Wide Open Field

(For a complete list of 53rd GRAMMY Award nominees, click here.)

There is palatable excitement within the jazz community and beyond. Why? The multitalented bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding has been nominated for Best New Artist. Spalding continues to captivate music lovers throughout the world with her vivaciousness. It would be a pleasant surprise if she pulls off a win in a category that includes the ubiquitous Justin Bieber, rapper Drake, British indie rock sensation Florence & The Machine, and English folk/rock group Mumford & Sons.

The Jazz Field is just as exciting. Veteran musicians Stanley Clarke, Joey DeFrancesco, Jeff Lorber, and John McLaughlin will compete against one another for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. The category is rounded out by 24-year-old New Orleans-native Trombone Shorty. Backatown is his first album released by Verve Forecast, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. His performances on shows such as the "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" have introduced his brand of jazz/funk to a wider audience. Shorty is definitely adding contemporary flavor to this category in 2011.

The contenders for this year's Best Jazz Vocal Album are Dee Dee Bridgewater's tribute to Billie Holiday, Eleanora Fagan (1915–1959: To Billie With Love From Dee Dee); Freddy Cole's Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B ("Mr. B" is the nickname of Billy Eckstine, who greatly influenced Cole's singing style); Denise Donatelli's When Lights Are Low; Lorraine Feather's Ages; and Gregory Porter's impressive debut album Water. Who do you think will win this one?

The Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group category has intense competition with John Beasley's Positootly!; the Clayton Brothers' The New Song And Dance; Vijay Iyer Trio's well-received Historicity; legendary James Moody's Moody 4B; and Danilo Perez's Providencia. I feel this one is up for grabs.

Does anyone share my surprise that Christian Scott's Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, Pat Metheny's Orchestrion or Jason Moran's Ten were not nominated in either the Best Contemporary Jazz Album or Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group categories?

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album is going to be a tough choice. Darcy James Argue's Secret Society's blending of jazz, indie rock and classical continues to delight listeners, and Infernal Machines is no exception. Billy Childs Ensemble Featuring The Ying String Quartet's Autumn: In Moving Pictures Jazz — Chamber Music Vol. 2 can be an unexpected musical revelation, and Dave Holland Octet's Pathways doesn't fail to deliver. The Metropole Orkest with John Scofield and Vince Mendoza's 54 and the Mingus Big Band's live recording at New York's Jazz Standard, Mingus Big Band Live At Jazz Standard, round out the nominees. I'm glad I don't have to make this decision.

I'm excited about all five of the albums up for Best Latin Jazz Album. Bassist Pablo Aslan's Tango Grill is a spirited modern take on tango music. Pianists Hector Martignon, nominated for Second Chance, and Chucho Valdés And The Afro-Cuban Messengers, Chucho's Steps, offer their respective interpretations of piano jazz. GRAMMY-winning Conguero Poncho Sanchez's Psychedelic Blues is an enjoyable listen from beginning to end. Trombonist Wayne Wallace's Latin Jazz Quintet's ¡Bien Bien! was a new discovery for me earlier this year.

Who will win the coveted trophies in the Jazz Field? Tune in to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. For updates and breaking news, please visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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