Archive for randy brecker

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…

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2014 Jazz Grammy® Preview #5 – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Posted in 2014 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2014 by curtjazz

Our final Grammy preview touches on the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. While this category used to be home to the ghost bands of the great big band leaders, it has now become a place where you will find some of the most creative arranging and writing in jazz; from artists who often don’t even get to be heard on what remains of jazz radio (terrestrial and internet).

The nominees are:

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society: Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam Records)

This is by far the most ambitious project of any of those nominated in this category. Darcy James Argue conceived Brooklyn Babylon in collaboration with graphic novelist Danijel Zezelj, whose work evokes a mythic Brooklyn where the borough’s past, present and future collide. What you have musically is, well, everything. There are sections inspired by Sousa’s marches, others inspired by classical music; another inspired by New Orleans Second Lines and still more where you have a swinging 4/4 big band. It’s exactly what you’d expect if every musical culture in the history of Brooklyn managed to collide and intermingle. This music is never boring and at times inspiring. I’m afraid though that most Grammy voters won’t get it and therefore won’t vote for it.

Randy Brecker, Wlodek Pawlik Trio & Kalisz Philharmonic: Night in Calisia (Summit Records)

Now Randy Brecker on the other hand, they get.  This recording is the result of a musical contribution to the celebration of the 1850th anniversary of Kalisz, the oldest city in Poland. The culmination took place in June of 2010 with a concert called ‘’Night in Calisia’’. The event was such a success the musicians decided to go into the studio to record the project nearly two years after the concert. The prolific trumpeter and the Polish pianist/composer Wlodek Pawlik, have created a beautiful slice of symphonic jazz. It’s not groundbreaking but it sounds like it is so Grammy voters will love it. Randy Brecker is also a name that they know. This album stands a very strong chance of winning.

Brussels Jazz Orchestra (feat. Joe Lovano): Wild Beauty (Half Note)

Wild Beauty features the great Joe Lovano’s inimitable tenor sound, blowing hard over some of his own compositions wrapped in terrific  Gil Goldstein arrangements performed by the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. It’s one of Lovano’s most accessible sets and hearing it here reminded me what a fine writer Lovano is. Lovano’s tunes make this my favorite set of all of those nominated. When you add in Lovano’s relative renown, this set has to be considered a co-favorite with the Brecker album.

Alan Ferber: March Sublime (Sunnyside Records)

Trombonist Alan Ferber’s March Sublime features mostly his compositions and arrangements, performed by some of the best session players in New York today. The arrangements are very good and they are performed very competently. Ferber’s band is a contemporary one, that is to say that they concentrate not on the swing era but on the style of big band music that has been written and performed in the latter decades of the 20th Century and into the 21st. Though this is a nice album, I think that it is a long shot to win today.

Dave Slonaker Big Band: Intrada (Origin Records)

Intrada is veteran West Coast composer/arranger Dave Slonaker’s  first album as a leader. He has filled it with hard-hitting brassy arrangements that swing like mad. Intrada hearkens back to the time when all of the late night talk shows had big bands, stocked with some of the best jazz cats on the left coast, paying the rent and making their intros and outros cook. Again, this album is a Grammy long shot but it’s an impressive showcase for Slonaker’s skills.

So here is my final bottom line unscientific prediction:

  • Should Win: Darcy James Argue
  • Will Win: Randy Brecker

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read my previews. I hope that you’ve found them informational even if you disagreed with me.  I will be live tweeting during the pre-show, when these awards are being presented.

Until the next time, The Jazz Continues…

Grammys 2012 Nominees – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Posted in 2012 Grammys, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2012 by curtjazz

The nominees in this category are mostly familiar names, with the possible exception of Miguel Zenón. Two of the albums here probably ended up in this grouping because of the elimination of the Latin Jazz category.

The Nominees Are:

Randy Brecker with DR Big Band – The Jazz Ballad Songbook (Half Note): Track “All or Nothing at All”

Frankly, this nomination is a bit of a  head scratcher.  Randy Brecker is a gifted musician without a doubt, and the Danish Radio Big Band has done some fine work on many, many recordings.  But the arrangements here border on pedestrian and the whole date feels as generic as its title.  The exception is our feature track, which is first rate.  Still, don’t be surprised if Mr. Brecker wins this award, based mostly on name recognition.

Christian McBride Big Band – The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue)

The finest jazz bassist under 40 has now added a big band to his impressive repertoire. The Good Feeling is a solid first effort with a number of impressive tracks and creative arrangements from Mr. McBride’s pen.

Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra – 40 Acres and a Burro (Zoho): Featured Track: “40 Acres and a Burro”

Arturo O’Farrill continues to do his father’s legacy proud, as he has created another thought-provoking album, that has as much for your mind as it does for your feet. If this album were in the Latin Jazz category, it would be a strong contender. But now, it’s a bit of a longshot.

Gerald Wilson – Legacy (Mack Avenue)

Gerald Wilson has been arranging leading big bands since the days of Basie, Ellington and Goodman and he shows no sign of slowing down at age 93, writing arrangements that are dense, complex, brassy and swinging all at once. This album, Legacy is up to the fine standards that he has been hitting regularly for the past 15 years. A sentimental favorite.

Miguel Zenón – Alma Adentro [The Puerto Rican Songbook] (Marsalis Music)

Another album that would have likely competed in the now defunct Latin Jazz category, Alma Adentro is a stunning work of art. (A Curt’s Cafe Best of 2011) Mr. Zenón is at the top of his artistic game and it shows in the brilliance of his arrangements of these songs by some of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated composers.  Because he is a relative unknown, Zenón is not considered a favorite in the voting, but this is the best album of those nominated. If there’s any justice, Alma Adentro will win.