Archive for jazz grammys

2019 Jazz Grammys Overview: Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Posted in 2019 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2019 by curtjazz

BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM

In the second of the two biggest jazz categories, we have a race between a great saxophonist who is finally earning a little recognition; two of the finest pianists working today; a respected veteran who is still getting it done and a true legend, admired and respected by all.

The nominees are:

DIAMOND CUT
Tia Fuller

The crackle from the moment her alto enters…twenty seconds into the first tune (“In the Trenches”), I had that feeling that this album was going to be a great one. Ms. Tia Fuller has been on the scene for over a decade. She has paid the bills for a while, working with Beyonce’s road band, but whenever she steps into the studio under her own name, she is an unapologetic jazz player. She hadn’t released a project in six years, prior to Diamond Cut. She has been missed. This project is different in many ways, from her previous four albums; for one thing, it is produced by the amazing Terri Lyne Carrington. For another, there’s no piano. Guitarist Adam Rogers handles the chordal duties. And, there are two different bass/drum duos, splitting the work; James Genus and Bill Stewart are one set and the other two, you may have heard of: Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. As for Ms. Fuller’s sound, clearly, the Berklee professor was ready to take everyone to school. She masters what she needs to be in that moment; she is at turns, gritty, soulful and even a bit on the outside. Diamond Cut is a very strong album and Ms. Fuller deserves her first Grammy nomination for it. However, this category also features someone who has been making great music since before Tia was born. Most likely, it will be his night.


LIVE IN EUROPE
Fred Hersch Trio

This Fred Hersch album has been nominated for two Grammys. The odds of Hersch winning either are fairly long, despite the fact that it is another excellent disc, from one of the finest pianists of our time. What is the problem? Part of it may be timing; Mr. Hersch seems to often run up against a hot project that has caught the attention of the jazz public and media. When this happens, other master musicians, like Hersch, get lost in the noise. Another issue may be his steady excellence. Hersch is not flashy. Even though he wrote an interesting and well received autobiography in 2017, and he has had some fascinating life issues over the past few years, he still generally, flies under the radar. Fred Hersch is so uniformly good, that he is taken for granted. He has been nominated for 14 Grammys. Hopefully, the voters will wise up soon. This year, I don’t think it will be in this category.


SEYMOUR READS THE CONSTITUTION!
Brad Mehldau Trio

The story behind this album’s title, is as interesting as it should be. Apparently, Mr. Mehldau has a dream, in which the late, Oscar winning actor, Seymour Phillip Hoffman, was reading the U.S. Constitution. The tune that Mehldau heard, accompanying Hoffman’s voice, became the inspiration for the title track. Despite the odd title, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is the most accessible album that I’ve heard from Brad Mehldau, in quite a while. The trio swings hard through a collection of originals, standards, minor jazz classics and Beach Boys tunes (yes, you heard right), with gusto and without condescension. Like Hersch, Mehldau is double nominated for this album (his 9th, without a win, so far). It’s fine work but he’s likely to run into a “Shorter” wall here. In the Best Instrumental Solo category, however, he’s got a good shot.


STILL DREAMING
Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade

I can’t believe that the saxophone wunderkind of the 90’s, Joshua Redman, has just turned 50. I can believe that he is still evolving and getting stronger at his craft, more than 25 years after he first floored us jazzheads with his debut album. Though he is the son of a famed avant-gardist, his early years were deeply in the tradition (as I’m sure Warner Bros. wanted it). On this latest album, which garnered his seventh nomination, he pays tribute to his dad, Dewey, and Old and New Dreams, a group that Dewey played in, from the mid 70’s through the mid 80’s. That group, which also included legends Charlie Haden and Don Cherry, itself paid homage to their mentor, the patron saint of avant-garde jazz, Ornette Coleman. Still Dreaming is excellent, start to finish – terrific compositions and it stretches the boundaries of form, without completely breaking them. It is similar to Christian McBride’s New Jawn album, also from last year. I confess that I only gave this album a passing listen upon its release, but now that I’ve returned to it, I truly dig it, a lot. Perhaps it should have been on my Best of 2018 list. However, we are talking Grammy here, folks. Redman has never won one. He is a respected veteran and his star has stretched outside of the insular jazz world at times, over the past quarter century. But, due to the presence of our next nominee, I’m afraid that his wait is likely to extend beyond this weekend.


EMANON
The Wayne Shorter Quartet

Wayne Shorter is a true musical legend. He one of the greatest jazz saxophonists and composers of our time. In addition to his work as a leader, he has been an integral part of three of the greatest groups in jazz history. He has created transcendent musical art in every decade since the early 1960s. He has been nominated for a Grammy 21 times and has, so far, won 10, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2015. He is also now 85 years old. So no one would blame Wayne Shorter, if he were to simply sit back, at this point and collect all of the accolades that are due to him, no one would be upset. So what does he do? He creates a symphonic masterpiece and releases it, in an epic three CD (God only knows how many LP) set, that includes a graphic novel. These new and challenging compositions are performed by a symphony orchestra and then live, by his current working quartet! Emanon is a brilliant work of musical art (I confess that I have not yet seen the graphic novel). I hope that Mr. Shorter has more in him and keeps sharing it with us, for at least another 20 years. If, as some have said, this is his final work, then it is a towering valedictory. Will he win this Grammy? Ummm, Yeah.

As for the opinions and unscientific predictions:

Should have been nominated:

Origami Harvest – Ambrose Akinmusire; Both Directions at Once (The Lost Album) – John Coltrane; The Future is Female – Roxy Coss

Who should win: Wayne Shorter

Who will win: Wayne Shorter

I would not be disappointed to see them win: Tia Fuller

2019 Jazz Grammys Overview: Best Jazz Vocal Album

Posted in 2019 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2019 by curtjazz

BEST JAZZ VOCAL ALBUM

An eclectic group in this category, this year. It includes two past winners, who must be considered the favorites. There is also a veteran performer, a member of a legendary musical family, who is still seeking his first Grammy in a career that has spanned over half a century.

The nominees are:

MY MOOD IS YOU
Freddy Cole

Truth be told, I am rooting like mad for Freddy Cole to win this Grammy. But realistically, I don’t think that it will happen. Though he has done some very fine work over his 55-year career as a recording artist, he has, like it or not, always been in the massive shadow of his legendary older brother. At 87, this is his fourth Grammy nomination, all of them since 2000. Why don’t I think he will win, even though he is clearly a sentimental favorite? In the jazz categories, Grammy has never been that sentimental, unless you are a virtual household name (Miles; Herbie; Chick; Rollins, etc.). And Mr. Cole is undeservedly still relatively obscure, outside of the jazz world. A lot of the voters are not going to know him. Musically, My Mood is You is very good but not great. At this point, the slight gravel in his baritone voice (which in his early days, was eerily like his brother’s), has become more pronounced. He will now often talk his way around phrases that he used to glide through. Still, he gives every young jazz and pop singer a master class in phrasing and interpretation, especially on the ballads. The poignant, “I’ll Always Leave the Door a Little Open”, ranks among the top 10 recorded performances, ever. Grammy, I want you to prove me wrong and give this award to Freddy Cole.


THE QUESTIONS
Kurt Elling

Kurt Elling has been nominated for 13 Grammys, winning in this category, in 2009, for his excellent Hartman/Coltrane tribute album.  I admired his work on The Questions, an album with a reflective, pop-rock undertone, on which he reimagines tunes by Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Jaco Pastorius, among others. There is impressive solo work by Branford Marsalis, who also co-produced and by the rising trumpet star, Marquis Hill. Again, this was an album, that personally, I admired but didn’t love. It is very well played and earnestly delivered, but I missed Elling’s casual swing and the wry humor that he brings to most of his work. This was by design and an artist of his stature is more than entitled to move outside of the box, when he chooses. Given his past win and his strong name recognition, he has solid chance of picking up Grammy number two on Sunday. I can see only one nominee beating him out.


THE SUBJECT TONIGHT IS LOVE
Kate McGarry With Keith Ganz & Gary Versace

This Kate McGarry’s second Grammy nomination. The first was ten years ago, in this same category. I’ve been a fan of Ms. McGarry and her easy going jazz/coffeehouse sound, since reviewing her 2007 album, The Target for Jazz Inside Magazine. This album, which was recorded with the backing of Keith Ganz on guitar/bass and Gary Versace on organ/accordion is beautifully intimate, as is quite appropriate on a work that deals with love, in all of its phases and forms. There is nothing sappy about the love songs here; this is a bright and fun work. Will it win a Grammy? Probably not. Even in the jazz world, indie projects rarely win the trophy, even if they are nominated, which is very unfortunate. So I absolutely suggest that you add this project to your collection but don’t expect to see them picking up the award.


IF YOU REALLY WANT
Raul Midón With the Metropole Orkest Conducted By Vince Mendoza

On this album, his second in a row to be nominated, Raul Midón steps fully into the pop-jazz territory that was owned by the late Al Jarreau, for the last 25 years of his illustrious career. He sounds like Jarreau, phrases like him and now, he has even recorded an album with Metropole Orkest, the Dutch powerhouse aggregation, that backed Jarreau on his last Grammy winning album, in 2012. Mr. Midón and this band were made for each other. Their big brassy sound wraps around his joyous tenor, like a glove. With a little more promotional push, this album will be a huge seller in the contemporary jazz market. It is filled with infectious hooks, punchy brass and Midón’s soaring vocals and “Al Con Salsa” scatting. However, in spite of all of that, I think Raul will go home empty handed, for the second year in a row. There is too much strong and better known competition. But this cat is going to hit paydirt soon, trust and believe.


THE WINDOW
Cécile McLorin Salvant

The defending champ in this category. Every one of her major label releases has been nominated for this award and the last two of them (For One to Love and Dreams and Daggers), have gone home winners. She is one of the most popular traditional jazz singers on the scene today, she has strong name recognition, she is a prodigiously gifted vocalist and you know what else? This album is damn good. For the most part, it’s just Ms. McLorin Salvant and the piano of Sullivan Fortner, having glorious conversations. Some were recorded in the studio and some in jazz’s cathedral; the Village Vanguard. She covers everyone, from Stevie Wonder to Bessie Smith to Leonard Bernstein and beyond. But stay until the end, because McLorin Salvant and Fortner are joined by the marvelous Melissa Aldana, on tenor saxophone, for a stunning version of Jimmy Rowles’ jazz classic “The Peacocks”. Yeah. If she doesn’t make it 3 out of 4, it will be a pretty big upset.

The comments and unscientific predictions:

Should have been nominated (and I feel very strongly about it): The Genius of Eddie Jefferson – Alan Harris; Some of That Sunshine – Karrin Allyson; Unbroken – Tiffany Austin

Should Win: Cécile McLorin Salvant

Will Win: Cécile McLorin Salvant

I Will Be Thrilled if They Do Win: Freddy Cole

2019 Jazz Grammys Overview: Best Improvised Jazz Solo

Posted in 2019 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2019 by curtjazz

We’re about a week out from the 2019 Grammys, which will be held on Sunday February 10. As is now customary, the jazz awards will be presented during the Premiere Ceremony, which is streamed live before the televised show.

As is also now relatively customary, I like to take a look at each of the jazz category nominees and make my comments and totally unscientific (but usually accurate) predictions.

Lets start with the category that is closest to Record of the Year, for jazz. “Best Improvised Jazz Solo”

The nominees are:


SOME OF THAT SUNSHINE
Regina Carter, soloist
Track from: Some Of That Sunshine (Karrin Allyson)

First off, the fact that the album that this track comes from, Karrin Allyson’s Some of That Sunshine, is not nominated for the Jazz Vocal Album Grammy, is a crime, in itself. Nevertheless, I’m happy to see it get some recognition, through violinist Regina Carter, doing her usual impeccable work in a solo as a guest on the easily swinging title track. First with a joyous pizzicato, followed by bowing, and then trading fours with a scatting Ms. Allyson in the fade-out, Ms. Carter’s work is the cherry on top a beautiful musical sundae. Due to the lack of name recognition and the fact that this is an indie production, it is not likely to take home the trophy but I would not be at all disappointed if it did.

There is no clip of Regina Carter performing “Some of That Sunshine”, but here’s a nice one of Karrin Allyson & her trio, swingin’ it at WBGO


DON’T FENCE ME IN
John Daversa, soloist
Track from: American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom (John Daversa Big Band Featuring DACA Artists)

I love the concept of this album, on which trumpeter John Daversa’s Big Band is comprised mostly of “Dreamers” young people who came to the United States as children under DACA, and now face potential deportation as adults due the current political nonsense. That said, I don’t love this track, nor am I fond of Mr. Daversa’s performance on it. I get why this old Gene Autry tune was re-purposed for this particular album (the irony is quite rich) but the arrangement is messy and unfocused. I think this track arrived in this category on the coattails of the album, American Dreamers, which is also nominated for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy. While I wish them the best, I think that there are far more deserving nominees.

WE SEE: Fred Hersch – Soloist

Track from the album Live in Europe (Fred Hersch Trio)

Fred Hersch, is one of our generation’s finest jazz pianists. Because of this, he has earned 14 Grammy nominations, over the course of his career. Fred Hersch also happens to during a time in which cats named Corea, Hancock and Shorter, among others, are still actively working and recording. As much as we hate to admit it, in the Grammy world, your chances of winning are directly proportional to your name recognition. “We See” is a terrific performance, of the Monk classic tune, off of a very fine Hersch album, Live in Europewhich is also nominated in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category. Without any of those name recognition giants around to suck up the oxygen and with 14 nominations to get his name into the minds of the voters, I’d say that Mr. Hersch has a legitimate shot at winning in this category. The only one potentially in his way, is our next nominee.

DE-DAH
Brad Mehldau, soloist
Track from: Seymour Reads The Constitution! (Brad Mehldau Trio)

Brad Mehldau has been on the jazz scene for over two decades, as a sideman, leader and soloist but like Fred Hersch, he has also been overshadowed by the cats with greater name recognition. Like Hersch, he also has a large number of Grammy nominations (nine), without any hardware to show for it. This nominated track was also written by a great jazz composer, albeit one who has never gotten the recognition he deserved (Elmo Hope), and the album from which the track is pulled, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. So in this tight race, I give the nod to Mehldau. It’s a longer track, which gives Mr. Mehldau more of a chance to stretch out and show his considerable skills. It also swings in an ingratiating manner, which will make it easier on the ears of a potential voter, who may be inexperienced in jazz idioms. I’m not surprised if it goes either way but I expect it to be Brad Mehldau, by a nose.

CADENAS
Miguel Zenón, soloist
Track from: Yo Soy La Tradición (Miguel Zenón Featuring Spektral Quartet)

Another of our double nominees competing in this category Mr. Zenón has been making some incredible music over the last decade, much of it celebrating his Puerto Rican heritage and a rich musical tradition, beyond the popular rhythms of salsa. On the album Yo Soy La Tradición , as well as on this selection, “Cadenas”, Zenón weaves the sound of his alto sax, into, through and around the rich colorings of the Spektral [String] Quartet. This is the most different and musically compelling of the nominated pieces, by far. There is something new to discover on each of the dozen or so times, that I have heard it. The album itself, is nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album, bringing the career total of Mr. Zenón’s nominations to seven. It would be a deserving winner in either category but sadly, I don’t think it will happen.

My unscientific comments and predictions

Should have been nominated (but wasn’t): “Females are Strong as Hell”; Roxy Coss, soloist; Track from The Future is Female; “Untitled Original 11383 (Take 1)”; John Coltrane, soloist; Track from Both Directions at Once [The Lost Album] “DPW”; Kenny Barron, soloist; Track from Concentric Circles

Should Win: Miguel Zenon

Will Win: Brad Mehldau

It would be nice if they did win: Regina Carter/Karrin Allyson

2016 Jazz Grammy Nominations

Posted in 2016 Grammys, Uncategorized with tags , , on December 14, 2015 by curtjazz

grammy1Here they are folks; the jazz albums and performances nominated for the 58th Grammy Awards, which will be presented on Monday, February 15, 2016; at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

No real surprises here, the nominating committee basically followed their template. However, without an album this year from a living legend, it did open up a few spots for artists who don’t always get the recognition. As we get into the New Year, I will do my usual predicting and complaining about each category. But for now, I will just report the news…

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Best Improvised Jazz Solo
• Giant Steps
Joey Alexander, soloist
Track from: My Favorite Things
[Motema Music]

• Cherokee
Christian McBride, soloist
Track from: Live At The Village Vanguard (Christian McBride Trio)
[Mack Avenue Records]

• Arbiters Of Evolution
Donny McCaslin, soloist
Track from: The Thompson Fields (Maria Schneider Orchestra)
[ArtistShare]

• Friend Or Foe
Joshua Redman, soloist
Track from: The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (The Bad Plus Joshua Redman)
[Nonesuch]

• Past Present
John Scofield, soloist
Track from: Past Present
[Impulse!]

Best Jazz Vocal Album
• Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein
Karrin Allyson
[Motema Music]

• Find A Heart
Denise Donatelli
[Savant Records]

• Flirting With Disaster
Lorraine Feather
[Jazzed Media]

• Jamison
Jamison Ross
[Concord Jazz]

• For One To Love
Cécile McLorin Salvant
[Mack Avenue Records]

Best Jazz Instrumental Album
• My Favorite Things
Joey Alexander
[Motema Music]

• Breathless
Terence Blanchard Featuring The E-Collective
[Blue Note Records]

• Covered: Recorded Live At Capitol Studios
Robert Glasper & The Robert Glasper Trio
[Blue Note Records]

• Beautiful Life
Jimmy Greene
[Mack Avenue Records]

• Past Present
John Scofield
[Impulse!]

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
• Lines Of Color
Gil Evans Project
[Blue Note/ArtistShare]

• Köln
Marshall Gilkes & WDR Big Band
[Alternate Side Records]

• Cuba: The Conversation Continues
Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
[Motema Music]

• The Thompson Fields
Maria Schneider Orchestra
[ArtistShare]

• Home Suite Home
Patrick Williams
[BFM Jazz]

Best Latin Jazz Album
• Made In Brazil
Eliane Elias
[Concord Jazz]

• Impromptu
The Rodriguez Brothers
[Criss Cross Jazz]

• Suite Caminos
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
[5Passion]

• Intercambio
Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet
[Patois Records]

• Identities Are Changeable
Miguel Zenón
[Miel Music]

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album
• Guitar In The Space Age!
Bill Frisell
[Okeh]

• Love Language
Wouter Kellerman
[Listen 2 Entertainment Group]

• Afrodeezia
Marcus Miller
[Blue Note Records]

• Sylva
Snarky Puppy & Metropole Orkest
[Impulse!]

• The Gospel According To Jazz, Chapter IV
Kirk Whalum
[Mack Avenue Records]


 

2015 Jazz Grammy® Preview #4 – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by curtjazz

A category that in the past was dominated by the traditional big bands, now features an interesting mix. It’s a tossup with much more than classic swing on the plate.

The L.A. Treasures Project – The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (Capri)

No video clip available

Life In The Bubble – Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band (Concord)

Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project – Rufus Reid (Motema)

Live: I Hear The Sound – Archie Shepp Attica Blues Orchestra (Archie Ball)

OverTime: Music of Bob Brookmeyer – The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (Planet Arts)

Should Win: Rufus Reid

Will Win: Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

2015 Jazz Grammy® Preview #3 – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by curtjazz

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:

Landmarks – Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band (Blue Note)

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.

Trilogy – Chick Corea Trio (Concord)

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.

Floating – Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto)

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.

Enjoy The View – Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco Featuring Billy Hart (Blue Note)

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…

All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller  – Jason Moran (Blue Note)

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

2015 Jazz Grammy Preview #2 – Best Jazz Vocal Album

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by curtjazz

Here we are, racing to the finish to get our Jazz Grammy predictions out before the awards are presented this afternoon!

In the Best Jazz Vocal Album category, we have a couple of extremely deserving first time nominees, a perennial nominee who unfortunately is always overlooked and a couple of fairly good albums that are the favorites to take home the prize.

Map to the Treasure: Re-imagining Laura Nyro  – Billy Childs & Various Artists (Sony Masterworks)

Billy Childs is a terrific if overlooked, jazz pianist and arranger. The idea for this album was a very good one, taking the music of the great pop songwriter, Laura Nyro and re-imagining them with some of today’s strongest vocalists and instrumentalists. The result is an outstanding pop album. Sorry, folks but for my money, despite the presence of Mr. Childs, Esperanza Spalding, Wayne Shorter and Dianne Reeves, who all perform impressively in their segments, Map to the Treasure, while award worthy, doesn’t belong in this category. The irony is, because of all of the pop names and the handful of jazz names involved, it stands a decent chance of winning. If it does, I will be happy for Mr. Childs, who defintely deserves wider recognition but my opinion still stands.

I Wanna Be Evil  – René Marie (Motema)

For my money, this first-time nominee is your winner. This late 2013 release by Ms. Marie was one of the best of her impressive career. Her performances on this tribute to the late, great Eartha Kitt, are at turns funny, seductive, unnerving and thought-provoking; just like the immortal performer who inspired them. (Read my full review for Jazz Inside Magazine HERE) Why Ms. Marie will probably not win? The album was released over a year ago, just missing the cutoff for last year’s awards but putting it in the position of having slipped from the consciousness of man voters. Also, Ms. Marie as great as she is, is not well-known by much of the voting crowd and some only know her for a few minor controversies from seven years ago. And, there’s also the presence of a very well-known name, with  a very accessible album, which is an odds-on favorite to take the prize. If I’m wrong I will be thrilled but I don’t think so.

Live in NYC  – Gretchen Parlato (ObliqSound)

Like Rene Marie, Gretchen Parlato is a first-time nominee. Also like Ms. Marie, Ms. Parlato’s album was released in 2013, just after the eligibility cutoff for the 2014 Grammys. And also like Ms. Marie, Ms. Parlato is a longshot to win today. Keeping it 100, I adore Ms. Parlato’s work but this album, which consists mostly of live takes of selections from her previous releases, while good, is inferior to most of her previous work. Because she is so terrific overall, it would be cool to see her recognized but I think the next lady is going to stand in her way.

Beautiful Life – Dianne Reeves (Concord)

Beautiful Life was the great Dianne Reeves first new release in about half a decade. It is loaded with big name guest stars (Glasper, Esperanza, Lalah Hathaway, George Duke, etc). It is laden with accessible, pop and adult r&b radio friendly material. And Dianne Reeves is by far the most recognizable name in this category. The album is okay; not Ms. Reeves best work, but it won’t matter. She will pick up her fifth Grammy today.

Paris Sessions- Tierney Sutton (Varese Sarabande)

In Grammy previews of years past, I have referred to Tierney Sutton as the “Glenn Close” of this category. Sad to say, that appellation will apply again today. Ms. Sutton is a terrific vocalist; a perennial Best Jazz Vocal Album nominee, who has never won the award. Because in spite of the quality of her work, she is still undeservedly obscure in a category that habitually awards name recognition. Paris Sessions is another gorgeous album partnering Ms. Sutton with Serge Merlaud and Kevin Axt, two outstanding guitarists. The album is worth adding to your library but alas, Ms. Sutton will leave once again, without the Grammy.

Our unscientific and mildly cynical prediction:

Should Win: Rene Marie

Will Win: Dianne Reeves

Up next, Best Jazz Instrumental Album

2015 Jazz Grammy® Preview #1 – Best Improvised Jazz Solo

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2015 by curtjazz

Well here I am folks, late to the Grammy Party but still right on time!

The 2015 Grammy® Awards will be handed out this Sunday, February 8. The Awards in the Jazz categories will be distributed, as usual, during the “Pre-Show” before the televised broadcast. As I have done over the past few years I’ve put together a review of the jazz category nominees, including a musical clip (where available) and my opinion about the artists chances to take some hardware home on Sunday. Let’s start with jazz’s equivalent of Record of the Year, “Best Improvised Jazz Solo”

“The Eye Of The Hurricane,” – Kenny Barron, soloist:  From the album Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio (Whaling City Sounds)

The great pianist Kenny Barron and the legendary bassist Ron Carter join drummer Gerry Gibbs (son of vibraphonist Terry Gibbs) on this terrific trio album. The nominated track is a blazing fast take on the Herbie Hancock composition, with Mr. Barron showing the impressive speed that we don’t get to hear from him often enough these days. It’s a fine track but it’s likely to get lost in the shuffle of big names on the way to the awards podium. What it has made me do is check out the work of Gerry Gibbs who I’ve somehow managed to miss over the years.

“Fingerprints,” Chick Corea, soloist: From the album Trilogy – Chick Corea Trio (Concord)

This is a nominated performance from Trilogy Mr. Corea’s live three disc semi-retrospective. The track is stellar, as is the album, which has also been nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Corea is as good, at age 73, as he has ever been and the support from Brian Blade and Christian McBride is also first rate. So, what’s my problem? I’ve talked about it every year since I’ve been doing these jazz Grammy posts; I would just like to see some of the Grammy voters award love go to someone not named Corea or Hancock or Rollins, etc. But I know that my wishes will likely go unfulfilled. The performance is very good and they know his name so Chick Corea will probably win this award and the other one as well.


“You & The Night & The Music,” Fred Hersch, soloist: From the album Floating – Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto) 

As i mentioned in my 2014 year end review, Floating is one of my all time favorite Fred Hersch albums. That said, it’s ironic that this track gained a nomination as it is one of performances that I found to be just good but not great. There are better tracks on the album and better ones nominated in this category. Still, anytime Fred Hersch is acknowledged for his art, it is a great thing. The album is also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental album. Sadly, it is likely to come home empty-handed due to the “Chick Factor”.

“Recorda Me,” Joe Lovano, soloist: From the album The Latin Side of Joe Henderson  – Conrad Herwig (Half Note)

No doubt about it; Conrad Herwig has struck critical and to an extent, commercial gold with his “The Latin Side of…” series. This track from the latest release is the best of the Joe Henderson tribute album, which was recorded live at the Blue Note in New York. Though the track is strong, I found it interesting that Mr. Lovano was singled out for recognition, as his is one of a number of strong solos during the 11 + minute performance. I guess it has to do with him being listed as the featured performer on the album cover. It also nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album. I think that it has a better chance in that category.


“Sleeping Giant,” Brad Mehldau, soloist: From the album Taming the Dragon – Mehlania (Nonesuch)

A track from Mehlania, the new electronic duo composed of the well-respected pianist Brad Mehldau, this time on a variety of electronic keyboards and drummer/percussionist Mark Guiliana. This is a spacey/trippy track that is for me, reminiscent of Miles circa Bitches Brew. Not really my cup of tea but I wouldn’t count it out on Grammy night due to Mehldau’s name recognition. I have to admit that if it wins, I will laugh my ass off.

So here is my unscientific prediction:

  • Should Win: Kenny Barron
  • Will Win: Chick Corea

Up next, will be Best Jazz Vocal Album. A category that will also likely be dominated by name recognition.

2015 Jazz Grammy Nominations

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , on December 6, 2014 by curtjazz

grammy1Here is a list of the jazz performances that were nominated for a Grammy at the 57th Grammy Awards, which will be presented on February 8, 2015. Our list includes the Instrumental categories, which are usually dominated by jazz artists. Our posts of commentary and predictions will follow in January 2015.

 

Improvised Jazz Solo

“The Eye Of The Hurricane,” Kenny Barron
“Fingerprints,” Chick Corea
“You & The Night & The Music,” Fred Hersch
“Recorda Me,” Joe Lovano
“Sleeping Giant,” Brad Mehldau

Jazz Vocal Album

“Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro,” (Billy Childs &) Various Artists
“I Wanna Be Evil,” René Marie
“Live In NYC,” Gretchen Parlato
“Beautiful Life,” Dianne Reeves
“Paris Sessions,” Tierney Sutton
Jazz Instrumental Album

“Landmarks,” Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band
“Trilogy,” Chick Corea Trio
“Floating,” Fred Hersch Trio
“Enjoy The View,” Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco Featuring Billy Hart
“All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller,” Jason Moran

Large Jazz Ensemble Album

“The L.A. Treasures Project,” The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
“Life In The Bubble,” Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band
“Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project,” Rufus Reid
“Live: I Hear The Sound,” Archie Shepp Attica Blues Orchestra
“OverTime: Music Of Bob Brookmeyer,” The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

Latin Jazz Album

“The Latin Side Of Joe Henderson,” Conrad Herwig Featuring Joe Lovano

“The Pedrito Martinez Group,” The Pedrito Martinez Group
“The Offense Of The Drum,” Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
“Second Half,” Emilio Solla Y La Inestable De Brooklyn
“New Throned King,” Yosvany Terry

Contemporary Instrumental Album

“Wild Heart,” Mindi Abair
“Slam Dunk,” Gerald Albright
“Nathan East,” Nathan East
“Jazz Funk Soul,” Jeff Lorber, Chuck Loeb, Everette Harp
“Bass & Mandolin,” Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer

Instrumental Composition

“The Book Thief,” John Williams (John Williams)
“Last Train To Sanity,” Stanley Clarke (The Stanley Clarke Band)
“Life In The Bubble,” Gordon Goodwin (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)
“Recognition,” Rufus Reid (Rufus Reid)
“Tarnation,” Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile (Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer)

Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella

“Beautiful Dreamer,” Pete McGuinness (The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra)
“Daft Punk,” Ben Bram, Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Avi Kaplan, Kirstie Maldonado & Kevin Olusola (Pentatonix)
“Get Smart,” Gordon Goodwin (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)
“Guantanamera,” Alfredo Rodríguez (Alfredo Rodríguez)
“Moon River,” Chris Walden (Amy Dickson)

Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals

“All My Tomorrows,” Jeremy Fox (Jeremy Fox Featuring Kate McGarry)
“Goodnight America,” Vince Mendoza (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
“New York Tendaberry,” Billy Childs (Billy Childs Featuring Renée Fleming & Yo-Yo Ma)
“Party Rockers,” Gordon Goodwin (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)
“What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?” Pete McGuinness (The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra)

Also worth noting is that Robert Glasper’s Black Radio 2 received two nominations in the R & B categories, for Best R & B Album and Best Traditional R & B Performance (for “Jesus Children of America”).

Congratulations to all nominees. More to follow…

2014 Jazz Grammy® Recap – The Winners and Random Thoughts

Posted in 2014 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , on January 27, 2014 by curtjazz

Well jazz fans, we had our annual 15 minutes of fame (literally) yesterday at the Grammys during the pre-show, which was not broadcast on television but streamed live on the web. The  winners in the jazz categories included virtually no surprises. Those that won were either the favorites or highly touted possibilities right behind the  favorites.

And the Winners Are:

Best Improvised Jazz Solo – “Orbits”: Wayne Shorter – soloist (From the album Without a Net [Blue Note Records])

The Hall of Fame saxophonist wins with his only nomination from his critically acclaimed return to Blue Note Records.

Best Jazz Vocal Album – Gregory Porter: Liquid Spirit (Blue Note Records)

In a very minor upset, Porter beats out the phenomenal young vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant to win his first Grammy. I loved Porter’s totally real acceptance speech in which he blurted out “Hey! I got a Grammy!”

Best Jazz Instrumental Album – Terri Lyne Carrington: Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (Concord Jazz Records)

Another minor but welcome upset. In her acceptance speech the cool and classy Ms. Carrington noted that she was the first woman in history to win this particular award, which was surprising on one hand and then again, it wasn’t. It’s her second Grammy in the last three years; the other came for The Mosaic Project in 2012.

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album – Randy Brecker, Wlodek Pawlik Trio & Kalisz Philharmonic: Night in Calisia (Summit Records)

No surprise here at all as Grammy voters went for the safe choice of the only name among the nominees that any of them had even remotely heard of.  Mr. Brecker was not at the ceremony, leaving the acceptance chores to his Polish colleagues on the recording who struggled gamely with their English in an endearing but ultimately long-winded  speech, which drew the only use of the “musical hook” that I heard while I was watching the pre-show.

Best Latin Jazz Album – Paquito D’Rivera & Trio Corrente: Song for Maura (Sunnyside/Paquito Records)

While this win was not at all unexpected, it was also utterly frustrating. For with all of the genuinely outstanding music nominated in this category, Grammy voters once again went with the most familiar choice. This is far and away not the travesty that last year was in this category but still, this award was given to a good album among some great ones. Mr. D’Rivera was also not in attendance which left the acceptance to the members of Trio Corrente, who looked to be in danger of getting the “musical hook” but didn’t.

And to wrap things up, a few “Random Thoughts” that I scribbled down during the pre-show and the broadcast Grammy Show:

  • It was great to see Latin Jazz pianist and Grammy nominee Roberto Fonseca being used as a segment presenter on the pre-show.Though English is not his first language, he soldiered on gamely, even when tasked with reading the rambling statement from an award winner who was unable to attend. Frankly, he did a better job that pre-show host Cyndi Lauper, who struggled mightily throughout.  She even at one point starkly told the audience. “I F-ck-d Up”, which was true but unnecessary to say. I’m no language prude but it just struck me as a crudely contrived way to try to curry favor in the midst of her obvious difficulties.
  • It was great to see the wonderful composer/arranger Maria Schneider take home some Grammys for her classical work on Winter Morning Walks. I also loved her impassioned plug of ArtistShare during her acceptance speech. Now if only the jazz world would show her as much love…
  • I was disappointed that no jazz artists got to perform even during the pre-show. Yet, we saw fine artists of many other genres get to show their stuff. Has it now come to the point that a live jazz performance is not even welcome during the non-broadcast segment of the ceremony?
  • Daft Punk???
  • Pharrell’s hat???
  • Madonna’s outfit???
  • Taylor Swift’s dancing???
  • Taylor Swift’s Death Stare at the end of her performance????
  • Taylor Swift. Period. – Kanye, you did this to us!!!
  • Jay-Z basically referring to his award as a “sippy cup” for his daughter, was a lame attempt at humor that came off as arrogant. I’ve liked Jay-Z and Beyonce for a long time but they are starting to put me off (not that they care).
  • Chicago would have been better without Robin Thicke. And I wish that the cats still in the group and Peter Cetera and Danny Seraphine could all patch up their differences and give us at least one more taste of the real Chicago.
  • Loved Stevie Wonder, Nile Rodgers, Pharrell and Daft Punk’s jam.  As a fellow prostate cancer survivor any time I see Nile Rodgers up there doing his thing it is inspirational to me.

That’s all I have to say about that. I’ll have more to say about other things though before the next Grammy season and I thank you for reading.

Until the next time, the jazz continues…