In our third preview, we look at the nominees for the award that many consider the be the big prize in the jazz categories: Best Instrumental Jazz Album. As usual, the category is stocked with strong contenders but it is likely to come down to a race between two big names:
Drummer Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band has recorded four albums in sixteen years. Each one of them has been outstanding. The deeply personal Landmarks, recorded mostly in Mr. Blade’s hometown of Shreveport, LA, is no exception. It’s stark in spots richly orchestral in others and very compelling. I wouldn’t mind to see them take home the award but I don’t think that it’s going to happen due, ironically to another project that features Mr. Blade.
Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade came together on this 3 CD live recording from their world tour. The program includes jazz standards (Monk’s “Work”), classic Corea compositions (“Spain”) and even their take on Russian classical music (Scriabin’s Op. 11, No. 9). The trio is in outstanding form and the musical performances are universally first-rate. I know that I complain a lot in this space about the awards consistently going to the legendary names but I can’t fight it on this one. Chick is most likely to win. The only thing standing in his way could be a super group with a number of big names in it. Their work isn’t as good but their names are almost as big.
Fred Hersch is one of the finest pianists of our time and Floating is more recorded evidence of that fact. This album found Mr. Hersch, bassist John Herbert and drummer Eric McPherson back in the studio after a few live discs. It’s as intelligent as any release of 2014 and the trio operates as a single, living breathing musical organism. It was on my list of the Best Jazz Albums of 2014 and it’s my pick for this award. But as we know, I don’t have a vote so the likely winner will be one of the two albums that flank it on this list.
Bobby Hutcherson in his return to the label where he made some legendary recordings, accompanied by contemporary masters David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco and Billy Hart. I so badly wanted this album to be great when I first heard that it was coming out. Alas, it was only good. It has numerous high point but almost as many moments of mediocrity. Still, here it is, up for a Grammy today. Will it win? Very possibly, if the voters don’t do their usual rush to Corea, who is this case, is the better pick. Or maybe they will split the vote and leave an opening for Blade or Hersch…We will see…
This is another album that I loved conceptually; that I wanted so much for it to be stellar and it turned out to be just “good”. Moran is a true student of the great Fats Waller and I love what he has been doing in trying to bring Waller’s music to a contemporary audience. Perhaps he was trying to do a bit too much for this record and something got lost in the translation. Oh well… Again, I would love to see Moran recognized for his musical contributions but giving him a Grammy for this album would be like when they gave Al Pacino an Oscar for The Scent of a Woman.
As for our unscientific and slightly cynical prediction:
Should Win: Fred Hersch
Will Win: Chick Corea
Up Next: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album