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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

Best Jazz Albums I Heard in 2016

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2016, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2017 by curtjazz

melissa-morganLet’s start with a confession: I got to hear fewer jazz albums this year than in any year in the past two decades. Which is a shame, because there was a TON of worthwhile music released during the year. My crazy schedule in 2016 often limited me to snippets or tracks from discs that I vowed to get back to, but never did.  So, here’s my list of the best albums that I actually got to hear during the year. Also, there’s a track from an extremely promising young artist, who needs to put more on the market, ASAP; a couple of outstanding 2015 releases that didn’t catch my ear until 2016; and finally, a few of the many fine 2016 releases that I plan to catch up with in January:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
ArtScience Robert Glasper Blue Note
Back Home Melissa Aldana Wommusic
Beginning of a Memory Matt Wilson Palmetto
Book of Intuition Kenny Barron Trio Impulse
Chasing After the Wind Gregory Tardy Steeplechase
Convergence Warren Wolf Mack Avenue
Days Like This Melissa Morgan CD Baby
Do Your Dance Kenny Garrett Mack Avenue
Feet in the Mud Mimi Jones Hot Tone
In Movement DeJohnette, Coltrane and Garrison ECM
Jersey Cat Freddie Hendrix Sunnyside
Live at Maxwell’s DE3 Sunnyside
Nihil Novi Marcus Strickland Revive/Blue Note
Notes from New York Bill Charlap Impulse
Once and Future Brian Charette Posi-Tone
Perfection Murray, Allen and Carrington Motema
Presented by the Side Door Jazz Club Black Art Jazz Collective Sunnyside
Restless Idealism Roxy Coss Origin
Soul Tree Ed Cherry Posi-Tone
The Sound of Red Rene Marie Motema
Stranger Days Adam O’Farrill Sunnyside
Take Me to the Alley Gregory Porter Blue Note
TriAngular III Ralph Peterson Trio Onyx/Truth Revolution
The Way We Play Marquis Hill Concord
Written in The Rocks Renee Rosnes Smoke Sessions

2016’s most compelling single in search of an album:

  • “Chicken Day” – Harvey Cummings II

Two 2015 albums (heard in 2016) that deserved to be on last year’s list:

  • Back to the City – Amos Hoffman (CD Baby)
  • Some Morning – Kim Nazarian (CD Baby)

Probably excellent 2016 albums that I look forward to hearing as soon as possible:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
#KnowingIsHalfTheBattle Orrin Evans Smoke Sessions
Away With You Mary Halvorson Octet Firehouse 12
Day Breaks Norah Jones Blue Note
Habana Dreams Pedrito Martinez Group Motema
Harlem on My Mind Catherine Russell Jazz Village
Inner Spectrum of Variables Tyshawn Sorey Pi
Madera Latino Brian Lynch Hollistic Music Works
San Jose Suite Etienne Charles Culture Shock
Something Gold, Something Blue Tom Harrell High Note
Upward Spiral Branford Marsalis Okeh