Grammy jazz winners

Pat MethenyDespite complaints from US blogger Patrick Jarenwattananon that the 2011 Grammy jazz nominations didn't have enough "idea-mashing experimentation" (ie, to these ears the recrossing of imagined boundaries already trashed decades ago), the selections show percipience and shrewd judgement of a kind many grown-up readers of this magazine will appreciate.

Unsurprisingly, no jazz album got into the album of the year list, but the jazz nominations featured proven jazz talent, and even, horror, two fusion albums - frequently not the case in the often arcane jazz awards seen lately on this side of the Atlantic.

The prospective (and actual) winners were:

Best Improvised Jazz Solo: Randy Brecker on All Or Nothing At All from the album The Jazz Ballad Song Book; Ron Carter on You Are My Sunshine from This Is Jazz; Chick Corea on 500 Miles High from Forever; Fred Hersch on Work from Alone At The Vanguard; Sonny Rollins on Sonnymoon For Two from Road Shows Vol. 2.

Best Jazz Vocal Album: ’Round Midnight (Karrin Allyson); The Mosaic Project (Terri Lyne Carrington, reviewed JJ December 2011); The Gate (Kurt Elling); American Road (Tierney Sutton); The Music Of Randy Newman (Roseanna Vitro).

Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Bond: The Paris Sessions (Gerald Clayton); Forever (Corea, Clarke & White, reviewed JJ August 2011); Alone At The Vanguard (Fred Hersch); Bird Songs (Joe Lovano/Us Five); Road Shows Vol. 2 (Sonny Rollins); Timeline (Yellowjackets).

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: The Jazz Ballad Song Book (Randy Brecker); The Good Feeling (Christian McBride Big Band); 40 Acres And A Burro (Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra); Legacy (Gerald Wilson Orchestra); Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (Miguel Zenón).

Encouragingly, jazz also featured in non-jazz categories. Best Instrumental Composition nominees included John Hollenbeck, Randy Brecker, Russ Ferrante and even occasional bebop banjoist Béla Fleck, who, together with Howard Levy, won that category for Life In Eleven from the album Rocket Science (eOne Music).

Best Instrumental Arrangement nominees included two late greats in Clare Fischer and Bob Brookmeyer but also Gordon Goodwin, who won the category for his arrangement of Rhapsody In Blue from That's How We Roll (Telarc, reviewed JJ July 2011).

Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) nominees included Vince Mendoza.

Pat Metheny (pictured by Tim Dickeson) did not appear in the jazz lists but his What's It All About (reviewed JJ July 2011) won the Best New Age Album category. This might seem hard on the great, influential jazz guitarist but it's a sound reflection on what is essentially a collection of countryish, jazz-free readings of pop tunes (rather like the new John Lennon rock-out from Bill Frisell - "most innovative and influential jazz guitarist of the past 25 years" for the Wall Street Journal).

Alison Krauss, billed on several jazz fests in 2011, sensibly appeared under Best Bluegrass Album. Likewise, despite hopeful programming at some jazz fests, Femi Kuti and Ladysmith Black appeared under World Music.

Seems these Americans - some, anyway - know a thing or two about jazz.

Mark Gilbert

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