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A Take Five Toast to Grammy Winners in Jazz and Blues

Composer and bandleader Maria Schneider accepts a Grammy Award in Los Angeles in 2014. On Sunday she won two more, for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Composer and bandleader Maria Schneider accepts a Grammy Award in Los Angeles in 2014. On Sunday she won two more, for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

The Grammy Premiere Ceremony — the pre-telecast ritual where most of the Grammy Awards are actually announced — took place virtually this year, like so many other recent events of its kind.

Despite those restrictions, there was room for a performance by Terri Lyne Carrington & Social Science, whose Waiting Game was up for Best Instrumental Jazz Album. Social Science didn't end up winning, but their version of "Trapped in the American Dream," with Kassa Overall and Debo Ray on vocals, delivered a jolt of conscience.


Maria Schneider won two awards: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, for Data Lords, and Best Instrumental Composition, for "Sputnik," one of its standout tracks, featuring Scott Robinson on baritone saxophone. Schneider's music can't be found on streaming services, but she did post a minute-long soundcheck of "Sputnik" in 2019.

Below, find tracks from some of the other winning jazz and blues artists.

Chick Corea Trio, "All Blues"

Chick Corea Trilogy: All Blues feat. Christian McBride & Brian Blade (Official Audio)

We've mused here recently about the Grammy predominance of Chick Corea, whose two posthumous awards this year brings his grand total to 25. He won Best Instrumental Jazz Album for Trilogy 2, featuring bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for that album's version of "All Blues." Accepting on his behalf, his widow Gayle Moran Corea said: "He was playing 'All Blues' with our family in some of the last hours before he moved on to his next adventure."

Kurt Elling with Danilo Pérez, "Overjoyed"


Kurt Elling won his second Best Jazz Vocal Album award for Secrets Are the Best Stories, his collaboration with pianist Danilo Pérez. The album features Elling's musical settings of poetry by Toni Morrison, Robert Bly and others — and, as a bonus track, this version of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," arranged by Pérez. (It's safe to say that was the sentiment in Elling's house when he won.)

Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, "Baby Jack"

Baby Jack

Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra were a clear front-runner for Best Latin Jazz Album, and Four Questions delivered its third commanding win in that category. O'Farrill was also in the running for Best Instrumental Composition, an award he won in 2018; that nominated composition, "Baby Jack," is the album's opening track.

John Beasley MONK'estra, "Donna Lee"

John Beasley - Donna Lee (Official Audio)

No jazz artist came into this Grammy Awards with more nominations than John Beasley, who had a stake in Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album (for MONK'estra Plays John Beasley), Best Jazz Vocal Album (for Somi's Holy Room, featuring his arranging and conducting), Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals (for his work with Maria Mendes); and Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella. That last award is the one he won, for a Latin-infused take on Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee."

Bobby Rush, "Shake It For Me"

Bobby Rush "Shake It For Me"

Rawer Than Raw, which took Best Traditional Blues Album, is Bobby Rush's puckishly titled follow-up to Raw, from the mid-2000s. As before, it's a stripped-down acoustic effort that pays homage to some of his Mississippi blues influences — like Howlin' Wolf, who recorded Willie Dixon's "Shake For Me" for his self-titled 1962 album, known to blues fans as "The Rocking Chair Album."

Robert Glasper, "Better Than I Imagined (feat. H.E.R., Meshell Ndegeocello)

Robert Glasper - Better Than I Imagined ft. H.E.R., Meshell Ndegeocello

Finally, a nod to Robert Glasper, who won his first couple of Grammys in the R&B field, for the first two installments of Black Radio. Glasper has been working on Black Radio 3, and last summer he shared an early single from the project: "Better Than I Imagined," which he wrote and performed in collaboration with H.E.R. and Meshell Ndegeocello. Each of those artists has a share in the track's win for Best R&B Song.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.