2016 Grammys – Instrumental Jazz

As I write, the Grammy results are not all in yet, but winners in a number of jazz categories have been announced. It’s great to know the musical form is still going strong.

Thrilled to report that Snarky Puppy won Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for “Sylva”. I wrote about the band a bit over a year ago, a few months before the April release of “Sylva”. For this album the group teamed up with Holland’s Metropole Orkest. Enjoy this video performance of the album’s first three tracks. It’s 15 minutes long, but well worth it.

A couple of weeks ago you read about young Joey Alexander, who was nominated for two Grammy awards. Well, he didn’t win either, but no shame in that when we look at the winners (and since he’s just 12, Joey will have plenty more chances).

Bassist Christian McBride won Best Improvised Jazz Solo for “Cherokee” from “Live at the Village Vanguard”. It’s hard to find someone in the world of jazz whom McBride hasn’t played with over the years, from Wynton Marsalis to Chick Corea to Herbie Hancock. And he’s played with the likes of Paul McCartney, James Brown and The Roots as well. There is plenty of great soloing by all three musicians on this track by the Christian McBride Trio, but that is some fine base work.

In the category of Best Jazz Instrumental Album, young Joey was bested by legendary guitarist John Schofield for his latest release, “Past Present”. Schofield’s jazz resume may be even more amazing than McBride’s, having played with George Duke, Charles Mingus, and Gary Burton, before a long stint with Miles Davis.  For “Past Present” he teams up with saxophonist Joe Lovano, a bandmate from the 80’s.  Here’s “Get Proud”.

Two Fine Pianists – A Jazz Prodigy and a Special Singer Songwriter

Let’s start with a VERY young talent, in case you missed the piece on “60 Minutes” last weekend.  Joey Alexander is a 12-year old jazz piano prodigy who’s being mentored by no one less than Wynton Marsales.   The story goes that Joey taught himself to play listening to his parents’ jazz records in his native Bali. It’s pretty obvious that his brain is wired in a special, special way.

Check out this soulful studio performance of “Over the Rainbow”, a track featured on his 2015 debut album “My Favorite Things”, Grammy-nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.   If you’d like to hear him really cook, listen to another track from that album, Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”.  The recorded version is nominated for “Best Improvised Jazz Solo”.

Vienna Teng has five studio albums to her credit, a recording career that began in 2002 after this Stanford-educated computer scientist quit her day job. Her most recent album, “Aims” released in 2013, covers a lot of musical ground and reveals many influences. You can listen to and buy the tracks on her website.

Vienna lists Tori Amos as one of her influences, and you can’t help but hear that on “Close to Home”.  In case you need a reminder, though, listen to Tori’s performance of her exquisite “Silent All These Years” from 1992.