July 21, 2024


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Excellence assumes many forms, for the 2020 Grammy nominees in Jazz and Blues: Photos, Videos

Christian McBride, Esperanza Spalding and Branford Marsalis are among the jazz and blues artists in the running for the 62nd Grammy Awards. 

This year’s nominees reflect a range of personalities and styles, within a mainstream purview. McBride, the bassist and bandleader also known as host of Jazz Night in America, has the most nominations, with three. His tune “Walkin’ Funny” is up for Best Instrumental Composition, and he got a nod for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, for a bass solo on Wayne Shorter’s “Sightseeing.”

Those tracks come from Christian McBride’s New Jawn, which can also be found in the category for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. The other nominees in that category are Marsalis (The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul), organist Joey DeFrancesco (In the Key of the Universe), pianist Brad Mehldau (Finding Gabriel) and saxophonist Joshua Redman (Come What May).

Spalding is up for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals, for “Thoracic Spine” off 12 Little Spells. She can also be found in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category, alongside esteemed veterans Catherine Russell and Tierney Sutton and ascendant newer arrivals Sara Gazarek and Jazzmeia Horn.

A similar intergenerational quality presides in the other categories. The nominees for Best Improvised Jazz Solo include McBride, who is 47; Marsalis, 59; and trumpeter Randy Brecker, 73. But also in that category are tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana and guitarist Julian Lage, who are both in their early 30s, and released their debut albums roughly a decade ago.

Likewise, the nominees for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album include Mike Holober & The Gotham Jazz Orchestra, for Hiding Out, and the Brian Lynch Big Band, for The Omni-American Book Club — two groups led by seasoned hands. Their fellow nominees include three newer arrivals: Miho Hazama, for Dancer in Nowhere; Terraza Big Band, for One Day Wonder; and the Anat Cohen Tentet, for Triple Helix.

Pianist and NEA Jazz Master Chick Corea, a Grammy favorite with 22 past wins, has a nomination in the Best Latin Jazz Album category, for Antidote, featuring his Spanish Heart Band. Among the other contenders in that category are Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, for Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera; Puerto Rican tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, for Carib; Brazilian singer Thalma de Freitas for Sorte! Music by John Finbery; and the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis & Rubén Blades, for Un Noche con Rubén Blades.

Wynton Marsalis also has a nomination in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category, for his “Violin Concerto in D Major,” featuring Nicola Benedetti, Cristian Măcelaru and the Philadelphia Orchestra. As usual, jazz artists are well represented elsewhere outside their designated field — especially in the composing and arranging categories, which include not only Spalding and McBride but also pianists Fred Hersch, Geoff Keezer and Kris Bowers.

And the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album category has become a familiar harbor for format-stretching jazz musicians. The nominees this year include Ancestral Recall, by trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah; Star People Nation, by trumpeter Theo Croker; and Beat Music! Beat Music! Beat Music! by drummer Mark Guiliana. (Their competition: the jam-band Lettuce and Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela.)

In the Blues categories, seasoned elders like Bobby Rush share nominee honors with the ascendant new artist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. (Both of those artists recently paid a visit to Blues Break with Michael Bourne.) Rush and Ingram are nominated in Best Traditional Blues Album, alongside Delbert McClinton, Jontavious Willis and Jimmie Vaughan.

Christian McBride and Esperanza Spalding in New York on Dec. 4, 2017.

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