Recording artist Robert Glasper, center, accepts the award for best R&B… (John Shearer / Invision/AP )
Can the biggest Grammy news in jazz come from outside of its own category?
While the 55th Grammy Awards stuck to something of a familiar script with some of its honorees, jazz pianist Robert Glasper made the biggest headlines by taking home a surprise win in the R&B category, besting albums by R. Kelly, Anthony Hamilton, Tamia and Tyrese.
Backed by his band the Experiment, Glasper freely drew from multiple genres outside of jazz on the Grammy-winning "Black Radio," which featured guest turns from Erykah Badu, King and Lupe Fiasco. But the spirit of jazz remained in the album's free-wheeling, forward-looking pulse, particularly in the wanderings of Glasper's keyboard.
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"It's a jazz record, it's soul, it's hip-hop — it's kind of everything," Glasper told The Times in a 2012 interview. "I don't know what to call it."
The jazz awards were presented in the pre-broadcast portion of Sunday's Grammys.
Longtime Grammy favorite Chick Corea, who was competing against himself in two of the jazz categories, won in the improvised jazz solo category for "Hot House," which came from the album of the same name with longtime collaborator Gary Burton. The pianist won the Grammy for instrumental composition for the song "Mozart Goes Dancing," which was also taken from "Hot House." Corea also won two Grammy Awards in 2012.
While it wasn't the high-profile, best new artist victory of 2011, bassist Esperanza Spalding was honored in the jazz vocal category for "Radio Music Society." The alburm was the follow-up to Spalding's Grammy breakthrough, which also drew freely from elements of R&B and soul music.
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Another familiar name, Gil Evans, was honored for instrumental arrangement in "Centennial — Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans," a critically lauded recording led by producer Ryan Truesdell.
Guitarist Pat Matheny bested Corea in the jazz instrumental category with the album "Unity Band," the recorded debut of a taut ensemble that featured young bassist Ben Williams and saxophonist Chris Potter.
Bandleader Arturo Sandoval won in the large ensemble category for "Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)," and the Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band bested efforts by Luciana Souza and Chano Domínguez in the Latin jazz album category for "¡Ritmo!"
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