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?

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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.

 

Jazz at the Grammys; and props to Lifetime Achievement winner Clark Terry

The Grammy Awards — particularly as demonstrated by its biggest categories — remains the music industry’s overblown high-school prom, a chance for the year’s most popular and/or most attractive rock, dance, hip-hop and country artists to toast each other’s success on the charts and in the media spotlight.

Last night’s ceremony, in that respect, was mostly the same: Does anyone believe that, 20 years from now, anyone will be singing the songs of, or caring much about the likes of Lady Gaga, who opened with a two-piano extravaganza with Sir Elton John (his earliest songs have become classics), or Pink, who did a skin-baring Cirque du Soleil-style act?

Jazz, as usual, got short shrift (yes, there was Herbie Hancock’s big win last year, but that was a fluke).

Lifetime achievement winner Clark Terry (right), the great and gracious trumpeter, and good-humored “mumble”/scat singer, got onstage recognition from director Quentin Tarantino (huh?) and the camera caught Terry, 89, in the audience. Then it was on to a really annoying, profanity-laced performance by Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, Drake and drummer Travis  Barker. No, thanks.

Best musical moment: Jeff Beck‘s performance of “How High the Moon,” with singer Imelda May, in a too-short salute to Les Paul, introduced by actor Jeff Bridges (huh?) Beck played a sunburst Les Paul guitar for the occasion.

This year’s jazz nominees, for the most part, were musically solid. Several of the recordings that appeared on my Top 10 list — discs by singer Roberta Gambarini, pianist Allen Toussaint, and bassist John Patitucci — grabbed nominations, but not wins.

Nice to see New Orleans artists take home trophies in two categories — trumpeter Terence Blanchard for best improvised jazz solo, and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield‘s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra for best large jazz ensemble album — although it’s a bit of a shock that the latter category didn’t include nominations for first-rate recordings by Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge, and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra.

The Jazz Surge’s CD, The Comet’s Tail: Performing the Compositions of Michael Brecker, did get attention in the category of best instrumental arrangement. Talented veteran arranger Bill Cunliffe won, for “West Side Story Medley” from the Resonance Big Band’s tribute to Oscar Peterson. Note: Mendoza was nominated twice in this category, so that may have hurt his chances for a win.

And it ought to be noted that neither acclaimed pianist Vijay Iyer, nor his trio’s Historicity, which topped this year’s Village Voice Jazz Critic Poll (I voted), were to be found among the nominees. UPDATE: Vijay let me know that Historicity “was released two weeks too late to qualify for the awards.” Here’s hoping that NARAS will honor the CD next year.

Kurt Elling won in the jazz vocal category for another impressive recording, but I wonder if the superb discs by Robert Gambarini (my pick for ’09’s best jazz vocal CD) and Tierney Sutton resulted in a vote split leading to the Elling win.

It was satisfying to see several veterans pick up wins, including late Weather Report keyboardist Joe Zawinul, for the final CD from his Zawinul Syndicate band, and pianist Chick Corea and guitarist John McLaughlin, for a live recording from their Five Peace Band.

Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark, picked up another Album Notes Grammy, his eighth, for his contributions to The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946).

Finally, how many father-and-son recordings have won Grammy awards? In the Latin jazz category, the great Cuban-born pianist Bebo Valdes and his son, pianist Chucho Valdes, won for Juntos Para Siempre.

The jazz winners and nominees….

Best Contemporary Jazz Album

*Winner: 75 Joe Zawinul & The Zawinul Syndicate

[Heads Up International]

Urbanus Stefon Harris & Blackout [Concord Jazz]

Sounding Point Julian Lage [Emarcy/Decca]

At World’s Edge Philippe Saisse [E1 Music]

Big Neighborhood Mike Stern [Heads Up International]

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Best Jazz Vocal Album

*Winner: Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music Of Coltrane And Hartman Kurt Elling [Concord Jazz]

No Regrets Randy Crawford (& Joe Sample) [PRA Records]

So In Love Roberta Gambarini [Groovin’ High/Emarcy]

Tide Luciana Souza [Verve]

Desire Tierney Sutton (Band) [Telarc Jazz]

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Best Improvised Jazz Solo

*Winner: Dancin’ 4 Chicken Terence Blanchard, soloist Track from: Watts (Jeff “Tain” Watts) [Dark Key Music]

All Of You Gerald Clayton, soloist Track from: Two-Shade [ArtistShare]

Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey Roy Hargrove, soloist Track from: Emergence [Groovin’ High/Emarcy]

On Green Dolphin Street Martial Solal, soloist Track from: Live At The Village Vanguard [CamJazz]

Villa Palmeras Miguel Zenón, soloist Track from: Esta Plena [Marsalis Music]

———-

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group

*Winner: Five Peace Band – Live Chick Corea & John McLaughlin Five Peace Band [Concord Records]

Quartet Live Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow & Antonio Sanchez [Concord Jazz]

Brother To Brother Clayton Brothers [ArtistShare]

Remembrance John Patitucci Trio [Concord Jazz]

The Bright Mississippi Allen Toussaint [Nonesuch]

———-

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

*Winner: Book One New Orleans Jazz Orchestra [World Village]

Legendary Bob Florence Limited Edition [MAMA Records]

Eternal Interlude John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble [Sunnyside]

Fun Time Sammy Nestico And The SWR Big Band [Hänssler Classic]

Lab 2009 University Of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band [North Texas Jazz]

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Best Latin Jazz Album

*Winner: Juntos Para Siempre Bebo Valdés And Chucho Valdés [Sony Music/Calle 54]

Things I Wanted To Do Chembo Corniel [Chemboro Records]

Áurea Geoffrey Keezer [ArtistShare]

Brazilliance X 4 Claudio Roditi [Resonance Records]

Esta Plena Miguel Zenón [Marsalis Music]