Here, There & Everywhere: The 2012 Jazz Grammy Winners

February 13, 2012

By Don Heckman

The 2012 Grammys are in, and once again there’s not much sound of surprise in the results.  Certainly nothing in the same ballpark as last year’s Best New Artist award for Esperanza Spalding.  That’s not to say that any of the wins were undeserved.  Because they all were the products of gifted artists doing their best. Nor were any of the nominees any less deserving than the winners.

Still, both the awards and the Recording Academy’s current approach to jazz raise some questioning observations.  Take, for example, the inclusion of Terri Lyne Carrington’ s The Mosaic Project in the Jazz Vocal grouping.  Doesn’t it seem inevitable that a collection of songs by such major names as Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cassandra Wilson and, yes, Esperanza Spalding (among others) is going to have a major head start in any competition against recordings by single artists?  What chance did the other nominees – especially the unusually superlative trio of albums from Tierney Sutton, Roseanna Vitro and Karrin Allyson – have against a full line-up of such musical heavyweights?

Notice, too, some of the repetitions: multiple nominations for Randy Brecker, Fred Hersch and Sonny Rollins.  Great artists, all, but where are the nominations for the youngest generation of jazz players?  It’s worth noting that Gerald Clayton is the only nominee still in his twenties.  And Miguel Zenon is the only nominee still in his thirties.

Add to that several aspects in this year’s awards procedures that underscore the diminishing role that jazz is playing in the Grammy overview.  Start with the reduced number of categories.  In 2011 there were six: Contemporary Jazz Album, Vocal Album, Improvised Jazz Solo, Jazz Instrumental Album (Individual or Group), Large Jazz Album and Latin Jazz Album.

This year, there are four: Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Some jazz fans won’t miss the Contemporary category, despite the fact that its absence eliminates the presence of some fine, pop-oriented jazz stylists.  But the Latin Jazz omission is unforgivable, and should receive careful re-consideration in the planning for next year’s Grammys.

In the listings below, I’ve also included Best Instrumental Arrangement and Best Instrumental Composition, because, in these nominees, the emphasis is almost completely in the direction of jazz.  They could easily have had different orientations — pop, rock, electronica, classical and otherwise — given the all-inclusive nature of the descriptions “Instrumental Arrangement” and “Instrumental Composition.”

Ultimately, the single word that comes to mind in considering all the above is “irrelevant.”  Receiving a Grammy award continues to be one of the music world’s greatest honors – for the individual artist.  And every jazz player –like every other musical artist – has to be delighted to receive the gold statuette.  But the overall significance of the Grammys to jazz, the Awards’ full commitment to honoring one of America’s greatest cultural contributions, continues to diminish.  And if it continues in its current direction, the long, historical Grammy/jazz connection won’t just be irrelevant, it’ll be non-existent.

Here are this year’s awards:

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

 Winner.  Chick Corea : “Five Hundred Miles Highfrom Forever.

Other Nominees:

Randy Brecker: “All or Nothing at All” from The Jazz ballad Song Book

Ron Carter: “You Are My Sunshine” from This Is Jazz.

Fred Hersch: “Work” from Alone at the Vanguard.

Sonny Rollins: “Sunnymoon For Two: from Road Shows, Vol. 2.

Best Jazz Vocal album

Winner: Terri Lyne Carrington and Various Artists: The Mosaic Project.

Other Nominees:

Tierney Sutton Band: American Road

Karrin Allyson: ‘Round Midnight.

Kurt Elling: The Gate.

Roseanna Vitro: The Music of Randy Newman.

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Winner: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke & Lenny White.  Corea, Clark & White.

Other Nominees:

Gerald Clayton: The Paris Sessions.

Fred Hersch: Alone at the Vanguard.

Joe Lovano/Us Five: Bird Songs.

Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Vol.2

Yellowjackets: Timeline.

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Winner: Christian McBride Big Band. The Good Feeling.

Other Nominees:

Randy Brecker with the WDR Big Band: The Jazz Ballad Song Book.

Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: 40 Acres and a Burro.

Gerald Wilson Orchestra; Legacy.

Miguel Zenon: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook

Best Instrumental Arrangement

Winner: Gordon Goodwin: Rhapsody in Blue.

Other Nominees:

Peter Jensen: ‘All or Nothing At All” (for Randy Brecker with the GDR Big Band)

Clare Fischer: “In the Beginning: (from the Clare Fischer Big band’s Continuum.)

Bob Brookmeyer: “Nasty Dance.” (from the Vanguard Jazz Orchstra’s Forever Lasting).

Carlos Franzetti: “Song Without Words” (from Alborada).

Best Instrumental Composition

Winner: Bela Fleck and Howard Levy: “Life In Eleven” from Rocket Science.

Other Nominees:

John Hollenbeck: “Falling Men” from Shut Up and Dance.

Gordon Goodwin: “Hunting Wabbits 3 (Get Off My Lawn) from That’s How We Roll.

Randy Brecker: “I Talk To The Trees” from The Jazz Ballad Song Book.

Russell Ferrante: “Timeline” from Timeline.


Picks of the Week: Nov. 30 – Dec. 6

November 30, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Demetra George

- Nov. 30. (Mon.)  Gala Opera NightDemetra George and Ralph Cato perform “Villains and Heroines at the Opera,” selections from Puccini, Verdi and Strauss.  Frank Fetta is music director.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.   (310) 474-9400.

- Nov. 30. (Mon.)  Slide FX  Trombone Tentet.  Not quite enough trombones to play “76 Trombones,” but enough to produce a surprisingly appealing array of sounds and swing.   Steamers. (714) 871-8800. http://www.steamerscafe.com

- Dec. 1. (Tues.)  “Christmas in Ireland” The veteran Irish ensemble Danu combines with a choir to bring an Irish Christmas celebration –An Lollaig in Eirnn – to Southland audiences.  The Cerritos Center. (562) 916-8501.

- Dec. 1. (Tues.)  Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band.  Goodwin’s band is that rarity – a big jazz ensemble with steady personnel delivering performances that match well-rehearsed craftsmanship with inventive playing and imaginative arrangements.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

- Dec. 1. (Tues.)  Henry Franklin Quartet.  Bassist “Skipper” Franklin plays with most of the hard driving ensemble from his recently released CD, “Home Cookin’”: Azar Lawrence, tenor saxophone, Theo Saunders, piano, Ramon Banda, drums.  Charlie O’s.   (818) 989-3110.

Hilary Kole

- Dec. 1 & 2. (Tues. & Wed.)  Hilary Kole. The critically praised New York jazz singer makes her West Coast debut, backed by the sterling ensemble of Alan Broadbent, piano, Larry Koonse, guitar, Tom Warrington, bass and Kendall Kay, drums.  . Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 2. (Wed.)  Peter Marshall sings “TIME WAS: Music of the Thirties and Forties.”  No Hollywood Squares in this evening of delightful musical nostalgia.  Upstairs at Vitellos.  (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 2. (Wed.)  Judy Wexler. Gifted with a smoky sound, thoughtful phasing and a solid sense of rhythm, Wexler applies those qualities to her ever-intriguing jazz interpretations.  Café 322 (626) 836-5787.

- Dec. 3. (Thurs.)  Tom Rainier.  With Trey Henry, bass and Ralph Humphrey, drums, the trio serves as the rhythm section for “Dancing with the Stars.”  But here they are, in a very different setting, doing their own thing.  Upstairs at Vitellos. (818) 769-0905.

- Dec. 3, 4 & 5. (Thurs, Fri. & Sat.)  Charlie Hunter.  The adventurous guitarist brings his cross-genre style to a pair of L.A. appearances.  Thurs., Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach. 310-372-0035.  Fri. & Sat. The Mint.  323-954-9400.

Gaea Schell

- Dec. 3. (Thurs.)  West Coast Left Coast: Leonard Slatkin with the Kronos Quartet and the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform works by Gladsmith, Bates, Waxman and Newman in the continuing series.  Disney Hall.

- Dec. 4. (Fri.)  Gaea Schell Trio.  A hard-swinging, inventive pianist, Schell brings the qualities of an instrumentalist to her laid-back, but always intriguing vocals. This time out, she celebrates the release of her new CD, “After the Rain.” Café 322. (626) 836-5787.

- Dec. 4 & 5. (Fri. & Sat.)  5th Annual Fil-Am Jazzfest.  Any original doubts about the reality of Filipino jazz have been thoroughly removed by these stirring annual events.  This year’s featured artists include Charmaine Clamor, Mon David, Tateng Katendig, Abe Lagrimas, Angelo Pizzaro, Sandra Viray and a special appearance by Eddie Katendig.   . Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

- Dec. 5. (Sat.)  The Nutcracker SuiteThe State Street Ballet Company brings an unusual slant to Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic with a newly choreographed production featuring Art Deco sets and 1930’s costumes..  2 p.m. and 7 p.m.  CSUN Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-5768.

- Dec. 5. (Sat.)  Carol Welsman. Canadian pianist/singer Welsman illuminates songs associated with (or written by) Peggy Lee in her new album, “I Like Men.”   Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

Herb Alpert & Lani Hall

- Dec. 5. (Sat.)  David Ornette Cherry and Organic Roots.  Following in the footsteps of his father, Don Cherry, and his namesake, Ornette Coleman, Cherry’s envelope-stretching music also embraces eclectic aspects of cultures from around the globe.  World Stage Performance Gallery.  (323) 293-2451.

- Dec. 5. (Sat.)  Herb Alpert & Lani Hall. Show biz power couple Alpert and Hall also happen to be imaginative musical artists.  Performing selections from their recent album, “Anything Goes,” Alpert’s trumpet and Hall’s vocals make an appealingly intimate jazz marriage. Orange County Performing Arts Center. (714) 556-2787.

- Dec. 5 & 6. (Sat. & Sun.)  Lisa Mezzacappa.  San Francisco bassist/composer Mezzacappa says her music lives “at the intersection of music and composition.”  She brings her imaginative musical perceptions to a pair of Southland performances. Sat.: Café Metropole, / Sun: Eagle Rock Center for the Arts.

- Dec. 6. (Sun.) Inner Voices. “Christmas A Cappella Brunch.” L.A.’s most fascinating vocal ensemble – musically, harmonically and stylistically – present their annual look at the rich, creative potential of the familiar songs of Christmas.  Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

Dec. 2 – 6. (Wed. – Sun.)  The Taj Mahal Trio.  The blues legend displays his inimitable guitar and voice in the intimate frame work of a trio.  Yoshi’s Oakland.  (510) 238-9200.

New  York

- Dec. 1. (Tues.)  Jackie Ryan.  Praised from every direction, Ryan’s extraordinarily versatile voice, her buoyant swing and gifted story telling abilities will be backed by a pair of superb instrumentalists — trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and saxophonist Eric AlexanderBirdland. (212) 581-3080.

Anat Cohen

Dec. 1 – 6. (Tues. – Sun.)  Anat Cohen Quartet.  In addition to her powerful – and often funky – tenor saxophone work, Cohen is bringing vital new life to the too-often under-appreciated jazz clarinet.  She performs with Howard Alden, guitar,  Carlos Enriquez, bass and Herlin Riley, drums.  Village Vanguard.  (212) 255-4037.

- Dec. 2. (Wed.)  Bob Brookmeyer celebrates his 80th birthday with the Eastman New Jazz EnsembleKilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of \Music.  Rochester, N.Y.   (585) 454.2100.

- Dec. 2 – 5. (Wed. – Sat.)  Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch“A Town and Country Christmas.” A pair of musical theatre and cabaret veterans come together for an evening of inspired song.  Birdland(212) 581-3080.

- Dec. 3 – 6. (Thurs. – Sun.)  The Chano Dominguez Flamenco Quartet perform “The Flamenco Side of Kind of Blue – a fascinating musical concept that will be the final concert series of the Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival,  The Jazz Standardhttp://www.jazzstandard.net (212) 447-7733.

- Dec. 4 – 6. (Fri. – Sun.)  Madeleine Peyroux“Remembering Lady Day: 50 Years.” Given the Holiday qualities that are such a distinct part of the Peyroux style, this should be among the more intriguing live performances of recent memory.  Blue Note.  The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

Sonny Rollins

- Dec. 6. (Sun.)  Sonny Rollins.  The icon of the tenor saxophone appears in a benefit Concert for Pete Seeger’s Clearwater.  He’s backed by his regular ensemble: Clifton Anderson, trombone; Bobby Broom, guitar; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Kobie Watkins, drums and Victor See-Yuen, percussion. Tarrytown Music Hall or call 877-840-0457.

- Dec. 6. (Sun.)  Alessandra Belloni“The Voyage of the Black Madonna,” written and directed by Belloni, with music composed and arranged by John La Barbera.  The work features healing chants, ritual drumming and dances from Southern Italy performed by Alessandra Belloni with La Barbera playing guitars, mandolin, and Susan Eberenz playing flute, piccolo and recorders.  St. Mary’s Church, 521 W. 126 St. (212) 864-4013.


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