(l -r) Vince Mendoza, Pascal Le Boeuf, Chuck Owen, Nate Smith, Arturo O'Farrill
Photos: WireImage.com/Laura Hanifin
2018 GRAMMY Nominations: Meet The Best Instrumental Composition Nominees
As the 60th GRAMMY Awards approach, the five musical maestros who have received nominations for Best Instrumental Composition merit a closer look. Prior GRAMMY winners Vince Mendoza and Arturo O'Farrill are back with masterfully crafted pieces. Previously nominated, Chuck Owen and Nate Smith have composed memorable musical explorations once again, while first-time nominee Pascal Le Boeuf's chamber-jazz pops with avant-garde urgency.
Open your ears and your heart to this year's GRAMMY nominations with a closer look at the Best Instrumental Composition nominees, whose musical minds blend styles with zest into combinations unimagined.
(Editor's Note: Best Instrumental Composition is a composer's award for an original composition. Performer names appear in parentheses.)
Pascal Le Boeuf, composer (Le Boeuf Brothers & JACK Quartet)
Pianist Pascal Le Boeuf teamed up with his twin brother, jazz saxophonist Remy Le Boeuf, and a classical music quartet to create the album Imaginist, influenced by the Imaginist movement in Russian poetry. Sometimes called "chamber-jazz," the group's vivid results are exemplified by their GRAMMY-nominated track "Alkaline."
Pascal's driving piano is surrounded by assertive musical ideas from ensemble instruments making their points and weaving surging phrases as expressively as spoken language. The brothers began performing together while teens and had opened for jazz greats such as Chic Corea and Kurt Elling by the time they were 18.
Vince Mendoza, composer (Vince Mendoza & WDR Big Band Cologne)
A conductor and arranger with strong pop chops and masterful jazz sophistication, Mendoza also conducted and arranged Björk's 2000 film, Dancer In The Dark. Having moved to Los Angeles after music school, Mendoza's studio work led to collaboration with drummer Peter Erskine, who helped him break into his recording career. Erskine, Mendoza and Souza later won a GRAMMY together for their work on Michael and Randy Brecker's Some Skunk Funk, which earned Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album at the 49th GRAMMY Awards.
"Home Free (For Peter Joe)"
Nate Smith, composer (Nate Smith)
Jazz drummer, educator and bandleader/arranger Nate Smith shared his previous nomination for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album with frequent collaborators Dave Holland and Chris Potter on Holland's Pathways. This year, "Home Free (For Peter Joe)," off Smith's first album as a bandleader, Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere, is also up for Best Arrangement, Instrumental Or A Cappella.
With Jaleel Shaw on tenor sax, the track was initially intended to be a tribute to Smith's grandfather Peter Joe, but it became even more loaded with sentiment when Smith's father passed while Kinfolk … was being written and recorded. Smith said his piece "felt like a befitting tribute to both of them," and it refers back to the kind of music his parents would play when they hosted parties at home.
Arturo O'Farrill, composer (Arturo O'Farrill & Chucho Valdés)
Their 2017 album, Familia: Tribute To Bebo & Chico, pays tribute to their fathers while also showcasing their respective children — trumpeter Adam O'Farrill, drummer Zack O'Farrill, pianist Leyanis Valdés, and drummer Jessie Valdés — as top-flight instrumentalists in their own right. The LP includes compositions by their fathers as well as Arturo O'Farrill and Chucho Valdés. The title of O'Farrill's "Three Revolutions" invites us ponder whether the new generation will be musically revolutionary as well.
While O'Farrill and Valdés have worked together since 1995, this is their first shared GRAMMY nomination.
Chuck Owen, composer (Chuck Owen And The Jazz Surge)
For more than two decades, Chuck Owen has educated next-generation jazz artists at the University of South Florida, where he leads the innovative USF Center for Jazz Composition as well as his own ensemble the Jazz Surge, which he founded in 1995.
His latest album, Whispers On The Wind, is nominated this year for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, and the track "All Hat, No Saddle" is also nominated for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella. As suggested by the Wild West wording in his track titles, "Warped Cowboy" is infused with a sense of the American landscape and its varied grandeur. As an avid outdoorsman, Owen's previously nominated tracks, from River Runs, A Concerto for Jazz Guitar, Saxophone, & Orchestra, were inspired by his personal outdoor adventures.
The 60th GRAMMY Awards will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York on Jan. 28, 2018, airing live on CBS from 7:30–11 p.m. ET/4:30–8 p.m. PT.