Photo: Roberto Cifarelli
The History Of Yellowjackets In 10 Songs: A Gateway To The Jazz Fusion Greats
For more than 40 years, GRAMMY-winning virtuosos Yellowjackets have accumulated a commensurately eclectic, comforting and challenging catalog. Here are 10 key tracks, hand-picked by the band.
If you've never beheld the GRAMMY-winning jazz fusion of Yellowjackets, you're in for a mix of emotions few other bands can provide.
Say you came up in the early CD era, when new age and fusion reigned: the band's early material will wrap you in a glowing, digital cocoon. But that's just window dressing — the trappings of the times.
Since the very beginning, underneath the sequencers and synths, Yellowjackets have dealt in melodies that immediately lodge themselves in the brain. (Just listen to "Claire's Song" once; try to get it out of your head.)
Then, if you juxtapose those records with 2022's Parallel Motion, which is nominated for a golden gramophone for Best Instrumental Album at the 2023 GRAMMYs, you get the full picture of Yellowjackets.
With rich, loamy modern production, subtly dark-hued tunes like "Challenging Times," "Onyx Manor" and "Samaritan" work on their own terms. There is no nostalgia at play; this is simply top-notch instrumental music, written and executed superbly. Best of all, it's an ideal starting point to understand their long and complex history.
From there, tunnel backward through the 2010s, the 2000s, the '90s, and beyond — through their various eras with past members like Jimmy Haslip, Ricky Lawson, Marcus Baylor, in collaboration with singers like Kurt Elling and Bobby McFerrin, all the way back to their establishment by Robben Ford in the late 1970s. If your tastes are wired a certain way, Yellowjackets will provide hours of entertainment.
These days, keyboardist Russell Ferrante is the only original member of Yellowjackets, but each man has more than carved out his own legacy in the band. Drummer Will Kennedy joined for their 1987 album Four Corners, took the 2000s off from the band, and is now back at his post; saxophonist Bob Mintzer joined at the top of the ‘90s.
Their newest member, the nimble Dane Alderson, joined in 2015; he also happens to be their biggest fan, and his enthusiasm over Zoom over every permutation of the band is downright infectious.
To mark Parallel Motion's GRAMMY nomination, GRAMMY.com asked Ferrante to compile a list of 10 songs he feels sum up the band, and spoke with all four Yellowjackets about each one.
And because completely summing up a four-decade-old band in 10 songs is impossible, each member was allowed one or two cheat tracks, which further illuminated their history and essence.
"Monmouth College Fight Song"
(Casino Lights, 1982 compilation)
Ferrante: It was in the very beginning of Yellowjackets getting off the ground. We had just been signed to Warner Bros. and we were asked to back the singer Randy Crawford on this tour of the UK. It included a stop at the Montreux Jazz Festival, where Warner Bros. had a whole night of their artists.
Yellowjackets were the opening group of the night. I think maybe our first recording had come out. But "Monmouth College Fight Song" was this tune that I wrote, actually, while my wife was working at Monmouth College. During the daytime, I would get into the practice rooms and just play.
And I came up with this idea for the tune. It sounded like a college fight song. A really great solo from Robben Ford. I thought it would be important, if we're going to give the history of the band, that Robben put the musicians together initially. He's a really important figure in the creation and history of our band.
GRAMMY.com: He's so well-known in his own regard. Was it a challenge — like, a positive challenge — to forge the band's identity apart from him in the early days?
Ferrante: That's a very perceptive question. It was, really. When Robben went on to continue doing his solo stuff, I thought, "Well, it's going to be very difficult for us to continue," because it was really built around Robben.
But we had a record deal. As we dove into recording the next record, Mirage a Trois, Robben was on half of it, and there were a couple of other guitarists on the other half. We figured out, "Well, maybe we can do this."
Dane Alderson: Back in April, we had a European tour, and I hadn't heard that tune before. I was sitting next to Russ on a train, and we were just sharing some tunes and stuff we were listening to. Russ was like, "Man, check out this video from back in the day, and it was 'Monmouth College Fight Song,' and it just blew me away.
That, as of very recently, is one of my favorite Jackets tunes, and I'm going to try talking them into working that into the set again.
(Mirage a Trois, 1983)
Mirage a Trois was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Vocal Or Instrumental at the 1984 GRAMMYs.
Ferrante: Once that record was recorded and put out, we had very few gigs and really didn't have a complete band at that time. Every one of us in the band went out and played with different people. Jim Haslip went on tour with Al Jarreau. I think Ricky Lawson was out with Stevie Wonder or some pop group. I spent a year playing with Joni Mitchell.
When we returned from the road, we had received a GRAMMY nomination for Mirage a Trois and had an offer to play at the Playboy Jazz Festival. That reignited the band and became the launching pad from which we continued.
GRAMMY.com: When I listen to "Claire's Song," I'm thinking some people might hear it and say, "That production is stuck in the '80s!" But I'm like, "No, it sounds great!" Not just because I have a soft spot for that sound, but because the musicianship, vibe and craft transcend whatever was happening production-wise.
Ferrante: Yeah, that was a really interesting period. MIDI was just coming out around that time, and Yamaha Instruments sponsored the band for a time. We received some of the keyboards that I used on that recording. On "Claire's Song," there was a Yamaha GS-1, which was the first digital synth. We were exploring the technology, exploring sequencers.
Then, we went on, for several years, to incorporate sequencers with live performances. Not that many bands were doing it at the time. Sometimes we were criticized for that, but we thought it was challenging to try to integrate that into a jazz or improvisational setting.
That tune is also very near and dear to me, because it's written for my daughter, who was born in 1982. It was written about the joy of experiencing a young child. I think it's a really joyous song, and then the technology aspect is interesting in the band's history.
GRAMMY.com: What's Claire up to these days?
Ferrante: Claire's doing great! She just turned 40. She has a 5-year-old daughter. She lives in the Boston area. She's a graphic designer for a technology company and really doing well. She and her partner and her little daughter are grooving hard.
Alderson: I have a soft spot for "Claire's Song," and I always enjoy performing that live. It's a real crowd favorite because the bass kicks in with the melody up front and there's usually a few clasps and cheers from the audience straight away. So, that's definitely a tune that a lot of folks are a big fan of.
(Four Corners, 1987)
GRAMMY.com: I understand this to be the point where Yellowjackets leapt into global sounds. When I go back to music from this era, acts like Jethro Tull and Paul Simon were really embracing this. It was just in the ether for some reason. Where in the world were you drawing influence from for this tune.
Ferrante: Well, the meter of the song is 6/8. I think I first started hearing those kinds of grooves on this one McCoy Tyner record called Time for Tyner. There were these tunes that would go between 4/4 and 6/8, mixing up the three and the four, which is a very African sound. So, that was one of the big influences.
Jimmy Haslip was the co-writer on that. His background was from Puerto Rico. So, you had that Afro-Cuban thing going on; he had grown up listening to that music. And, you're right; there were a lot of people exploring African music. Certainly, Brazilian music had been in the mix with jazz for a long time, since the '50s.
Bob Mintzer worked his way through salsa bands, the Buddy Rich Band, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, and his own big band, among other outlets, to pave the way toward becoming a Yellowjacket. Greenhouse went on to be nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance at the 1992 GRAMMYs.
Bob Mintzer: What I remember about that whole project was coming from a different corner of the music scene and not knowing a lot about the Yellowjackets, honestly. I had some of the misconceptions that a lot of other people had about the band, at least in the traditional jazz realm.
So, they called me to play on the record and feel out whether there was something there that might lead to some sort of long-term relationship. And when I heard the demo of the tune "Greenhouse," it was like: Wait a minute. This is very different than what I had heard from the band previously.
It was far more adventurous, very unique sounding. It had a real personality. And I thought: Wow, this will be a lot of fun and challenging to play.
Ferrante: It was a statement about the environment that was coming into people's consciousnesses — actually, even earlier than that. But around that time, we were really becoming more aware of that. The tune has a little bit of an ominous feeling. Again, some of those African influences — the meter and layering of the different rhythms.
That, along with the orchestra: it seemed we hadn't really done anything quite like that before. Almost a fusion of classical music and our version of world music.
Will Kennedy: "Greenhouse" was a mind-blowing experience because of the use of the real string players and also Vince Mendoza's involvement. To stand in a room with real string players was really incredible. The sound of stereo makes an incredible feeling in sound.
(Live Wires, 1991)
Mintzer: That was a great collaborative record where the band brought in a lot of the people they had worked with in the past.
Ferrante: I remember Bob had been in the band a couple of years. We were really firing on all cylinders at that point and thought, "Wow, let's document this." Our manager, as managers do, said, "Well, let's get some special guests too. We could really maximize this opportunity."
Mintzer: Take Six was one such group; we played on one of their Christmas records. It was thrilling to hear those guys; they're such great vocalists and have such a wonderful sound collectively. To put that on the tune "Revelation" was stunning.
Ferrante: Also, on that recording, we collaborated with Michael Franks. We had done some touring with him as well, the previous year in Europe, and spent about a month as his band. That was a nice connection.
Kennedy: There's nothing like doing a live recording. Generally, all recordings are just a snapshot of you as an artist, and as a musician. It's a snapshot of your present state and present contribution to the craft. Live Wires was that: an unusual opportunity to document our live performance.
GRAMMY.com: How about the meat of the tune itself?
Ferrante: The gospel influence has always been a big part of Yellowjackets music. I grew up in a church tradition. My dad was a choir director. I heard gospel music from the womb until I left home.
(Blue Hats, 1997)
Ferrante: "New Rochelle" was written by Bob. It's the town he grew up in.
Mintzer: It's a sort of microcosm of New York City. Actually, it was a town before the freeways were built. People would stop overnight and stay in a hotel and then get up and drive with their horse and buggy the rest of the way into Manhattan.
My grandparents actually owned a hotel in New Rochelle, so there was a whole network of family members that were proprietors. It was a good place to grow up. It was right next to New York City, so I had access to all [its] clubs and activities.
It was kind of funk and R&B meets every other kind of music imaginable. I really am intimately familiar with what each person does, and that allows me to improvise these musical ideas in my head.
And with a rhythm section like Will Kennedy and Russ Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip, your imagination can run wild and go to a lot of different places.
Kennedy: It's another example of one of those catchy, memorable melodies, surrounded by some unusual rhythms and feels underneath it.
A little side note: "New Rochelle" is a song I use for teaching drummers. It's challenging because of its uniqueness and rhythm. The rhythmic makeup is challenging for a young musician, and it's something that will help you grow if you can develop to play it well.
(Twenty Five, 2006)
At this point, Marcus Baylor — now in the Baylor Project — had joined Yellowjackets. This is a re-recording of a song from 1994's Run For Your Life.
Ferrante: Between [1997's] Blue Hats and this recording, we signed to a different label, Heads Up Records, and were retooling. That was also corresponding with the bottom dropping out of the music business in a big way, where file sharing came in and CD sales plummeted.
Mintzer: Boy, that was a great iteration of the band. Marcus was an amazing drummer and there was a different kind of energy. That record was super high-energy and musical and really fun.
I just remember that was a pretty slamming version of "Runferyerlife." It's what we call a contrafact on George and Ira Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm," which is a very fertile vehicle for improvisation. Any jazz player will inevitably play a tune based on what we call "rhythm changes," and this was one such example.
Ferrante: The [rendition of that] tune from that live recording was one of the records we made for Heads Up, commemorating 25 years since the release of the band's first recording.
Kennedy: I wasn't in the band at that point. The original "Runferyerlife" is on that title CD; it's a blazing-fast jazz swing tune. Which is another thing that Yellowjackets are noted for; we have a few songs that are up-there, fast-swing jazz tunes. Thanks to Bob Mintzer.
Ferrante: After our association with Heads Up Records, they were bought by Concord and we had no recording deal. That's when we established a relationship with Mack Avenue Records.
Timeline is the first recording with Will after he had left the band for more than 10 years. There was a nice energy and a spark. Whenever there's a change in personnel, there's a shift. A lot of that is due to the fact that Yellowjackets is a democracy. There's no leader. Each guy really has equal input — financially equal, decision-making equal.
Kennedy: "Timeline," the title song, is a Russell Ferrante composition, which is another one of those singable, memorable melodies, surrounded by an unusual time signature underneath and quirky rhythms that aren't easy to count or feel. Yet, you're listening to a beautiful melody that makes you feel good.
Alderson: I re-recorded that with the band on the album Raising Our Voice. It was my second recording with the band. I've done four recordings now. The arrangement of "Timeline" was slightly different; we rearranged it.
We had a fantastic singer, a lady named Luciana Souza, who featured on that album, so it was rearranged for her to sing the melody. We threw in some trading; Bob and I traded solos in that tune. I've been a big fan of that tune ever since.
"The Red Sea"
(Jackets XL, 2020)
Mintzer: "The Red Sea" was something I composed on a piano. I don't really do that so much these days. I just kind of compose out of my head and use the notation software Sibelius to experiment and try things. But I can actually play the piano part to "The Red Sea"; it's just something I improvised over time.
That tune was inspired by a band called Ultramarine. Nguyên Lê, a guitar player, and some guys from France had this great band — sort of an Afrobeat band. They did some 6/8 Afro- kind of tunes that really inspired me. I thought that'd be great to write something like that for the Yellowjackets.
GRAMMY.com: Tell me how your partnership with the WDR Big Band came to be.
Ferrante: That was a nice connection that came through Bob Mintzer. For the last five years plus, or even longer, he's been the primary conductor for the WDR Big Band, which is a government-funded big band based in Cologne, Germany.
He proposed to the WDR to do a program with Yellowjackets. We wrote new arrangements, wrote a couple of new tunes and went. During one of our European tours, we detoured for about a week to Cologne and rehearsed and recorded the music.
Alderson: "The Red Sea" has always been one of my favorites. Will Kennedy — it's hard to find the words to describe that guy and his approach to drumming and how he plays and his musicianship.
He plays with so much intensity and energy, but it's never too much; he never plays too loudly or too over the top. It's this intense energy at such an awesome level, and he just has everything, that guy.
Kennedy: WDR really crushed it. We all had fun. The recording led to some live performances with them. Really, really exciting to carry that to a live situation. Too bad we didn't record and release that.
(Parallel Motion, 2022)
Ferrante: That's a tune by our bassist, Dane Alderson.
He's really coming into his own as a composer. Each record, he's contributed more music. I think we felt this piece was a little different for the band. Dane wrote it entirely on his own, and he has some different influences. It's intriguing for us to play a piece of music that feels like it's a little bit outside what we normally do.
Alderson: That title has had a couple of different meanings for me. I was in a short-lived band called Onyx Manor here in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a regular gig I had every Monday night at a restaurant my sister used to work at Rapture in the downtown mall in Charlottesville.
When I heard that name, I just loved how it sounded. And then, this tune I was putting together — one day, I put that title in there. And then, listening back, it really gave me an image of what Onyx Manor might look like.
Ferrante: We wanted there to be a tip of the hat to Dane. Because he's a really important part of the band. He's the newest member. He's the youngest, and he's the future of the music.
Kennedy: Dane's contribution was a mild left turn for the band. Whenever you change a member in a band, it affects the overall picture because it's a new personality — a new set of experiences that are being added to the situation.
GRAMMY.com: Boiling down a 40-year-old band's catalog to just 10 songs is insane, so I'm going to allow you all one or two cheat tracks. Go for it.
Ferrante: Selfishly, I love this song, and a lot of our fans seem to think it's one of their favorite tunes. It's a tune called "Geraldine." It's a dedication to my wife. So, I'm obviously very biased.
Then, if we wanted to include the other GRAMMY-nominated composition, there's one from [2008's GRAMMY-nominated album] Lifecycle called "Claire's Closet." That one featured Bob on clarinet — a very sweet and tender kind of song.
Mintzer: Oh, gosh. I think I played on 20 records with the band over a 32-year period, and it would be hard to boil it down to a couple of tunes.All the tunes on all the records were very strong — well thought out, well planned out and well played.
Kennedy: There's another song on the Blue Hats recording called "Cape Town," and that happens to be a tune I co-wrote with Russell and Jimmy Haslip. It was based on an African rhythm called magabu.
It's another one of those singable melodies flowing over really cultural-sounding rhythms. You can really feel and sense the depth of the rhythms that are taking place. It's like a twist of lemon. It makes you turn your head and go: What's going on here?
Alderson: On the album Timeline, there's a tune called "Why Is It," which is an uptempo, funk kind of groove. I love playing that.
Another tune from the album, which was among the first batch of tunes I learned, is called "Tenacity." That's an uptempo swing tune with some really fun hits and a great ostinato drum solo at the end of the tune.
Whenever we put these setlists together, I look down and I start to get excited. I'm like, "I can't wait to play that. I can't wait to play that. Can't wait to try out this idea on that."
What a gig to have, man. I'm just going to keep saying it. It's so amazing.
Photo: Jeff Vespa/WireImage.com
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Me and mom out and about pic.twitter.com/ix3LBT1UCq— Thomas Rhett (@ThomasRhett) January 25, 2017
Thank you and I love you all. pic.twitter.com/hCWRadBtEz— Panic! At The Disco (@PanicAtTheDisco) January 19, 2017
At the JEN gathering in N’awlins talking saxophone w/ Branford and Jeff Coffin pic.twitter.com/88cnFSuwCU— Bob Mintzer (@BobMintzer) January 7, 2017
Musicians Are Educating By Example
Artists such as Melissa Manchester, Terri Lyne Carrington, Wyclef Jean, and Mark Volman are passing on their experiences and expertise to students in the classroom
Whether it's by choice or by accident, some music stars are building a second career that's rather academic.
After spending decades recording albums, staging tours and learning the ropes of the music industry, established musicians are taking their experience and applying it to the classroom, obtaining positions as chairs, fellows, professors, instructors, and lecturers at colleges, universities and other academic institutions.
"I've just finished my second year and it's been fantastic!" enthuses GRAMMY winner Melissa Manchester, who is an adjunct professor teaching voice and songwriting at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music.
"I hadn't really thought about doing it since I'd never gone to much of college, but I was invited to teach a master class at [USC and] we had a rockin' time — and then I was brought in to cover a class called Writing For Musical Theatre For Pop Students.
"My students created a musical that was just fantastic, and then Chris Sampson, associate dean [and director] of the Popular Music [Program], invited me back to teach individual instruction for what I call the Art Of Conversational Singing. It's thrilling."
Manchester isn't the only renowned artist teaching at Thornton: the faculty also includes noted GRAMMY-nominated trombonist Bill Watrous, Yellowjackets co-founder and GRAMMY-winning pianist Russell Ferrante, and veteran GRAMMY-winning jazz drummer Peter Erskine. Meanwhile, classic rocker Steve Miller, eminent GRAMMY-winning songwriter Lamont Dozier and GRAMMY-nominated jazz pianist Patrice Rushen have all fulfilled appointments as USC artists-in-residence.
Meanwhile, at Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music — where well-known instructors include bluegrass fiddler Darol Anger, hit songwriter Kara DioGuardi and GRAMMY-winning bass player John Patitucci — Professor Terri Lyne Carrington says that her career as a celebrated jazz drummer works as an invaluable teaching tool for those desiring an insider's view of the business.
"We're currently doing the things that most students want to do," says 2011 GRAMMY winner Carrington, whose rhythmic skills earned her a full Berklee College of Music scholarship at age 11, and an honorary doctorate in 2003.
"There's something about learning from somebody [who] has the experience that you're trying to have that's different than from somebody [who] has dedicated their whole life to teaching. You need both, actually, because educators [who] have dedicated their lives to mostly educating and maybe not touring and playing as much, have methods and ways of teaching that have been honed, specialized and worked out to their maximum abilities.
"Berklee is cool because it has both elements. My students see me juggling my career and my teaching schedule while trying to make sure they get all their lessons in and it inspires them, because that's what they want to be doing."
A few scholars have even gone beyond music to channel their inner educator: Bad Religion singer and co-founder Greg Graffin, Ph.D., currently lectures in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, while Brian Cox, ex-keyboardist with '90s Irish dance pop band D:Ream, is a professor at the University of Manchester. Cox made headlines as an English particle physicist while working on experiments involving the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland.
And in 2010, GRAMMY winner Wyclef Jean was appointed a visiting fellow at Rhode Island-based Brown University's Department of Africana Studies, taking part in Haiti-related lectures, classes and faculty conversations.
But for the most part, musicians have stuck to either their own fields, or ones that bear an immediate association. For example, Mark Volman, co-founder of '60s pop band the Turtles, doesn't teach performance. As chair of Entertainment Industry Studies and assistant professor at Belmont University's Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business, he does offer a practical curriculum involving the business itself.
"You're either in my class because you're interested in the business of music and would like to be on the business side — the record company, the management, publishing and so forth — or you're a musician — a singer, an artist, a creator — looking to be smart enough to go in with a good manager or attorney and ask the questions necessary to negotiate the best deals for yourself as you become better known and more successful," says Volman.
Volman is a latecomer to the academic world. Now 66, he was 45 when he first attended Los Angeles' Loyola Marymount University to obtain his undergraduate degree in communications.
He graduated as class valedictorian with a bachelor's degree in 1997 and eventually earned his master's degree in Fine Arts at Loyola in 1999.
Volman says he's found personal fulfillment through teaching on a number of levels.
"It's the fulfillment of realizing that you're being looked to and trusted for what I'm doing in terms of helping them get to the point where I'm at now: a 50-year career still making a living at what I left high school to do.
"We now license our [Turtles] music to iTunes. We own our master recordings. We own the concert business. Everything of value is coming back to us. So now I can teach students how to do that, and I really get a lot of satisfaction helping students get to that point."
There's maybe another benefit to teaching younger generations. Carrington, who began her teaching career at USC before moving back to Boston to be closer to her parents, says her students keep her contemporary.
"I'm inspired by my students," she notes. "A lot of them have a zest, a drive, and they're trying to do something different.
"My playing has also gotten a lot better after teaching. And I get to stay current and know what the heck is going on with new music, what they’re listening to and rhythms all over the world. There's a lot of mutual inspiration."
(Nick Krewen is a Toronto-based journalist who has written for The Toronto Star, TV Guide, Billboard, Country Music and was a consultant for the National Film Board's music industry documentary Dream Machine.)
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).
Follow GRAMMY.com for our inside look at GRAMMY news, blogs, photos, videos, and of course nominees. Stay up to the minute with GRAMMY Live. Check out the GRAMMY legacy with GRAMMY Rewind. Explore this year's GRAMMY Fields. Or check out the collaborations at Re:Generation, presented by Hyundai Veloster. And join the conversation at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Exploring The Jazz Field Nominees
Go inside the nominations in the Jazz Field categories for the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards
You've seen the list of nominees, now take a closer look at the artists nominated in the Jazz Field categories for the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
This year's nominees in the Jazz Field include first-time nominations for new projects by GRAMMY winners Gil Evans and Pat Metheny, and first-time nominees Chano Domínguez, Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian. Returning nominees looking for their first GRAMMY include Ravi Coltrane, Denise Donatelli and the Bobby Sanabria Big Band. Artists looking to add to their prior GRAMMY wins include Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Kurt Elling, Kenny Garrett, Al Jarreau, Arturo Sandoval, and Esperanza Spalding.
Best Improvised Jazz Solo
Ravi Coltrane, soloist, "Cross Roads"
Coltrane is up for one nomination this year. He has one prior GRAMMY nomination.
Gary Burton & Chick Corea, soloists, "Hot House"
Burton is up for two nominations this year. He has 19 prior GRAMMY nominations and six wins. Corea is up for five nominations this year. He has 57 prior GRAMMY nominations and 19 wins, including those with his Return To Forever, Akoustic, Elektric, and Origin bands.
Chick Corea, soloist, "Alice In Wonderland"
Corea is up for five nominations this year. He has 57 prior GRAMMY nominations and 19 wins, including those with his Return To Forever, Akoustic, Elektric, and Origin bands.
Kenny Garrett, soloist "J. Mac"
Garrett is up for two nominations this year. He has five prior GRAMMY nominations and one win.
Brad Mehldau, soloist, "Ode"
Mehldau is up for one nomination this year. He has three prior GRAMMY nominations.
Best Jazz Vocal Album
Denise Donatelli, Soul Shadows
Donatelli is up for one nomination this year. She has one prior GRAMMY nomination.
Kurt Elling, 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project
Elling is up for one nomination this year. He has 10 prior GRAMMY nominations and one win.
Al Jarreau (And The Metropole Orkest), Live
Jarreau is up for one nomination this year. He has 18 prior GRAMMY nominations and six wins.
Luciana Souza, The Book Of Chet
Souza is up for two nominations this year. She has five prior GRAMMY nominations and one win.
Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society
Spalding is up for three nominations this year. She has two prior GRAMMY nominations and one win.
Best Jazz Instrumental Album
Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez & Paul Motian, Further Explorations
Corea is up for five nominations this year. He has 57 prior GRAMMY nominations and 19 wins, including those with his Return To Forever, Akoustic, Elektric, and Origin bands. Gomez and Motian are up for one nomination each this year, marking the first GRAMMY nominations of their respective careers.
Chick Corea & Gary Burton, Hot House
Corea is up for five nominations this year. He has 57 prior GRAMMY nominations and 19 wins, including those with his Return To Forever, Akoustic, Elektric, and Origin bands. Burton is up for two nominations this year. He has 19 prior GRAMMY nominations and six wins.
Kenny Garrett, Seeds From The Underground
Garrett is up for two nominations this year. He has five prior GRAMMY nominations and one win.
Ahmad Jamal, Blue Moon
Jamal is up for one nomination this year. He has one prior GRAMMY nomination.
Pat Metheny Unity Band, Unity Band
The Pat Metheny Unity Band are up for one nomination this year, marking their first career GRAMMY nomination. Metheny has 35 prior GRAMMY nominations and 19 wins, including those with the Pat Metheny Group.
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
Gil Evans Project, Centennial: Newly Discovered Works Of Gil Evans
The Gil Evans Project are up for one nomination this year, marking their first career GRAMMY nomination. Evans is up for two nominations as an arranger. He has 11 prior GRAMMY nominations and two wins.
Bob Mintzer Big Band, For The Moment
The Bob Mintzer Big Band are up for one nomination this year. They have one prior GRAMMY win. Mintzer is up for one additional nomination this year as an arranger. He has 14 prior GRAMMY nominations and one win, including those as part of Yellowjackets and Bob Mintzer Big Band.
Arturo Sandoval, Dear Diz (Every Day I Think Of You)
Sandoval is up for one nomination this year. He has nine prior GRAMMY nominations and three wins, including those as part of Irakere.
Best Latin Jazz Album
Chano Domínguez, Flamenco Sketches
Domínguez is up for one nomination this year, marking the first GRAMMY nomination of his career.
The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band, ¡Ritmo!
The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band is up for one nomination this year, marking their first career GRAMMY nomination. Fischer has 11 prior GRAMMY nominations and one win.
Bobby Sanabria Big Band, Multiverse
The Bobby Sanabria Big Band are up for one nomination this year. They have one prior GRAMMY nomination.
Luciana Souza, Duos III
Souza is up for two nominations this year. She has five prior GRAMMY nominations and one win.
Manuel Valera New Cuban Express, New Cuban Express
Manuel Valera New Cuban Express are up for one nomination this year, marking their first career GRAMMY nomination.
Who will take home the awards in the Jazz Field categories? Tune in to the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 10, 2013, 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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