GRAMMY Jazz 2009 — Year End In Review

Greetings, listeners. As we near the airing of the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards, those nominated in the Jazz Field have provided fans with an exciting array of great jazz music. There is a color of jazz on this wonderful palette for every jazz listener.

The young lion Stefon Harris and his group Blackout bridge the gap between classical and contemporary jazz stylings in a way that some may call unconventional, yet captivating. The tracks on Urbanus offer musical stylings that satisfy even the young, neophyte jazz listener and still capture the traditional offerings best liked by the most discerning longtime listener.

Mike Stern is no stranger as a nominee in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album category. Returning once again to the nominee circle with his Big Neighborhood release, he brings not only familiarity of his own jazz offerings, but nicely mixes blues, funk and shades of rock in his latest release.

Jazz is not jazz without the most organic jazz instrument of all, the human voice. Randy Crawford has represented such an instrument superbly for many years, and has done stellar work with piano virtuouso Joe Sample on various occasions. No Regrets is a release that combines, once again, the commanding and captivating voice of Crawford along with the unmistakably recognizable style of Sample.

With the voice in jazz, it's still not yet complete without that crisp, cool class of a voice like that of Kurt Elling. His release Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music Of Coltrane And Hartman eloquently covers the great tunes of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman in a way that automatically demands a GRAMMY nod. His depth of style and grace continues to bring an aspect of style that jazz will be ever known for.

Strong returning contenders to this year's nominee circle are, once again, vibraphonist Gary Burton, guitar virtuouso Pat Metheny, bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Quartet Live is a must-have for any fan of instrumental jazz and it decidedly earns its rank as a premier nominee in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group category. Swift competition comes from piano and synthesizer legend Chick Corea and his longtime bandmate from Return To Forever, John McLaughlin. Five Peace Band — Live is a collection of songs that define the term jazz virtuosity to the utmost degree. Both releases are strong contenders in this category.

Jazz, the American music art form, can be defined by the big band genre; Fun Time by Sammy Nestico And The SWR Big Band provides an excellent definition of the big band aspect in every respect. Fun Time is an excellent release for any jazz lover's collection.

When Latin jazz is mentioned in a conversation, the discussion cannot go long without mention of the name Valdés! Juntos Para Siempre by Bebo Valdés & Chucho Valdés defines the state of Latin jazz, and wholeheartedly represents that in a Best Latin Jazz Album GRAMMY nomination well chosen by The Recording Academy.

I'd be amiss if I didn't pay homage, at least in this post, to this year's GRAMMY Salute To Jazz honoree, the great jazz guitarist and legend, Mr. Kenny Burrell. Suffice it to say, as a guitarist myself, he is my favorite and it is truly an honor to see him receive this auspicious award.

2009 was a great year for jazz, and all the nominees in the Jazz Field greatly represent America's music.

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