Grammys: Jazz nominees mix fresh faces with familiar reliables
Realistically, an Esperanza Spalding-type surprise just doesn't happen every day. A year removed from jazz barging into the major categories with Spalding's rewarding best new artist win, Grammy voters opted for a return to normalcy with their jazz nominations announced Wednesday.
A longtime treasure on the L.A. jazz scene as an educator and composer, 93-year-old bandleader Gerald Wilson earned a nod in the large ensemble category for his lush album "Legacy," a recording that also featured arrangements by his son, guitarist Anthony Wilson. Going against the seven-time nominee will be Randy Brecker's recording with the Danish Radio Big Band, "The Jazz Ballad Songbook," Christian McBride's big band debut, "The Good Feeling," and Miguel Zenón's "Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook," an ambitious blending of jazz with the sound of Puerto Rico. Zenón joins Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in the large ensemble category as artists who may have been honored in the Latin jazz category in previous years, but are now part of a narrower field since the Grammys' controversial decision to pare down its awards this summer.
Elsewhere, pianist Gerald Clayton was a welcome nod toward the next generation of talent in the instrumental album category, but he'll have a tough time competing against more recognizable names that include the Return to Forever-recalling live album "Forever" by Corea, Clarke & White and Sonny Rollins' "Road Shows Vol. 2," a live set that included performances from the saxophonist's 80th birthday concert that boasted a landmark guest spot by Ornette Coleman. A solo recording by pianist Fred Hersch and Joe Lovano's Us Five recasting the Charlie Parker songbook with "Bird Songs" round out the field.
Rollins, Brecker, Chick Corea and Hersch were also nominated in the improvised solo category, and Kurt Elling earned his 10th Grammy nomination for his album, "The Gate." Also recognized in the vocal category were Tierney Sutton, Karrin Allyson and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, whose sprawling "Mosaic Project" featured contributions from an eclectic roster of female musicians, including Spalding.
The Grammys ceremony will take place Feb. 12 at Staples Center.
[For the Record, Dec. 1: An earlier version of this post misidentified Kurt Elling's Grammy-nominated album as "The Gift." The name of the record is "The Gate."]
-- Chris Barton
Photo: Pianist Gerald Clayton at 19 years old in 2003. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.