Grammys to Jazz: No Prime Time for You!

Despite my best intentions, I tuned in tonight to the Grammys, the music industry’s annual orgy of self-love, er, popularity contest.

Jazz and blues artists and awards were all but banned from the broadcast portion of this year’s awards.

Unless it happened when I momentarily left the room, there were no on-air mentions of Grammys in those categories. And the only musicians onstage representing those genres were pianist and New Orleans native Jon Batiste (of “The Late Show”) and Austin guitar slinger Gary Clark Jr., who, accompanied by a drummer, joined forces for a quick salute to two recent fallen icons — Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.

So … let’s honor them here:

  • Best Improvised Jazz Solo: “Miles Beyond” — John McLaughlin, soloist
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: “Dreams and Daggers” — Cécile McLorin Salvant
  • Best Jazz Instrumental Album: “Rebirth” — Billy Childs
  • Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: “Bringin’ It” — Christian McBride Big Band
  • Best Latin Jazz Album: “Jazz Tango” — Pablo Ziegler Trio
  • Best Instrumental Composition: “Three Revolutions” — Arturo O’Farrill, composer (Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdés)
  • Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: “Prototype” — Jeff Lorber Fusion

And jazz people won in a couple other categories:

  • Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90” — Various Artists; Dae Bennett, producer
  • Best Surround Sound Album: “Early Americans” — Jane Bunnett                                   

Loved hearing Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris pay tribute to the late Tom Petty with an acoustic performance of his “Wildflowers.”

Glad, too, to see Grammys go to:

  • Best American Roots Song: “If We Were Vampires” — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
  • Best Americana Album: “The Nashville Sound” — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
  • Best Contemporary Blues Album: “TajMo” — Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’

“Most of the (jazz and blues) awards were distributed during the Grammy Premiere Ceremony, which streamed live at grammy.com., ” as Nate Chinen points out in his column for WBGO.org. “One clear highlight of that ceremony was a performance by Jazzmeia Horn, who was in the running for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her self-assured debut, A Social Call.”

So, gee, thanks, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, for all but entirely squeezing jazz and blues musicians out of your broadcast, in favor of a variety of assorted musical nonsense. How’d ‘ya like U2’s lip-syncing?

**********

In other news, Tampa’s own Chuck Owen, a pianist, composer, and longtime USF jazz prof, and his Jazz Surge received FOUR Grammy nominations for the band’s critically acclaimed “Whispers on the Wind” album: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Best Instrumental Composition (“Warped Cowboy”), Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella (“All Hat, No Saddle”) and Best Improvised Jazz Solo, for violinist Sara Caswell.

Unfortunately, Owen lost to (good) artists with higher profiles and much greater name recognition (remember that part about “popularity contest”?)

Still, how many artists — of any genre? — received 4 Grammy noms this year? Owen achieved quite a feat.

 

Vijay Iyer Tops 2017 NPR Jazz Critics Poll

Congrats to pianist-composer Vijay Iyer, who again tops the NPR Jazz Critics Poll, a carryover from the old Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll. The Vijay Iyer Sextet’s “Far From Over” is named best new album, followed in that category by releases from alto saxophonist Steve Coleman, drummer Tyshawn Sorey, pianist Craig Taborn and flutist Nicole Mitchell.

I was honored to again be among the 137 jazz writers around the globe asked to participate. Only one of my Top 10 picks, Taborn’s “Daylight Ghosts” (ECM) made it into the poll’s final 10, and another, the debut from supergroup Hudson (Jack DeJohnette/John Scofield/John Medeski/Larry Grenadier) made the final 20.

I agree with the consensus on Cecile McLorin Salvant‘s “Dreams and Daggers” (Mack Avenue) for best vocal album, and my 3 picks for reissues/ historical, by Jaco Pastorius, Wes Montgomery/Wynton Kelly Trio, and Monk, are in the final Top 5 in that category in the poll.

Also in the poll:

  • Jaimie Branch‘s “Fly or Die” (International Anthem) is named best debut album; my pick — Nate Smith, “Kinfolk: Postcards from Everywhere” (Ropeadope)
  • Miguel Zenon‘s “Tipico” (Miel) is named best Latin album; my pick — Antonio Adolfo‘s “Hybrido — From Rio to Wayne Shorter” (AAM Music)

“Musicians of an intellectual bent dominated this year’s Top 10, and connections among them abound,” poll organizer and esteemed jazz critic Francis Davis writes in his overview of the poll. Read that piece, and his accompanying article “The Jazz Albums of 2017 and the Power of Gatekeepers,” and make some new musical discoveries.

Want to see ALL the results from the poll, with complete ballots from all the critics, including mine? Click here

Later, I’ll post my full Top 10 list here, along with some thoughts on those releases.

 

Heavy Hitters Headed to Montreal Jazz Festival

The high-caliber talent, gorgeous concert venues, relaxed outdoor shows, and cosmopolitan setting conspire to make the Montreal International Jazz Festival one of the world’s best events of its kind (I attended the festival in 2012, after a long absence).

So, then, no surprise here: An onslaught of high-end artists are on tap for this summer’s 35th annual edition of the fest, June 26 to July 6.

Jazzers and others headed to Montreal:

  • Newport Festival “Now 60” Band (right): Randy Brecker, Anat Cohen, Larry Grenadier, Karrin Allyson, Mark Whitfield, Clarence Penn, Peter Martin — June 26now 60 band
  • Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band with Tom Kennedy and Steve Smith — June 27
  • Cecile McLorin Salvant (winner of the Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal Competition in 2010)– June 27
  • Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite — June 28
  • Stacey Kent — June 28
  • Brad Mehldau, solo — July 1
  • Marcus Miller — July 1
  • Kenny Garrett Quintet with Vernell Brown, Corcoran Holt, Rudy Bird, and McClenty Hunter — July 1
  • The Chieftains with Ry Cooder — July 2