavo Records]

Multiverse

Bobby Sanabria Big Band
[Jazzheads]

Duos III

Luciana Souza
[Sunnyside Records]

New Cuban Express

Manuel Valera New Cuban Express
[Mavo Records]
 
And in addition to those listed above:
  • Robert Glasper’s genre busting album Black Radio (Blue Note) received two nominations in the R & B categories – R & B Album of the Year and “Best R & B Performance (It’s Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.) – featuring Ledisi
  • Gregory Porter was nominated for Best Traditional R & B performance for “Real Good Hands” from his Be Good album (Motema)
 
Congratulations to all who were nominated. More info and opinions on the nominees later. By the way, it’s good to see the Latin Jazz award back where it belongs.