By Don Heckman
Well, the jazz Grammy winners are in. The good news is that Esperanza Spalding has won the Best New Artist Grammy, the first jazz artist to do so.
And in the five jazz categories, the winning choices are, for the most part, deserved if largely predictable. But they also raise a couple of interesting observations.
The first is that the youngest winner in the jazz categories, Stanley Clarke, is 59 years old. The others range in age from 60 to James Moody’s 85 (when he passed away last year.)
But, looking at the nominations, it would have taken an especially observant Grammy voter to have found the very few nominees who were even under the age of 40.
Does this suggest that there is an absence of the young, dynamic talent that has been the flash point for change and development in jazz? I don’t think so.
But I do believe that the disinterest in jazz that is generally prevalent among the few remaining major record companies makes it more unlikely that the Grammy voters will hear much of the fine music that is being recorded. Younger artists who must rely upon small labels or do-it-yourself recordings simply don’t receive the sort of promotion that they need, or that Spalding received as a Concord jazz artist.
Jazz, nonetheless, is still alive and creative, in virtually every area. But it’s a tough road for young players. And this year’s jazz Grammy winners, along with the nominee choices in the jazz categories, suggest that the Recording Academy needs to do a more effective job of informing its voting members of the music that’s out there. The music that exists beyond the familiar names, the promoted names, and the well-distributed recordings.
Here are the winners and the nominees.
Contemporary Jazz Album: The Stanley Clarke Band, The Stanley Clarke Band
- The Stanley Clarke Band, The Stanley Clarke Band (Heads Up International)
- Never Can Say Goodbye, Joey DeFrancesco (HighNote Records)
- Now Is The Time, Jeff Lorber Fusion (Heads Up International)
- To The One, John McLaughlin (Abstract Logix)
- Backatown, Trombone Shorty (Verve Forecast)
Vocal Album: Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee, Dee Dee Bridgewater
- Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee, Dee Dee Bridgewater (Emarcy)
- Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B, Freddy Cole (HighNote Records)
- When Lights Are Low, Denise Donatelli (Savant Records)
- Ages, Lorraine Feather (Jazzed Media)
- Water, Gregory Porter (Motéma Music)
Improvised Jazz Solo: “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Herbie Hancock ( The Imagine Project)
- “Solar,” Alan Broadbent, from Live At Giannelli Square: Volume 1 (Chilly Bin Records)
- “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Herbie Hancock, from The Imagine Project (Hancock Records)
- “Body And Soul,” Keith Jarrett, Jasmine [Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden] (ECM)
- “Lonely Woman,” Hank Jones, Pleased To Meet You [Hank Jones and Oliver Jones] (Justin Time Records)
- “Van Gogh,” Wynton Marsalis, Portrait In Seven Shades [Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra] (Jazz At Lincoln Center)
Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group: Moody 4B, James Moody
- Positootly!, John Beasley (Resonance Records)
- The New Song And Dance, Clayton Brothers (ArtistShare)
- Historicity, Vijay Iyer Trio (ACT Music + Vision)
- Moody 4B, James Moody (IPO Recordings)
- Providencia, Danilo Perez (Mack Avenue Records)
Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Live at Jazz Standard, Mingus Big Band
- Infernal Machines, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society (New Amsterdam Records)
- Autumn: In Moving Pictures Jazz-Chamber Music Vol. 2, Billy Childs Ensemble Featuring The Ying String Quartet (ArtistShare)
- Pathways, Dave Holland Octet (Dare2 Records)
- 54, Metropole Orkest, John Scofield & Vince Mendoza (Emarcy/Universal)
- Mingus Big Band Live At Jazz Standard, Mingus Big Band (Jazz Workshop, Inc./Jazz Standard)
Latin Jazz Album: Chucho’s Steps, Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers
- Tango Grill, Pablo Aslan (Zoho)
- Second Chance, Hector Martignon (Zoho)
- Psychedelic Blues, Poncho Sanchez (Concord Picante)
- Chucho’s Steps, Chucho Valdés And The Afro-Cuban Messengers (Four Quarters Entertainment)
- ¡Bien Bien!, Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet (Patois Records)
Photo of Stanley Clarke by Lynn Goldsmith.
Photos of Esperanza Spalding, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Herbie Hancock, James Moody and the Mingus Big Band by Tony Gieske.