This category is also dominated by familiar names; with one very promising newcomer.
The nominees are:
Gerald Clayton – Bond: The Paris Sessions (Emarcy/Decca): Track “If I Were A Bell”
Though this is only Mr. Clayton’s second album as a leader he is a young veteran at 27, having shedded for many years alongside his dad and uncle, in the Clayton Brothers and working with many of the other gifted young cats on the scene. Bond… is a very good album; with the pianist and his trio seamlessly moving between standards and originals. It may not be enough in this field laden with transcendent names, but we’ll see.
Corea, Clarke & White – Forever (Concord): Track “Armando’s Rhumba”
Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, the famed rhythm section of ’70’s fusion giants Return To Forever; jamming over 2 discs worth of favorites from their 2009 “RTF Unplugged” Tour. Nothing new here, but what there is, is top notch – a bunch of well known vets, doing what they do best. You would have to consider them one of the favorites to take home the trophy.
Fred Hersch – Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto)
Fred Hersch was the first pianist to be asked to play a solo gig at the hallowed jazz club in 2005. He has now returned from a life threatening coma in 2009, to record and release this brilliant solo set. Again, he is a relative unknown in this field, but he would be a very deserving winner. (Note: the accompanying track is not from Alone at the Vangaurd, but features another wonderful Hersch solo performance “Valentine”.)
Joe Lovano & Us Five – Bird Songs (Blue Note)
Another strong contender; Joe Lovano and Us Five brought the goods on this Charlie Parker tribute. It was more than a Bird regurgitation, but a reimaging of some of the tunes that Parker made famous. It was one of our Best of 2011 albums and I personally hope that Grammy rewards them as well.
Sonny Rollins – Road Shows – Vol. 2 (Doxy/Emarcy/Decca)
You know how Grammy feels about legends. And you also know that this album was a brilliant snapshot of Mr. Rollins 80th Birthday concert in 2010 (Another of our Best of 2011). Sonny Rollins is also a name that most of the non-jazz voters have heard of…Translation – like it or not, this is Newk’s award to lose.
Yellowjackets – Timeline (Mack Avenue): Track “Why Is It (Live)”
These cats would normally be in the “Best Contemporary Jazz Album” category, but I forgot, that doesn’t exist anymore (sarcasm). In any case, Yellowjackets have been doing it for 30 years and they sound better than ever. If there were still two separate categories, they would be hands down winners.