Sonic Inventions Soar in Nazareno Caputo’s New CD “Phylum”

The value of space between notes that are placed perfectly into a fascinating tonal tapestry is the strength of the new album “Phylum” by vibist Nazareno Caputo. The track “Dulce” is so much like skipping stones with unexpected harmonies and shifting rhythms, and the interplay between vibes and percussion is pure play. Soft, gradual, mysterious… Continue Reading →

The value of space between notes that are placed perfectly into a fascinating tonal tapestry is the strength of the new album “Phylum” by vibist Nazareno Caputo. The track “Dulce” is so much like skipping stones with unexpected harmonies and shifting rhythms, and the interplay between vibes and percussion is pure play. Soft, gradual, mysterious “Adi” is brought to life by the bass in its stunningly clarity and simplicity; setting the tone, establishing the motion. Caputo shows his dreamy side in “Postludio” which is filled with slivers of melody and time for thought and contemplation, in sharp contrast to the way things progress in the energetic and inventive (he plays his vibraphone bars with a bow) “Abside.”

Personnel:

Nazareno Caputo – vibraphone, percussions, composition
Ferdinando Romano – bass
Mattia Galeotti – drums

Why did you first take up the vibes?

The discovery of the vibraphone was somewhat accidental. Like many vibraphonists, I took my first steps in music thanks to the drums. Until I was 14 years old, I didn’t even know what a vibraphone was!

Once I started my studies at the conservatory in classical percussion, I also started to play the piano and shortly after the vibraphone. It was love at first sight with the vibraphone. It was the instrument that allowed me to combine my percussive instincts with my desire to learn and enjoy harmony.

Do you remember the first time you heard the instrument, and the first time you heard jazz?

The first time I heard the vibraphone was at the conservatory. My first teacher specialized in vibraphone, so I listened to him playing it. I was enraptured by its sound, so sweet and soft and at the same time crystal clear and pure. A timbre that has always seemed abstract and ethereal to me.


However, I did not have a vibraphone at home. The classical studies at my school, during the first years, were dedicated mainly to the snare drum and orchestral percussion, but I gradually lost interest in them.

The discovery of jazz happened while I discovered the vibraphone. By chance, I had heard Chet Baker at a friend’s house and he intrigued me. One day I went to my local record shop, whose owner was a drummer and family friend, to buy my first jazz record. I had independently searched for something on the internet and came across Chick Corea. That hit me a lot. But I didn’t have a clear idea of the different jazz styles and what would interest me most. I asked the shop owner for advice and he suggested Mehldau’s latest release, “House on the Hill.”

I was literally shocked to hear it. That peculiar music, that I could hardly understand, had an incredible attraction for me. From that moment on, jazz listening began to juxtapose with classical music in an important way.

What was the hardest aspect of learning vibes?

The most difficult phase was to start playing with the four sticks. Especially at the beginning, having two sticks in each hand is not very comfortable!

Talk about why jazz is so rewarding for you.

When I met jazz, I immediately felt the freedom that this music brings. I have a classical background that has left me many things. I have always felt that the academic classical approach is a limitation for my personal artistic research.

The jazz experience best embodies a ‘collective’ experience in which the individual finds his personal expressive dimension within a shared language, which draws its strength and legitimacy from tradition. Innovation, in turn, does not spring from a ‘genius’ stunt but from the union of many small contributions from individual artists.

How did you come to perform in TOTEM?

When TOTEM was born, I had just moved back to Florence after a few months in Vienna.
When I came back, I had the opportunity to perform with TOTEM, which was then a quintet group, and was playing some rehearsal concerts. For one of these concerts the pianist couldn’t go and Ferdinando called me to replace him to try out a new sound. The concert was beautiful! From that moment on, Romano decided to make the group bigger, including my vibraphone and I.

What inspired your new work, PHYLUM and why is it named that?

PHYLUM takes inspiration from various things.

The PHYLUM project is a musical research focused on the structural, timbric and melodic elements of music.

My musical experiences in the field of jazz and contemporary music were fundamental to the birth of this record. My studies in architecture (I have a degree in it) also played an important role in the form and structure of the compositions on the record.

But the inspiration for the project comes from botany and zoology. In fact, the word “phylum” is used in zoology and botany to refer to a precise taxonomic group. Organisms belonging to a certain phylum share the same structural plan but their morphological development doesn’t necessarily lead them in the same directions. The music of the Trio sets up from the development of a musical structure and then elaborates its own idea following different and complementary paths.

How long did it take to write, arrange and produce this album?

The project started about three years ago. We started working on the first compositions and, playing together, I better understood the ultimate meaning of the music we were playing. After a year of work, the repertoire was ready and only the last details of arrangement were missing. We had planned to record in spring 2020…but we all know what happened.
So we postponed the recording till June of the same year. To record right after the end of the lockdown was very special and exciting.

Your favorite track?

It’s hard to choose a favorite one among your own compositions. If I had to choose, I would say “Adam R.” because playing it is always a great challenge. It has a very particular structure, which tries to retrace the story of this very particular character (I invite readers to look for Adam Rainer’s story) and I always feel a particular thrill when I reach the end of this piece.

The most rewarding part of producing this album?

The best moment was being in the recording studio. Recording and hearing the result of our work was exciting.

How would you characterize your particular sound on vibes?

I like my instrument to sound as pure and crystal clear as possible. The vibraphone has a clear timbre, which is spontaneously associated with an ‘abstract’ instrument (at least, I feel it that way). So I try to enhance this quality, searching for an essential, conceptual sound. For these reasons, to ensure this idea of sound, I very rarely use the vibrato effect given by the vibraphone motor (never on the record).

Your mentors/idols?

Many musicians have had a great influence on me. Certainly, my teacher Andrea Dulbecco was important for me, as he’s also a reference vibraphonist in Italy and throughout Europe. Other vibraphonists are some great masters with whom I have only attended masterclasses, but I consider them exceptional musicians: David Friedman and Mike Mainieri. Among non-vibraphonists I would mention at least some pianists such as Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau and Craig Taborn.

Where are you based, and are gigs opening up?

I live in Florence, a touristic city that really suffered the lockdown. Fortunately, the influx of tourists is picking up again, and with it, the city is coming back to life and slowly, the cultural life too.

Do you have scheduled performances?

We were recently lucky enough to present our album at a beautiful festival near Florence (MetJazz in Prato) and more concerts are coming in autumn. We hope this is just the beginning!

What did you do during the lockdown? What was one thing you learned?

I was lucky enough to experience the lockdown in nature, as I lived in a house in the countryside. I have had further confirmation of how essential it is for me to regain a healthy connection and relationship with nature. I am increasingly convinced that this is the determining challenge of our time for humanity.

What do you hope audiences get from your new music?

The moment you choose to release a record, you make a strong choice.

You hand one of your ‘creatures’ to the community. At the moment of the ‘gift’ this creature becomes everyone’s and stops being yours.

PHYLUM is a sort of act of love towards complexity, towards everything that is hidden, that does not appear immediately, that needs to be discovered, towards everything that is not always easily intelligible, towards what proceeds slowly, towards the anomaly, towards the exception; “the link that doesn’t hold.” Dealing with complexity is one of the most beautiful activities that our mind can do.

For more information visit https://nazarenocaputo.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist. Top photo (c) Gianfilippo Masserano.

© 2021 Debbie Burke

#1 New Release on Amazon and #1 in 3 music categories!

My Favorite Jazz Albums of 2020 – The Complete List

A complete list of CurtJazz’s 30 favorite jazz albums of 2020. Includes a Spotify playlist sampler

In the three previous posts, I’ve listed and discussed my favorite jazz albums of 2020. Bright musical oases, in this otherwise miserable year.

In this post, we bring all 30 of them together, in one place. In each album title is embedded a link to the album’s page on Amazon. In these extraordinarily difficult times, we encourage you to purchase these albums, if there’s something that you like. Streaming is nice but the financial support that it provides to the artists, is laughable. So we provide the Amazon links as a first alternative. However, many of the artists also have their own websites, through which you can purchase the music directly from them. If you are so inclined, I encourage you to go that route. It can provide maximum remuneration for the artists that you love. We will also feature tracks from each of these albums, throughout January 2021, on CurtJazz Radio. Click HERE to listen now.

We’ve also created another Spotify playlist, featuring selections from a dozen of the 30 albums on the list, to give those of you who have not yet visited the prior posts, an opportunity to sample the artistry represented here. I can’t say it enough. Streaming is nice but buying is better.

Here are my 30 for ’20, in alphabetical order, by artist name:

ARTISTTITLELABEL
J.D. AllenToys/Die DreamingSavant
John BeasleyMONKestra Plays BeasleyMack Avenue
Lakecia BenjaminPursuance: The ColtranesRopeadope
Peter BernsteinWhat Comes NextSmoke Sessions
Stanley CowellLive at Keystone Corner BaltimoreSteepleChase
Wayne EscofferyThe Humble WarriorSmoke Sessions
John Fedchock NY SextetInto the ShadowsSummit
Champian FultonBirdsongSelf-Release
Nubya GarciaSourceConcord
Jeff Hamilton TrioCatch Me If You CanCapri
Connie HanIron StarletMack Avenue
Jimmy HeathLove LetterVerve
Eddie HendersonShuffle and DealSmoke Sessions
Theo HillReality CheckPosiTone
Christopher HollydayDialogueSelf-Release
Nduduzo MakhathiniModes of Communication: Letters from the UnderworldBlue Note
Jason MarsalisLiveBasin Street
Christian McBride Big BandFor Jimmy, Wes, and OliverMack Avenue
Ron MilesRainbow SignBlue Note
Farnell NewtonRippin’ and Runnin’PosiTone
Redman, Mehldau, McBride, BladeRoundAgainNonesuch
Eric ReedFor Such a Time as ThisSmoke Sessions
The Royal BopstersParty of FourMotéma
Kandace SpringsThe Women Who Raised MeBlue Note
Alexa TarantinoClarityPosiTone
Gregory TardyIf Time Could Stand StillWJ3
The Brianna Thomas BandEverybody KnowsBreathline
Isaiah J. ThompsonPlays the Music of Buddy MontgomeryWJ3
Kenny WashingtonWhat’s the Hurry?Lower 9th
Bobby WatsonKeepin’ It RealSmoke Sessions

Thank you all, for reading and listening. Here’s to a great 2021. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get back to live music by the time you read my next “Best Of…” list.

My Favorite Jazz Albums of the Year: 30 for ’20 (Part 3 of 3)

In our last set of my favorite jazz albums of 2020, we’ve got a reunion from a group of musicians who made remarkable music a quarter century ago, a very impressive debut album by a promising young pianist and a vocalist who delivers the remarkable album that we’ve been waiting for from them.

In our last set of my favorite jazz albums of 2020, we’ve got a reunion from a group of musicians who made remarkable music a quarter century ago, a very impressive debut album by a promising young pianist and a vocalist who delivers the remarkable album that we’ve been waiting for from them. Let’s take a look.

Once again, the albums are in alphabetical order, by artist name.  We will also try hard again, to adhere to the three-sentence rule. So far, we’ve been mostly unsuccessful.

  • Redman, Mehldau, McBride, Blade: RoundAgain (Nonesuch)
    • Joshua Redman’s 1994 album MoodSwing remains in my top three all time favorite discs by the prolific saxophone master. Redman was but 25 at the time of the album’s release (his third). He was joined by a trio of young (under 25) musicians, who held promise for what they could bring to jazz’s future: Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade, on drums. They dropped one exceptionally fine album and disbanded, all going on to fulfill their promise and become four of the most respected musicians in jazz today.  Twenty-six years later, Redman reunited the group to deliver RoundAgain. Whereas Redman was the star the first time around, they have all returned as equals, each getting co-billing and contributing as composers. Other than that, absolutely nothing has changed. The four are still as swinging, tight and fiery as they were in 1994. Their work is now, as then, exemplary, and highly recommended.
  • Eric Reed: For Such a Time as This (Smoke Sessions)
    • It happens to me every year. I will have carefully selected the music to be included on this list by around the end of November. But there’s always some artist who will release an album, late in the year, that doesn’t reach my ears until December. Invariably, the music will be excellent and cause me to reconsider my “Best ofs”. This year, that artist is my old friend, Eric Reed. His new album, For Such a Time as This, is hands down, his best in over half a decade. This album was recorded in late June of this year, during the pandemic related lockdown, in Los Angeles. Mr. Reed assembled a hand-picked quartet of local musicians, and away they went. With all going on, this year, from COVID-19 to racism and racial injustice, to our fraught political environment, this became a very personal musical statement, for the pianist. I felt that. But I also felt that because it was so personal, his musicianship and those of his bandmates, moved to a higher level. Well done.
  • The Royal Bopsters: Party of Four (Motéma)
    • The most welcome sophomore release of the year for me, turned bittersweet, when I learned that one of the members of this wonderful vocal group, Holli Ross, had succumbed to cancer, between the completion of the album and its release. The album itself, is just as great as their stunning 2015 debut. The group’s harmonies are drum tight and joyous, even on the ballads. Guest spots by Christian McBride, Sheila Jordan, and the late Bob Dorough, enliven the proceedings even more. Ms. Ross, you have left us a beautiful memory, Rest in Peace.
  • Kandace Springs: The Women Who Raised Me (Blue Note)
    • This is the album that I’ve been waiting for from Kandace Springs, since she first grabbed my attention on her compelling but uneven debut album Soul Eyes. Perhaps because on The Women Who Raised Me, which is a tribute to the vocalists who influenced her, she finally has an album’s worth of material worthy of her stunning talent. Her honest, soul drenched voice, has never sounded better. With guest appearances by Norah Jones, David Sanborn, Chris Potter, Christian McBride and others, this album has placed her in the upper echelon of young soul-jazz vocalists.
  • Alexa Tarantino: Clarity (PosiTone)
    • Another on the growingly impressive list of jazz artists, under 30, who a creating a bright future for jazz, Alexa Tarantino is a multi-reed player, who demonstrates stunning proficiency on flutes, and soprano and alto saxophones, on this, her second album. Ms. Tarantino also wrote four of the nine selections, including two of the best performances, “Through”, which features her on flute and “A Race Against Yourself”, on which Tarantino delivers a blistering turn on alto sax. Two albums, in two years, each better than the last. I’m looking forward to hearing what next year will bring.
  • Gregory Tardy: If Time Could Stand Still (WJ3)
    • I’ve been an admirer of this big-toned tenor, ever since his impressive debut for Impulse! Records, 22 years ago. On this date, his first for Willie Jones III’s fine WJ3 label, he wraps that tone around seven originals and one standard. Mr. Tardy is an intelligent soloist and an excellent composer. His name should be far better known than it is. If Time Could Stand Still, is another winner in his catalog, a fine straight-ahead date with excellent solos from Tardy, guest star Alex Norris on trumpet and pianist Keith Brown, son of the piano master, Donald Brown. Keith is new to me and very impressive. I look forward to hearing more from him, in the future.
  • The Brianna Thomas Band: Everybody Knows (Breathline)
    • Oh my! I had no idea that Ms. Brianna Thomas existed until a few tracks from this album appeared in my new release file, a few months ago. Her voice is a marvel. It’s a blend of soul, blues, jazz, and world-weary heartbreak, that gives her a sound like no one else working today. Ms. Thomas delivers a cooking set, that straddles the line between blues and jazz, doing both idioms proud. Any vocalist who can pull off “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie”, “Mississippi Goddam” and the slightly raunchy “My Stove’s in Good Condition”, with equal aplomb, on the same album, is my kind of singer. Nice to meet you, Brianna Thomas. Let’s do this again, soon.
  • Isaiah J. Thompson: Plays the Music of Buddy Montgomery (WJ3)
    • I first heard the young, brilliant pianist, Isaiah J. Thompson, on Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s release A Handful of Keys, which featured several pianists of various ages and experience levels. Though Mr. Thompson was the youngest of the group, he managed to stand out among his seasoned colleagues. On his full album debut as a leader, he tackles the music of the youngest of the Montgomery Brothers, pianist Buddy. Mr. Montgomery wrote some fine and so far, under-recorded tunes, which makes this album quite appropriate. It’s also quite good. Mr. Thompson has impeccable taste as a soloist. He avoids the unnecessary runs and flourishes that plague many keyboardists of his age. This album is an outstanding start for an artist who has a very bright future.
  • Kenny Washington: What’s the Hurry? (Lower 9th)
    • This is the New Orleans native’s debut album, as a leader, at the tender age of 63 (thus the tongue-in-cheek title). He has often been confused with the popular jazz drummer of the same name (they are no relation) and during his 35-year career, Mr. Washington has often been shy about promoting himself and his considerable talents. Like the man himself, this album is not going to get in your face. It is low key, it swings, and it will insidiously wrap itself around your brain. Washington’s intonation and phrasing are excellent, and he has a marvelous way with the standards that make up most of the selections on the album. An excellent debut. Let’s hope a follow-up is forthcoming, soon.
  • Bobby Watson: Keepin’ It Real (Smoke Sessions)
    • Bobby Watson, who has had a long and storied career, as a musician, bandleader, and educator, has been on a hot streak of late, especially from a recorded perspective. The superb Keepin’ It Real, is the third critically acclaimed Smoke Sessions release that Mr. Watson has been a part of, in the last three years. Here, he just continues to do what he has been doing so well, since his days as musical director of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and then with his own group, Horizon; create catchy and memorable hard bop arrangements and infuse them with his inimitable sound and swing on alto sax. Now that he has retired from the education field, Mr. Watson has spoken of having more time for touring and recording. If he keeps producing music of this quality, the jazz world will be incredibly pleased. [Bobby Watson joined me, to discuss this album and his career, on Conversations with Curtis. Click HERE to view that interview, on You Tube].

A reminder, if you are interested in purchasing any of the music that we’ve discussed in these posts, clicking on the album title, will take you to the album’s page on Amazon.com. There is also a Spotify playlist below, which includes a track from each of the albums discussed here, for you to sample. And we’ll be featuring many of these albums throughout January 2021 on CurtJazz Radio. But please don’t just stream. During these tough times, these musicians can use your support more than ever, so if you like it, buy it.

Our next post will be a summary listing of all 30 albums, in our 30 for ’20 list. It will be up on the site, tomorrow.

 Thoughts and opinions are welcome, as always, in the comments.

2019 Jazz Grammys Overview: Best Jazz Instrumental Album

CurtJazz gives his take on the 2019 Best Jazz Instrumental Album nominees; along with a few disappointing snubs and unscientific predictions

BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM

In the second of the two biggest jazz categories, we have a race between a great saxophonist who is finally earning a little recognition; two of the finest pianists working today; a respected veteran who is still getting it done and a true legend, admired and respected by all.

The nominees are:

DIAMOND CUT
Tia Fuller

The crackle from the moment her alto enters…twenty seconds into the first tune (“In the Trenches”), I had that feeling that this album was going to be a great one. Ms. Tia Fuller has been on the scene for over a decade. She has paid the bills for a while, working with Beyonce’s road band, but whenever she steps into the studio under her own name, she is an unapologetic jazz player. She hadn’t released a project in six years, prior to Diamond Cut. She has been missed. This project is different in many ways, from her previous four albums; for one thing, it is produced by the amazing Terri Lyne Carrington. For another, there’s no piano. Guitarist Adam Rogers handles the chordal duties. And, there are two different bass/drum duos, splitting the work; James Genus and Bill Stewart are one set and the other two, you may have heard of: Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. As for Ms. Fuller’s sound, clearly, the Berklee professor was ready to take everyone to school. She masters what she needs to be in that moment; she is at turns, gritty, soulful and even a bit on the outside. Diamond Cut is a very strong album and Ms. Fuller deserves her first Grammy nomination for it. However, this category also features someone who has been making great music since before Tia was born. Most likely, it will be his night.


LIVE IN EUROPE
Fred Hersch Trio

This Fred Hersch album has been nominated for two Grammys. The odds of Hersch winning either are fairly long, despite the fact that it is another excellent disc, from one of the finest pianists of our time. What is the problem? Part of it may be timing; Mr. Hersch seems to often run up against a hot project that has caught the attention of the jazz public and media. When this happens, other master musicians, like Hersch, get lost in the noise. Another issue may be his steady excellence. Hersch is not flashy. Even though he wrote an interesting and well received autobiography in 2017, and he has had some fascinating life issues over the past few years, he still generally, flies under the radar. Fred Hersch is so uniformly good, that he is taken for granted. He has been nominated for 14 Grammys. Hopefully, the voters will wise up soon. This year, I don’t think it will be in this category.


SEYMOUR READS THE CONSTITUTION!
Brad Mehldau Trio

The story behind this album’s title, is as interesting as it should be. Apparently, Mr. Mehldau has a dream, in which the late, Oscar winning actor, Seymour Phillip Hoffman, was reading the U.S. Constitution. The tune that Mehldau heard, accompanying Hoffman’s voice, became the inspiration for the title track. Despite the odd title, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is the most accessible album that I’ve heard from Brad Mehldau, in quite a while. The trio swings hard through a collection of originals, standards, minor jazz classics and Beach Boys tunes (yes, you heard right), with gusto and without condescension. Like Hersch, Mehldau is double nominated for this album (his 9th, without a win, so far). It’s fine work but he’s likely to run into a “Shorter” wall here. In the Best Instrumental Solo category, however, he’s got a good shot.


STILL DREAMING
Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade

I can’t believe that the saxophone wunderkind of the 90’s, Joshua Redman, has just turned 50. I can believe that he is still evolving and getting stronger at his craft, more than 25 years after he first floored us jazzheads with his debut album. Though he is the son of a famed avant-gardist, his early years were deeply in the tradition (as I’m sure Warner Bros. wanted it). On this latest album, which garnered his seventh nomination, he pays tribute to his dad, Dewey, and Old and New Dreams, a group that Dewey played in, from the mid 70’s through the mid 80’s. That group, which also included legends Charlie Haden and Don Cherry, itself paid homage to their mentor, the patron saint of avant-garde jazz, Ornette Coleman. Still Dreaming is excellent, start to finish – terrific compositions and it stretches the boundaries of form, without completely breaking them. It is similar to Christian McBride’s New Jawn album, also from last year. I confess that I only gave this album a passing listen upon its release, but now that I’ve returned to it, I truly dig it, a lot. Perhaps it should have been on my Best of 2018 list. However, we are talking Grammy here, folks. Redman has never won one. He is a respected veteran and his star has stretched outside of the insular jazz world at times, over the past quarter century. But, due to the presence of our next nominee, I’m afraid that his wait is likely to extend beyond this weekend.


EMANON
The Wayne Shorter Quartet

Wayne Shorter is a true musical legend. He one of the greatest jazz saxophonists and composers of our time. In addition to his work as a leader, he has been an integral part of three of the greatest groups in jazz history. He has created transcendent musical art in every decade since the early 1960s. He has been nominated for a Grammy 21 times and has, so far, won 10, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2015. He is also now 85 years old. So no one would blame Wayne Shorter, if he were to simply sit back, at this point and collect all of the accolades that are due to him, no one would be upset. So what does he do? He creates a symphonic masterpiece and releases it, in an epic three CD (God only knows how many LP) set, that includes a graphic novel. These new and challenging compositions are performed by a symphony orchestra and then live, by his current working quartet! Emanon is a brilliant work of musical art (I confess that I have not yet seen the graphic novel). I hope that Mr. Shorter has more in him and keeps sharing it with us, for at least another 20 years. If, as some have said, this is his final work, then it is a towering valedictory. Will he win this Grammy? Ummm, Yeah.

As for the opinions and unscientific predictions:

Should have been nominated:

Origami Harvest – Ambrose Akinmusire; Both Directions at Once (The Lost Album) – John Coltrane; The Future is Female – Roxy Coss

Who should win: Wayne Shorter

Who will win: Wayne Shorter

I would not be disappointed to see them win: Tia Fuller

2019 Jazz Grammys Overview: Best Improvised Jazz Solo

We take an honest look at each of the nominees for the 2019 Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Grammy. We also predict a winner and list a few tunes that should have been nominated.

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:


SOME OF THAT SUNSHINE
Regina Carter, soloist
Track from: Some Of That Sunshine (Karrin Allyson)

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.

There is no clip of Regina Carter performing “Some of That Sunshine”, but here’s a nice one of Karrin Allyson & her trio, swingin’ it at WBGO


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

Track from the album Live in Europe (Fred Hersch Trio)

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 Europewhich 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.

DE-DAH
Brad Mehldau, soloist
Track from: Seymour Reads The Constitution! (Brad Mehldau Trio)

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.

CADENAS
Miguel Zenón, soloist
Track from: Yo Soy La Tradición (Miguel Zenón Featuring Spektral Quartet)

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