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The 37th Annual Grammy Awards : Older Lions Still Roaring Loud, Clear : Jazz

March 02, 1995|DON HECKMAN

It wasn't exactly an adventurous year for jazz Grammy nominations, with virtually no entries from such exciting young performers as Joshua Redman and Cyrus Chestnut. So it's no surprise that the academy, despite its professed interest in youth, chose to honor veterans and push aside the few young performers nominated.

Still, there's no arguing with the best jazz instrumental performance award for Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter and Wallace Roney's "Tribute to Miles" album. In an otherwise not especially distinguished list of performances, the album stands out both as a reminder of the group's golden past and as world-class contemporary jazz.

There also can be little dispute with Benny Carter's Grammy for best jazz instrumental solo. The award probably has more to do with the still-active 87-year-old's lifetime achievement than with his current playing, but--let's give him credit--it is an important acknowledgment of his continuing vitality.

Etta James' award for best vocal performance also may have come as a belated acknowledgment for past work--she has never been honored for her pop or blues singing.

The Brecker Brothers, veteran performers who have never broken through to Carter's level, managed two wins--for best contemporary jazz performance and (for Michael Brecker) best instrumental composition. In doing so, they nudged past more interesting work by the lesser-known Mike Stern, Jan Garbarek and Maria Schneider.

The gifted young bandleader-composer Schneider, one of the few nominees under the age of 40, learned the pains and the joys of Grammy competition when she also was passed over in the large jazz ensemble category, which was won by another veteran, pianist McCoy Tyner and his big band for their recording, "Journey." There's no faulting Tyner's first-rate ensemble, but the victory comes at the expense, not only of Schneider's band but of Carla Bley's and Toshiko Akiyoshi's ensembles.

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