I have been involved with the Grammys for 25 years now. As a short-lived executive atA&M Records from 1990–91, I sat on the committee that created the first Grammy Awards category for World Music (thanks to the late Bill Traut for shepherding this through). For this week’s Rhythm Planet show, I thought we’d have some fun and highlight several favorites among this year’s nominees for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards.
So let’s begin with the category of Best Jazz Vocal Album, starting with Gretchen Parlato’s Live in NYC. I’ve been following Gretchen’s work for several years now. The daughter of Los Angeles bassist David Parlato, she switches between both jazz and pop with great vocal dexterity. We’ll listen to her live recording of Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly.” Also competing in this same category is the remarkable Billy Childs with his all-star tribute album, Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro. It’s a gorgeous collection of songs by the late pop vocalist, Laura Nyro, whose spare and personal style won over scores of fans during her short-lived musical career. I chose Becca Stevens, another one of my favorites, singing Nyro’s “The Confession.” Childs’ album has also been nominated in the Best American Roots Performance category for the track, “And When I Die,” performed by Alison Krauss anddobro player Jerry Douglas.
Moving onto the Best Jazz Instrumental Album nominees, we feature a cut titled,“Rich” by The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, a big band named after the famous GreenwichVillage Vanguard club. Their album is called OverTime: The Music of Bob Brookmeyer, featuring the music of the late valve trombonist and arranger. Rich Perry, a guy I’ve always liked, plays a fantastic tenor solo on this particular track.
Next comes the Best Latin Pop Album, for which I absolutely must cast my vote for Raíz, an album by the female triple threat: Lila Downs, Niña Pastori, and Soledad. These three singers hail from from Mexico/US, Spain, and Argentina, respectively. They sing a wonderful version of Cesária Évora’s famous song, “Sodade.”
For Best World Music Album, I’ve chosen a track called “Rachid Ouiguini” by the father-son Malian kora duo, Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté. Their sound is pure, traditional West African silken griot music from their self-titled World Circuit album. We also have two more contenders for the same category: Angélique Kidjo and Trio Teriba perform “Hello,” from the former’s most recent album, Eve. Born in the Republic of Benin and now living in New York, Kidjo is an eloquent spokesperson for African culture, politics, and music. She produced this album, as well as her wonderful autobiography, Spirit Rising: My Life in Music, last year. Then let’s listen to a cut from Our World in Song, featuring percussionist Luis Conte (Cuba), pipa player Wu Man (China), and Daniel Ho (Hawaii) on ukelele. The cross-pollination of their musical DNA shows us once again that music has the power to transcend language and culture.
Shifting gears now to Best Classical Instrumental Solo, it’s a no-brainer for me. My vote goes to one of the most talented acoustic guitarists, Jason Vieaux, for his riveting performance on Play. I’ve featured his album a number of times on Rhythm Planet. With his broad repertoire, he nails everything from standards like Fráncisco Tarrega’s classic “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” (“Memories of the Alhambra”) to Cuban to Brazilian to Stanley Myers’ lovely “Cavatina” from the film, Deer Hunter. To say that I am a huge fan would be an understatement.
We wrap up my picks for this year’s Grammy Awards nominees for 2015 with a composer based in Fairbanks, Alaska, by the name of John Luther Adams. I wrote a post about his Become Ocean earlier this week. This stunning masterpiece has been nominated for three Grammys: Best Contemporary Classical Composition; Best Engineered Album, Classical; and Producer of the Year, Classical (for Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s Director of Audio and Recording Dmitriy Lipay). At 42-minutes, I wasn’t able to feature it on our show, but you should stream the entire thing down below. Believe me, it’s worth it—you’ll want to take your time with this oceanic gem.
And last but not least, I thought I’d add in a little something extra before ending this week’s pre-Grammy show. Two more artists that I would have loved to have seen nominated for this year’s Grammys are: Chilean tenor sax player Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio, whom I recently wrote a post about; and David Hazeltine for his excellent tribute to the late jazz pianist, Cedar Walton, called I Remember Cedar.
That’s it for this week’s Rhythm Planet. I’m sure you must have your own favorites, so cast your votes for your favorite 2015 Grammy nominees below!
Rhythm Planet Playlist: 02/06/2015
- Gretchen Parlato / “Butterfly” / Live in NYC / Obliqsound
- Billy Childs (feat. Becca Stevens) / “The Confession” / Map to the Treasure—Reimagining Laura Nyro / Sony Masterworks
- The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra / “Rich” / OverTime: The Muic of Bob Brookmeyer / Planet Arts Recordings
- Lila Downs, Niña Pastori & Soledad / “Sodade” / Raíz / RCA Records Label
- Toumani & Sidike Diabaté / “Rachid Ouiguini” / Toumani & Sidike / World Circuit
- Wu Man, Luis Conte & Daniel Ho / “Arirang” / Our World in Song / Wind Music
- Angélique Kidjo feat. Trio Teriba / “Hello” / Eve / 429 Records
- Jason Vieaux / “Jongo : Jongo” / Play / Azica Records
- Little Dragon / “Killing Me” / Nabuma Rubberband / Seven Four Entertainment/Republic
- Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio / “You’re My Everything” / Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio / Concord Jazz
- David Hazeltine / “Holy Land” / I Remember Cedar / Sharp Nine Records