We’re about a week out from the 2019 Grammys, which will be held on Sunday February 10. As is now customary, the jazz awards will be presented during the Premiere Ceremony, which is streamed live before the televised show.
As is also now relatively customary, I like to take a look at each of the jazz category nominees and make my comments and totally unscientific (but usually accurate) predictions.
Lets start with the category that is closest to Record of the Year, for jazz. “Best Improvised Jazz Solo”
The nominees are:
First off, the fact that the album that this track comes from, Karrin Allyson’s Some of That Sunshine, is not nominated for the Jazz Vocal Album Grammy, is a crime, in itself. Nevertheless, I’m happy to see it get some recognition, through violinist Regina Carter, doing her usual impeccable work in a solo as a guest on the easily swinging title track. First with a joyous pizzicato, followed by bowing, and then trading fours with a scatting Ms. Allyson in the fade-out, Ms. Carter’s work is the cherry on top a beautiful musical sundae. Due to the lack of name recognition and the fact that this is an indie production, it is not likely to take home the trophy but I would not be at all disappointed if it did.
DON’T FENCE ME IN
John Daversa, soloist
Track from: American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom (John Daversa Big Band Featuring DACA Artists)
I love the concept of this album, on which trumpeter John Daversa’s Big Band is comprised mostly of “Dreamers” young people who came to the United States as children under DACA, and now face potential deportation as adults due the current political nonsense. That said, I don’t love this track, nor am I fond of Mr. Daversa’s performance on it. I get why this old Gene Autry tune was re-purposed for this particular album (the irony is quite rich) but the arrangement is messy and unfocused. I think this track arrived in this category on the coattails of the album, American Dreamers, which is also nominated for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy. While I wish them the best, I think that there are far more deserving nominees.
WE SEE: Fred Hersch – Soloist
Fred Hersch, is one of our generation’s finest jazz pianists. Because of this, he has earned 14 Grammy nominations, over the course of his career. Fred Hersch also happens to during a time in which cats named Corea, Hancock and Shorter, among others, are still actively working and recording. As much as we hate to admit it, in the Grammy world, your chances of winning are directly proportional to your name recognition. “We See” is a terrific performance, of the Monk classic tune, off of a very fine Hersch album, Live in Europe, which is also nominated in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category. Without any of those name recognition giants around to suck up the oxygen and with 14 nominations to get his name into the minds of the voters, I’d say that Mr. Hersch has a legitimate shot at winning in this category. The only one potentially in his way, is our next nominee.
Brad Mehldau has been on the jazz scene for over two decades, as a sideman, leader and soloist but like Fred Hersch, he has also been overshadowed by the cats with greater name recognition. Like Hersch, he also has a large number of Grammy nominations (nine), without any hardware to show for it. This nominated track was also written by a great jazz composer, albeit one who has never gotten the recognition he deserved (Elmo Hope), and the album from which the track is pulled, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. So in this tight race, I give the nod to Mehldau. It’s a longer track, which gives Mr. Mehldau more of a chance to stretch out and show his considerable skills. It also swings in an ingratiating manner, which will make it easier on the ears of a potential voter, who may be inexperienced in jazz idioms. I’m not surprised if it goes either way but I expect it to be Brad Mehldau, by a nose.
Another of our double nominees competing in this category Mr. Zenón has been making some incredible music over the last decade, much of it celebrating his Puerto Rican heritage and a rich musical tradition, beyond the popular rhythms of salsa. On the album Yo Soy La Tradición , as well as on this selection, “Cadenas”, Zenón weaves the sound of his alto sax, into, through and around the rich colorings of the Spektral [String] Quartet. This is the most different and musically compelling of the nominated pieces, by far. There is something new to discover on each of the dozen or so times, that I have heard it. The album itself, is nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album, bringing the career total of Mr. Zenón’s nominations to seven. It would be a deserving winner in either category but sadly, I don’t think it will happen.
My unscientific comments and predictions
Should have been nominated (but wasn’t): “Females are Strong as Hell”; Roxy Coss, soloist; Track from The Future is Female; “Untitled Original 11383 (Take 1)”; John Coltrane, soloist; Track from Both Directions at Once [The Lost Album] “DPW”; Kenny Barron, soloist; Track from Concentric Circles
Should Win: Miguel Zenon
Will Win: Brad Mehldau
It would be nice if they did win: Regina Carter/Karrin Allyson