Photo: Pierce Johnston
One Night In The Eyes Of Eternity: How 'In Common III' Speaks To Jazz As An Intergenerational Form
Saxophonist Walter Smith III and guitarist Matthew Stevens' new album, 'In Common III,' features an enticing guest: the legendary bassist Dave Holland. It's a reminder that jazz provides particularly fertile soil for intergenerational dialogue.
Jazz may be a web, but the strands can become somewhat calcified. Musicians can get too comfortable playing with the same people over and over; expectations can grow static. For saxophonist Walter Smith III and guitarist Matthew Stevens, that reality planted the seed of In Common, a multi-album series featuring outstanding musicians of all ages and backgrounds in fresh combinations.
"We wanted to get outside of who our normal touring circles are because sometimes that can be pretty specific," Smith explains to GRAMMY.com. "You see a million other people at your concerts, or you go to their concerts, or you see them at festivals, but there isn't always an opportunity to play with everybody that you want to play with."
For the inspired third entry, In Common III, released last March on famed jazz label Whirlwind Recordings, the pair teamed up with pianist Kris Davis, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. (Previous installments involved vibraphonist Joel Ross, bassist Linda May Han Oh, drummer Nate Smith and other heavyweights.)
But aside from simple camaraderie and getting out of comfort zones, the In Common series opens up a window into jazz's unique capacity as a intergenerational artform. Smith, Stevens and Davis are in their forties; Carrington is in her fifties; Holland is 75. Age isn't merely a spectrum of "younger" or "older" in jazz; it speaks to a taxonomy of lineages and schools of thought.
Holland played with foundational figures like Miles Davis and Chick Corea and recorded cerebral classics as a leader, like 1972's Conference of the Birds. But before diving into the In Common crew's experience playing with him, it's worth examining their performances with younger musicians, like Ross.
Despite Ross being in his early twenties, playing with him wasn't merely a case of bolstering an emerging musician. Ross has been central to the recent boom period for Blue Note Records signings, acting as a hub for monster talent from his generation, like saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins.
And although he was playing with musicians two decades his senior on 2018's In Common, it wasn't a one-way street of elders instructing youngsters.
"I would not say we were nurturing younger talent because when we played with Joel, he was the bes. He was way better than anybody else," Smith says. "So, he was nurturing us, even though he was very small." (For 2020's In Common II, they enlisted pianist Micah Thomas, born in 1997, who Smith also describes as "very small" at the time.)
Carrington, who's won three GRAMMYs and been nominated for four, calls herself something of a "bridge between generations." When considering intergenerational interplay, she thinks of her "biggest influence and mentor," the drum godhead Jack DeJohnette.
Before In Common III, Carrington hadn't worked much with Holland over the past 35 years — she'd played with him as a teen at DeJohnette's house, but that was mostly it. But when she reconnected with the bassist, it clicked. Holland and DeJohnette's deep-rooted stylistic connection — like in Gateway, the pair's '70s trio with guitarist John Abercrombie — meant playing with Holland was a breeze.
"Sometimes, I try to move away from that time period [represented by Holland and DeJohnette]. I'm not saying I'm successful, but I do try," Carrington tells GRAMMY.com. "But then, if I play with somebody like Dave, it puts me right back into that feeling of nostalgia, in a sense. It's this certain bounce, this swing that I often try to run away from in some ways."
"My dad once told me you can't run away from who you are," she adds. "And that stays in my brain."
You Can’t Learn That In School
It would take a lifetime to grasp the enormity of intergenerational dialogue in jazz. Charles Mingus cited his formative influences as Duke Ellington and church, and played on Duke's classic 1962 trio album Money Jungle with drummer Max Roach. And numberless jazzers learned at the feet of Barry Harris, a sort of Gamaliel of Detroit when it came to bebop language.
But it's worth noting some more contemporary examples, starting with the experiences of the In Common gang. When Davis first played with the far-out bassist, composer and educator William Parker, who's now 70, she had an experience that would be foreign to an average jazz-school student.
"I was in my early twenties, he called me for a gig, and I came to his house for a rehearsal," Davis, who also heads the independent label Pyroclastic Records, tells GRAMMY.com. "He pulled out this piece of paper with his composition, and it was all crumpled and barely legible."
At first, this didn't jibe with what Davis considered "professional" in music — neatly-written charts, clean presentation. Then, she had a lightbulb moment. "I was like, 'Oh, wow! This can be done in different ways,'" she says. "We're going to play the gig and the music's going to happen, whether the paper's crumpled or not."
When he was a similar age, Stevens remembers rehearsing with the organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith, who passed away in 2021 — as did Harris. As in Davis' experience with Parker, the very un-New School casualness of the affair belied entirely new educational pathways.
"He was watching some daytime talk show, and he didn't want to start rehearsing until it was over," Stevens tells GRAMMY.com. "So I pulled up a chair from his kitchen and watched the end of 'The Tyra Banks Show' or something like that."
Stevens thought he had arrived prepared: "He'd been like, 'Learn this record,' and I'd learned it and made notes for myself and it was a really big deal for me." But then Dr. Smith had him throw all of it out, instructing him to play tunes the elder musician sometimes didn't even remember the names of.
"If I asked him what a chord was, he would be like, 'I don't know; come look at my hands. It was that kind of thing: 'It's this sound; it's not that,'" Stevens remembers. Despite only playing with Dr. Smith a handful of times, that comfort zone-exploding experience stuck with him or life.
Today, Stevens is an educator and references that moment with his students. "It speaks to the process of how the elders learn and teach the music," Davis says in response from a parallel Zoom window. "That's something you can't gain from your peers or [those] younger."
When Walter Smith first played with the GRAMMY-winning drum pioneer Roy Haynes, he got a crash course in the primacy of melody. After getting chided once or twice for not playing a line note-for-note in the Cole Porter tune 'My Heart Belongs to Daddy,' he played a variation he thought worked — and learned a lesson in response.
"What are you doing? If you don't play the melody the way it's supposed to go, it doesn't line up with what's happening with the lyric," Haynes told Smith, as Smith paraphrases. "I set it up, and if you're not going to play it through my setup, then why are we doing this?"
"That changed how I looked at playing melodies forever," Smith says.
The elders also laid perspective on these musicians. When Carrington played with 11-time GRAMMY-winning saxophone legend Wayne Shorter when she was 21, she exited the bandstand feeling defeated and self-loathing about her performance. Shorter replied: "Music is just a drop in the ocean of life."
"He got me thinking differently about that. Develop your life and the music will come, because it's just a part of life," Carrington adds. "And if you focus too much on the music, it's never going to happen because you're not developing the rest of yourself.
"I used to complain about hotel rooms," she continues. "He told me, 'What's one night in the eyes of eternity?' Which really helped me to this day when I get to a hotel room that's s<em></em>*y."
Shorter's attitude tracks with his uber-ambitious opera with the much younger bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, Iphigenia.
A Diversity Of Interplay
If you think intergenerational give-and-take is just in the province of small-group jazz, it's not — it applies to every context and format. Iphigenia is worth singling out, as it’s unconventional a jazz format as you could imagine.
An update of Euripedes' classical play Iphigenia at Aulis, the program marked the fulfillment of a long-simmering dream for the now-88-year-old Shorter. When he proposed it to Spalding, she felt a "stirring in my spirit."
Spurred by both creative inspiration and Shorter's physical limitations due to age and a metabolic tremor that precluded writing music by hand — much less playing the horn, Spalding made sure his vision would be realized, taking a year off from Harvard and heading to Los Angeles.
You'd have to see it to grasp it, but it includes eye-popping Frank Gehry set designs and the simulated slaying of five women and two deer — set to music by an orchestra and Shorter's longtime quartet: pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, all who are GRAMMY winners themselves.
Spalding — who has won five GRAMMYs herself, including one in 2022 for Best Jazz Vocal Album — wrote the libretto and sang the lead role of Iphigenia. "My gift is that I'm not in opera. My gift is that I don't know how to write these stories. My gift is that I don't know the tropes," she told the Times.
And coming to that idiom with a clean slate — as well as working with a musician who helped form the building blocks of her idiom — resulted in something breathtakingly strange and gorgeous.
Keep Seeking Out Examples
How can you keep abreast of intergenerational jazz — past, present and future? You can start by following the musicians that played in In Common III.
For a project by 78-year-old saxophonist and composer Henry Threadgill — a 13 album boxed set called Baker's Dozen — Carrington recently recorded with a handful of younger musicians, including trumpeter Milena Casado and bassist Devon Gates.
"I'm excited about that because it reminded me of when I was younger and in my twenties and you had just one day to go in the studio and make a record and you couldn't fix anything," Carrington says. "I was trying to approach it like that."
Smith cites many other examples: drummer Johnathan Blake with 78-year-old pianist Kenny Barron, saxophonist Jaleel Shaw with 97-year-old Haynes, pianist Jason Moran with 84-year-old saxophonist Archie Shepp.
But in the immediate rearview is their experience of playing with Holland on In Common III — and all involved cite it as positive and upbuilding.
"He bridges both worlds, as maybe I do in some ways of improvised music and playing more straight-ahead musical forms," Davis says. "And I think we share a commonality there and the understanding of the music."
Do younger and older musicians often find each other more similar than different — as the title of the In Common series acknowledges? Absolutely.
But in jazz, as in so many other areas of life, the truth remains: Only by learning, absorbing and appreciating the knowledge of those who came before can you believably take a swing at success.
Summer Is For Jazz Festivals
Do you want to hear some great jazz? Conventional wisdom would suggest that you need to visit New York to see jazz in all of its glory. But, if you want to see live jazz and get the biggest bang for your hard-earned buck, you should check out a jazz festival. It doesn't matter where you're located or how big (or small) your budget is, there is likely a cool jazz event happening in a town or city near you.
The 36th Annual Atlanta Jazz Festival will kick off during Memorial Day weekend, May 25–27, in Piedmont Park. Fans will be able to enjoy the music of BWB (a super group comprising Rick Braun and GRAMMY winners Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown featuring special guest GRAMMY winner Chrisette Michele), bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, saxist Tia Fuller, and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire's quintet. The festival will also highlight up-and-coming artists such as vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianist/composer Aaron Diehl with his quartet.
Over on the West Coast you can find more live music to savor at the 15th Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival in Sonoma County in California. This year's 10-day schedule (May 31–June 9) includes a two-day tribute to 2013 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Charlie Haden, featuring performances by multi-instrumentalist/composer Carla Bley, Haden's Quartet West with special guest GRAMMY nominee Ravi Coltrane, alto saxist Lee Konitz, guitarist Bill Frisell, and pianist Geri Allen, among others. Additional artists scheduled to perform during the festival include GRAMMY-nominated African-American a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock, saxist/flautist Charles Lloyd and pianist Jason Moran, the Sylvia Cuenca Trio, and the Marcus Shelby Orchestra and HJF Freedom Jazz Choir.
If you are north of the U.S. border, don't worry. On June 28 Canada residents will enjoy the beginning of the International Jazz Festival in Montreal. Through July 7, the festival will feature an array of legendary musical talent, including GRAMMY winners Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Wynton Marsalis, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, among others.
The following event should not be missed: saxist/composer and multi-GRAMMY winner Wayne Shorter will celebrate his 80th birthday during the Montreal jazz festival with a star-studded performance with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Brian Blade, Joe Lovano, and the Dave Douglas Quintet. Also set to perform are ACS: Allen, Carrington, Spalding, which will feature pianist Geri Allen and GRAMMY winners drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Esperanza Spalding.
If you decide to fit a jazz festival into your summer plans this year, you are sure to hear fantastic music, meet cool people and enjoy great food, too.
Photo courtesy of M3 — Mutual Mentorship For Musicians
Women And Gender-Expansive Jazz Musicians Face Constant Indignities. This Mentorship Organization Is Tackling The Problem From All Angles.
Mutual Mentorship for Musicians — or M³ — offers an alternative to the often chauvinistic, corrosive power structures in the jazz world. Better yet, they're far from alone.
Romarna Campbell had a sneaking suspicion that she was being tokenized. So she decided to indulge in a little mischief.
When the UK-based drummer was commissioned for a piece, she noticed something was off. Her male counterpart had received a detailed prompt; Campbell just got a bare request for music. "There was no guidance. There was no, 'We would like it in this space, or to be inspired by this,'" she tells GRAMMY.com. "They were very much more interested in having press shots and biographies than they were in this commission."
Campbell felt blithely compartmentalized — an unwilling vessel for a performative gesture. "It baffles me that you could reduce my art solely to me being Black or being a woman because it ticks a box for you somewhere," she continues. "And probably a funding box as well." To get one over on them, Campbell submitted the most rudimentary, half-baked music she could drum up — mostly some MIDI loops with rotten harmonies.
And, of course, it was accepted enthusiastically.
"During my friend's commission, he was sending them parts and they would give him feedback," she says. "I sent them this trash commission, and they sent me this really happy email that was like, 'Oh, Romarna, we're so grateful for your artistry.'" Campbell called out the commissioners, directing them to her Bandcamp stuffed with fully conceptualized and executed works as a point of reference.
When they requested a new composition, Campbell asked for more money — as she'd held up her end of the contract — which they couldn't, or wouldn't, give. And when they asked for a meeting about her experience to ascertain how they could improve it, Campbell refused.
"I'm not a cultural or diversity consultant," she says. "So, why is that my responsibility for an organization that's trying to say that they have this diverse roster of musicians and composers?"
Romarna Campbell. Photo: Iza Korzack
Campbell's story resonates because it bears so many hallmarks of what women and gender-expansive musicians face in jazz and creative-music spaces: tokenism, patronization, a request to "educate" those perpetrating such attitudes. This is ironic given how couched in progressive politics and academia this world is — imbued with an intellectual air.
Granted, women and gender-expansive musicians have made strides over the decades. Not only are brilliant yet underheralded artists of yore like Mary Lou Williams, Geri Allen and Lil Hardin increasingly venerated, analyzed and discussed, but the pages of magazines like DownBeat and JazzTimes are full of women and non-cis, non-hetero musicians.
But in almost every sector of the jazz world, there's a long way to go — from how writers talk about women, to fair representation on festival lineups, to interpersonal interactions at residencies and workshops, and so on.
That's why Campbell joined up with M³, or Mutual Mentorship for Musicians — a community meant to establish "a new model of mentorship" that elevates women and gender-expansive musicians, while offering chances for unique, collaborative commissions.
Jen Shyu, a co-founder of M³. Photo: Daniel Reichert
Founded by musicians Jen Shyu and Sara Serpa in 2020, M³ is just one of a host of jazz-adjacent organizations offering an alternative to outdated and occasionally corrosive systems of gatekeeping, hierarchy and exclusion.
Because of the sheer diversity of its members' creative and cultural backgrounds, M³ provides a wellspring of insight. Across a litany of interviews with its members, common themes emerge — identifying fundamental issues, but also potential solutions.
"I think part of it needs to be developed on a grassroots level, on a community level, and even moreso on a structural and cultural level — where the culture starts to shift in terms of it being a male-driven community and culture," saxophonist and composer Caroline Davis tells GRAMMY.com. "This patriarchal, boys' club situation."
In Davis' view, a possible first step to challenging that paradigm is simply being mindful of the way we talk to each other in the jazz community — including who gets the often bandied-upon designator of "genius."
"Older women are not geniuses, but older men are always geniuses and they have their following," Serpa notes. "And I'm not talking about people in the mainstream or who have access and resources. We have had musicians in our cohorts that have been on the scene for 30, 40 years. Even us — we haven't heard of them."
Plus, in the jazz community, especially adept players are often described as "killing" or "murdering" or "taking no prisoners." Obviously, nobody means that literally, and it's generally meant as a term of endearment or admiration. Still, Davis says, speech like that can alienate in surprising ways — and not simply due to varying tastes or sensibilities.
"It could be as simple as us shifting our language to include less brutalized words," she continues. "Maybe that seems performative, but I think it actually makes a huge difference to shift the way we talk about music, and the way people are sharing music."
Guitarist and composer Jessica Ackerley agrees: "Everything is rooted in harming other people," they tell GRAMMY.com. "Which is completely ridiculous."
Sara Serpa, a co-founder of M³. Photo: Ebru Yildiz
To fellow M³ member Anjna Swaminathan, this doesn't just serve to swerve around sensitivities — it offers a more holistic and inclusive model of success that doesn't just mean brute athleticism and might.
"It becomes this ego fest of how fast you can play, how complex you can get, how many polyrhythms you can learn," Swaminthan, a multidisciplinary artist, tells GRAMMY.com. "Straight, cis, white men who probably thought that they were happy with that success — they themselves will be able to heal, because we are offering another option."
But a need for more thoughtful language doesn't just extend to the classroom, or backstage, or in private conversation; it applies to how journalists write about musicians who aren't straight, white males.
Sticking To The Music — And Dispensing Of Boxes
In features, profiles and reviews, wrongheaded writing usually goes in one of two directions. The first is an example of old-school chauvinism — a writer salivating over a femme-presenting person's appearance before dealing with their art in any meaningful way.
The second is shoehorning them into readymade categories — even, or especially, when it's to a "progressive" end. Miriam Elhajli, a singer, composer and improviser who uses she/they pronouns, recalls one particularly off-putting exchange to this end.
"Someone was trying to write this article about me, and they were like, 'Well, tell me about your sexuality. What are your pronouns?' And I was just like, 'Honestly, dude, this has nothing to do with the music," she tells GRAMMY.com. "I don't want to tell you any of that s—t because it has nothing to do with it."
Elhajli goes on to question the idea of "having my moment to shine" — just because they happen to fit in a category of marginalized people at a convenient time.
Miriam Elhajli. Photo: Daniel Katzenstein
"There's boundaries, and there's a personal life too," they say. "I don't want to be pigeonholed. I contain multitudes. Why should I have to adhere to any identity politics? Identity politics are just getting really claustrophobic right now for me. We're missing the plot a little bit."
Campbell's thinking would seem to jibe with this; she highlights how attempts at inclusivity can tip over into reductionism. This aligns with M³'s grander aim — not to divide musicians by perceived degrees of marginalization, but reflect the reality on the ground and open doors for talent from all walks of life.
"Maybe we can have a relationship between macho [behavior] and jazz in the history of jazz," pianist and composer Paula Shocron, who hails from Buenos Aires, tells GRAMMY.com. "But if you go to the States and see the jazz scenes, it’s not the same."
"I just want to make it clear that we're not, in doing this mutual mentorship for musicians program, [we're not making] an effort to eschew or exclude anyone," Davis adds.
As Shyu puts it to GRAMMY.com, "It's important to educate, but, at some point people have to educate themselves. We've made this model of M³. We want people to embrace that and make their own mentorship models. But at some point, don't the men and the white cis males, need to also have these conversations?
"It's more of an effort to say, 'Come along with us," Davis adds. "We're all here trying to fight this together, and we need everyone.'" This doesn't only apply to M³, but all the other organizations in their constellation trying to make jazz and creative music a fairer, more holistic place.
A Constellation Of Initiatives
Next Jazz Legacy, an apprenticeship program for women and nonbinary musicians, helmed by The New Music USA organization and Berklee Institute of Jazz & Gender Justice, is pushing for the same outcome.
"We not only have to face the facts that misogyny and sexism are still very much a part of the music industry," Terri Lyne Carrington, a GRAMMY-winning drummer and Next Jazz Legacy's artistic director, said in 2022. "We have to change the systems and patterns that have remained oppressive in order for the music to fully flourish and match how humanity is evolving."
When Kris Davis, a pianist and composer at the cutting edge of the New York scene, got the call from Carrington about Next Jazz Legacy, she felt close to tears.
"I thought, 'Wow, she's really going to make a difference. The mentors are super famous musicians,'" she tells GRAMMY.com. "And whether people know about the grant or not, they're going to see these young people's names next to these incredible mentors — and that's saying something to the community." (Today, she's on the advisory board.)
Linda May Han Oh, an Australian bassist who works in an apprenticeship role at Next Jazz Legacy, views these dovetailing initiatives as working in parallel with women's and LGBTQ+ rights writ large — including transforming gender roles and the right to vote.
"It's always been a very traditional role for a woman to be a wife, to be a mother, to stay at home while the male, the husband, works and tours and brings in the money," she tells GRAMMY.com. "And I think that in itself lends itself to inequality or inequity."
Oh impresses upon her students the importance of cultivating "your own resilience and your resourcefulness in a way that you can be as independent as you possibly can," she says. "It's a combination of grit, but also flexibility."
Also of note is jazz luminary Dee Dee Bridgewater's Woodshed Network Residency, which focuses on connecting, supporting and educating women and non-gender-conforming artists. In an interview with JazzTimes, Bridgewater's daughter and manager, Tulani, who co-founded the residency, cited "an appreciation for the gift of mentorship I’ve received at various junctures."
“I’ve tried to give back along the way,” she added. "But this opportunity created by my greatest mentor, my mother, offered a concrete and focused way to pay that forward."
Speaking with GRAMMY.com, the elder Bridgewater — a two-time GRAMMY winner — explains her unique, pragmatic approach to mentoring young women.
"I decided that I would concentrate on the business aspect of the music industry and try and give women a kind of head start for their careers," she says, "knowing that they would have all the information that they needed to have a career, to start a career, or to take the career to the next level — if they already had one started, but it was kind of faltering.
"It was born out of a kind of necessity," she continues. And if you wonder where rising musicians like saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin and bassist Amina Scott got their launchpad, thank Dee Dee Bridgewater for recognizing that necessity.
These types of programs are far from exclusively stateside affairs. REVA Inc, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit with an aim to "develop art experiences that educate, inspire and heal people and communities," has a purview reaching as far as South Africa.
And the seed was an online hang during the pandemic, facilitated by their co-artistic director — tenor saxophonist, pianist and composer Jessica Jones, who also has run JazzGirls Day at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. The name? Global JazzWomenHang.
Soon, it was wholeheartedly embraced by a number of women from a South African jazz camp, Jazz Camp for Female Instrumentalists Mamelodi, and eventually hosted by one of the camp's founders, bassist and composer Sibongile Buda.
Akhutleleng Kekwaletswe, Jessica Jones and Sibongile Buda. Photo: Leroy Nyoni
When the pandemic made live performance impossible, Buda saw an opportunity. "[We searched] for a bigger concept of performance that could incorporate people in different countries," she tells GRAMMY.com. "And also show how the number of women has increased in all the countries that we kind of tapped into."
The online collaboration network eventually blossomed into a real-life festival in Botswana, helmed by Buda, Jones and saxophonist and music teacher Akhutleleng Kekwaletswe. A preceding one-day workshop arranged by Kekwaletswe found more than 50 girls on different instruments; the festival itself involved 24 women on stage.
"The future is very bright, That's a very common line in Botswana: 'The future is bright,' meaning that you see some hope," Kekwaletswe says. "There is a lot of positivity and positive energy towards what we are doing."
The complete festival lineup. Photo: Nthabiseng Segoe
Throughout the jazz ecosystem, this mission has serious wind in its sails. To say nothing of the Women in Jazz Organization (WIJO), whose membership has a significant overlap with M³ and Next Jazz Legacy. Among WIJO's mentorship class are Carrington, Caroline Davis, pianists Helen Sung and Marta Sanchez, trumpeter Bria Skonberg, and other modern greats.
"The impact that being a woman has on your pursuit of a jazz career can't be boiled down into one issue, nor should it," WIJO's founder, saxophonist Roxy Coss, told DANSR. Therein, she noted the multitude of indignities often involved: microaggressions, exclusions, discouragements, dismissals. "The fact of being a woman affects your experience entirely, and the specific ways it affects one's pursuit are often unnoticed, even by the woman herself."
This may hold true on stages, in conservatories, and in classrooms, and we've assuredly got a long way to go. But, rest assured: as this field goes, we've got our best and brightest on the case. And few who behold them on the bandstand would dare to say otherwise.
Watch Lido Pimienta, Poppy, Burna Boy & More Perform In Full 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show Premiere Ceremony Video
Witness the entire 2021 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, with music from Burna Boy, Lido Pimienta, Poppy, Terri Lyne Carrington with Social Science, and more
Every year, ahead of the GRAMMY Awards show airing live on CBS, the majority of the golden gramophones are presented at the Premiere Ceremony. Always a lively event, it also features stellar performances from nominated artists. The 2021 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony was no different, and took us around the world with music from Burna Boy, Lido Pimienta, Poppy, Igor Levit, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Terri Lyne Carrington with Social Science, Rufus Wainwright, and a star-studded cast paying tribute to Marvin Gaye with "Mercy Mercy Me."
Watch the 63rd GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony in full below.
Check out all the complete 2021 GRAMMY Awards show winners and nominees list here.
Exploring The GRAMMYs' Jazz Field Nominees
Go inside the nominations in the Jazz Field categories for the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards
You've seen the list of nominees, now take a closer look at the artists nominated in the Jazz Field for the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
The nominees in the Jazz Field stretch from veteran artists to newcomers, with five-time GRAMMY winner Randy Brecker, 16-time GRAMMY winner Chick Corea, three-time nominee Fred Hersch, and two-time winner Sonny Rollins earning two nominations each. The women of jazz take the lead in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category with previous nominees Karrin Allyson, Terri Lyne Carrington and Tierney Sutton going up against newcomer Roseanna Vitro and GRAMMY winner Kurt Elling.
Best Improvised Jazz Solo
In the Best Improvised Jazz Solo category, seasoned artists mix with a newer crop of jazz luminaries. Tenor saxophone legend and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Sonny Rollins, whose previous GRAMMY Awards include Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group for This Is What I Do in 2001, is nominated for "Sonnymoon For Two," from Road Shows Vol. 2. Pianist Chick Corea earned his 56th career GRAMMY nomination for his solo outing on "500 Miles High" from the album Forever, which he recorded with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. Corea's most recent GRAMMY win came in 2009 for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group for Five Piece Band — Live. Another jazz veteran on the list is two-time GRAMMY-winning bassist Ron Carter, who is up for his solo on "You Are My Sunshine," from This Is Jazz. Also garnering nominations are well-established jazz mainstays, trumpeter Randy Brecker for "All Or Nothing At All" from The Jazz Ballad Song Book, and pianist Fred Hersch for his solo on "Work," from Alone At The Vanguard.
Best Jazz Vocal Album
The Best Jazz Vocal Album category is dominated by women, who earned four of the five nominations. Percussionist Terri Lyne Carrington showed a strong vocal presence on her eclectic album The Mosaic Project. This is the second GRAMMY nomination of her career, following her nod for Best Jazz Fusion Performance for her 1989 debut, Real Life Story. Three-time GRAMMY nominees Karrin Allyson and Tierney Sutton are also in the running, the latter garnering a nod for her eclectic and American music-geared concept album, American Road. Allyson is nominated for her ballad-heavy project 'Round Midnight. Roseanna Vitro, a celebrated vocalist who released her debut album in 1982, earns her first GRAMMY nomination for her jazz-flavored ode to a pop songwriting icon, The Music Of Randy Newman. Kurt Elling, up for his album The Gate, is no stranger to the GRAMMY Awards. Elling has received nine nominations previously, and won his first GRAMMY in 2009 in this category for Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music Of Coltrane And Hartman.
Best Jazz Instrumental Album
Partly because the blend of improvisation and content is a key factor in jazz, three of the Best Improvised Jazz Solo nominees this year are also present in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category. Corea, who reunited with his old fusion band allies from Return To Forever, Clarke and White, for an acoustic jazz mode, is up for Forever. For Hersch, piano has been the instrument of choice and the source of his long strong reputation as an artist, educator and bandleader. He is nominated for his solo piano album Alone At The Vanguard. Rollins captures his second nomination for the latest installment in his series of live albums, Road Shows Vol. 2. Tenor saxist Joe Lovano and Us Five reach back a few generations to pay tribute to the late Charlie Parker on Bird Songs. Up-and-coming pianist Gerald Clayton, son of big band leader John Clayton, scored a nod for Bond: The Paris Sessions. The lone band nominated in the category are two-time GRAMMY winners Yellowjackets. The fusion quartet are up for their album Timeline.
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
In this category, the nominees vary in age and experience across several decades. Six-time GRAMMY nominee Gerald Wilson has been a stalwart West Coast-based pillar of the big band scene dating back to the '50s, lending credence to the title of his nominated album with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Legacy. Lauded Puerto Rican-born alto saxist/composer Miguel Zenón has graduated from emerging to established artist, and has expanded the ensemble scope for his nominated album, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook. The Latin jazz element is also strongly represented in 40 Acres And A Burro, from Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, a band that grew out of the group led by O'Farrill's father, Chico O'Farrill. Arturo O'Farrill previously won a GRAMMY for Best Latin Jazz Album for his tribute to his father, 2008's Song For Chico. GRAMMY-winning bassist and gifted bandleader Christian McBride earned a nod for his foray into the big band world, The Good Feeling, with the Christian McBride Big Band. Tapping into the riches and opportunities of the legendary European big band scene, trumpeter Brecker earned his large ensemble moment in the sun with The Jazz Ballad Song Book, featuring the DR Big Band.
Who will take home the awards in the Jazz Field categories? Tune in to the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 12, taking place at Staples Center in Los Angeles and airing live on CBS from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT).
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