(For a complete list of 54th GRAMMY Awards nominees, click here.)
Last year was truly fantastic, musically, for the jazz genre — there wasn't a month that went by that I didn't want to run up a credit card balance on all the engaging compositions that were being put on the market by established, younger and independent artists!
From bassist Esperanza Spalding's stunning win for Best New Artist at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards to the seemingly ubiquitous Terri Lyne Carrington and her GRAMMY-nominated The Mosaic Project, 2011 was a fine year to experience an abundance of female jazz artists.
In addition to the all-star cast of women (including Spalding, Cassandra Wilson and Dee Dee Bridgewater, among others) who recorded as a part of Carrington's project, other joyously led female albums were released by pianists Hiromi (Voice), Joan Stiles (Three Musicians), Eliane Elias (Light My Fire), and Lynne Arriale (Convergence); experimental jazz composer and alto saxophonist Matana Roberts (Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libre); and current GRAMMY-nominated vocalists Karrin Allyson ('Round Midnight), Roseanna Vitro (The Music Of Randy Newman) and Tierney Sutton (American Road).
An encouraging trend that I saw last year was the emergence of a strong field of younger musicians. Two of the most anticipated releases in 2011 were vibraphonist Warren Wolf's self-titled debut and current GRAMMY-nominated pianist Gerald Clayton's Bond: The Paris Sessions. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire also garnered attention with his Blue Note Records debut, When The Heart Emerges Glistening. These young men are already accomplished and brimming with potential. I cannot wait to hear what they've been working on next! Wolf's and Akinmusire's albums ended up on many jazz critics "best of 2011" lists, and deservedly so.
In 2011 jazz artists continued to fund their recording projects in conjunction with crowd-funding websites such as Indiegogo.com, Kickstarter.com and Rockethub.com. This development can only be positive, as we fans will be able to hear the creativity of artists that don't have the backing of a record label behind them.
There is a whole new slate of festivals, shows, album release, and listening parties to attend in 2012. I encourage both jazz heads and newbies to get out and discover jazz!