Jazzed At The GRAMMYs

  • The Stanley Clarke Band
    Photo: Michael Caulfield/WireImage.com
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater
    Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com
  • Herbie Hancock
    Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com

(For a complete list of 53rd GRAMMY Awards winners, click here.)

The biggest news for jazz and Justin Bieber fans at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards was Esperanza Spalding. Within a split second, her name was on everyone's lips. The commentary that followed ran the gamut from glowingly appreciative to a level of incivility that raised more than a few eyebrows.

However, the fact remains that Spalding — yes, a gifted jazz musician, vocalist, composer, and educator — won one of the big awards of the night, Best New Artist!

Congratulations to her once again on this achievement.

Spalding's win during the televised portion of the GRAMMYs topped off a day of celebration that started earlier at the Pre-Telecast Ceremony. The segment of the Pre-Telecast Ceremony in which the jazz categories were presented started off with a rousing performance by GRAMMY nominee Trombone Shorty.

The first category awarded was for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Despite their frontman being on tour overseas, the Stanley Clarke Band won in a field of nominees that included Joey DeFrancesco, Jeff Lorber Fusion, John McLaughlin, and Trombone Shorty. Stanley Clarke's wife and two band members were there to graciously accept the trophy for the eponymously titled album.

Lorraine Feather, Freddy Cole (Nat King Cole's younger brother), Dee Dee Bridgewater, Denise Donatelli, and up-and-coming vocalist Gregory Porter vied for the Best Jazz Vocal Album award. Bridgewater won the award and gave an almost breathless acceptance speech after winning for Eleanora Fagan (1915–1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee. Check out her speech on the GRAMMYs' YouTube channel.

The Best Improvised Jazz Solo category was a tough contest between four pianists — Alan Broadbent, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and Hank Jones, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. It was a thrill to see Hancock there at the ceremony to accept the honor for his captivating solo performance on "A Change Is Gonna Come."

Another strong category was Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group. I personally couldn't pick a winner between John Beasley's Positootly! the Clayton Brothers' The New Song And Dance, Vijay Iyer Trio's Historicity, James Moody's Moody 4B, and Danilo Perez's Providencia. Moody won the honor and I wished he could have been there to accept it (he died in December 2010). Todd Coolman, Moody's bassist for the last 26 years, and his widow, Linda Moody, were there to accept the trophy in his memory.

The Mingus Big Band Live At Jazz Standard won the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category. The co-producer of the album, Seth Abramson, was present in the auditorium to accept the award. He thanked the musicians of the Mingus Big Band and in particular acknowledged Sue Mingus' dedication and tireless effort in keeping her late husband's musical legacy alive since his death in 1979.

The voting members of The Recording Academy chose Chucho Valdés And The Afro-Cuban Messengers' Chucho's Steps as the Best Latin Jazz Album.

They bested stiff competition from Pablo Aslan, Hector Martignon, Poncho Sanchez, and the Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet.

The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards was a fabulous event! If you haven't seen the Pre-Telecast Ceremony, you can watch it here until March 11.

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