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Familiar names dot Grammy jazz categories

January 31, 2010 |  9:20 pm

The late keyboardist Joe Zawinul takes the contemporary prize, with Chick Corea and John McLaughlin getting the instrumental award. But singer Kurt Elling wins his first Grammy.

In a year when the nominees in jazz featured a welcome number of young and under-recognized artists, Grammy voters couldn't resist the pull of familiar names when it came time to choose a winner.

The late Joe Zawinul, keyboardist for the fusion supergroup Weather Report and Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way," took honors in contemporary jazz for the posthumously released double-live album, "75." The album topped recordings by twentysomething guitarist Julian Lage and vibraphonist Stefon Harris, who experimented with hip-hop on his album "Urbanus."

In a bit of an upset, more of Davis' former sidemen were also honored for jazz instrumental as Chick Corea and John McLaughlin's concert recording, "Five Peace Band Live," beat out Allen Toussaint's warm celebration of New Orleans' jazz heritage, "The Bright Mississippi."

However, the Crescent City was honored in large ensemble with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra's "Book One," a tradition-rich recording that beat out composer John Hollenbeck, whose ambitious album "Eternal Interlude" would have been a more adventurous choice.

But perhaps jazz vocalist Kurt Elling offered the best solace for Hollenbeck and all the other nominees who lost out on Grammy night.

Elling won his first Grammy this year for "Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman," a live album that reinterpreted John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman's classic 1963 recording.

Finally breaking through after nine nominations during his career, Elling expressed relief but provided perspective in explaining that such recognition has never been the ultimate goal.

"You don't want to make records so you can win a Grammy," Elling said. "You make records because you want to be a musician."

-- Chris Barton

Photo: Grammy winners Chick Corea, left, and Kenny Garrett from the Five Peace Band. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.