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Samara Joy wins two Grammy awards during the 2023 ceremony in Los Angeles

Samara Joy
John Abbott
Jazz Cruises
Samara Joy

For many years, jazz industry professionals pushed the Recording Academy and the television networks (including CBS and PBS) to create a separate Grammy awards show tied to jazz, perhaps with classical as well. However, the economics of prime-time television made the proposed event unfeasible. Cut to a decade or two later, when the landscape of broadcast television has been diffused such that not only are there more channels than our controllers can handle, but the predominance of streaming has changed the way we view shows.

I think the late Bruce Lundvall, a longtime champion of a more independent and creative awards show, would be pleased to see the pre-telecast edition of the Grammy awards, which the Recording Academy now calls the Premiere Ceremony. As the Academy and networks now happily realize, we’re all just as content to stream programming via our laptops, phones or even smart TVs. The production for this indi-pre-show is top-notch and features live performances, as well as hosts from the less pop-oriented categories – from Gospel to Classical to World to, yes, jazz. This pre-show and show is also cooler and hipper with a bit more improv by the presenters. Jazz nominees Arturo O’Farrill and DOMi and JD Beck were among the presenters during this three-hour-plus show.

During that pre-show whatever they call it, old soul and new talent Samara Joy, accompanied by her trio, performed a typically expressive version of “Can’t Get Out of This Mood” one of the songs from her album Linger Awhile, which in fact did win in the Jazz Vocal Album category. Both Joy and the DOMi and JD Beck duo were nominated in the Best New Artist category along with eight other artists and bands from the worlds of pop, rock, hip hop and more. And Ms. Joy won, capping a remarkable year for the gifted young vocalist, who appeared on numerous high profile talk shows and toured relentlessly. Her amazing win recalled the emergence in 2011 of Esperanza Spalding who took home the same prize, despite being in the same category as artists like Drake and Justin Bieber. The latter would be shown creepily touching Ms. Spalding’s hair during a post-awards interview. However, Spalding’s win in that category reflected the unique demographic of the membership of the Recording Academy, which tilts toward producers, engineers and studio musicians, all of whom are more favorably inclined toward artistry.

Other winners in the jazz categories included: Wayne Shorter & Leo Genovese (Best Improvised Jazz Solo); Terri Lyne Carrington for New Standards, Vol. 1 (Best Jazz Instrumental Album); Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra for their self-titled album (Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album); Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra featuring The Congra Patria Son Jarocho Collective for Fandango At The Wall In New York (Best Latin Jazz Album); Snarky Puppy for their Empire Central album (Best Contemporary Instrumental Album); Geoffrey Keezer for “Refuge” (Best Instrumental Composition); John Beasley for his arrangement of Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From the Apple” from an album by the SWR Big Band (Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella); Vince Mendoza for his arrangement of “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac vocalist Christine McVie (Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals). Also, Robert Glasper won a Grammy for Black Radio III in the Best R&B Album category.

Outside the jazz box, yet still inside the jazz community, Terence Blanchard won a well-deserved Grammy for his score for the opera “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” Actually, he didn’t really get the Grammy himself, because the award for Best Opera Recording was awarded to the conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and others associated with the recording of the groundbreaking opera. But we’re counting this award as one of for our jazz team. Terence, go ahead and add to that Grammy shelf of yours.

And the film made by Frank Marshall and Jimmy Buffett about the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, “Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story,” won as Best Music Film, a category I didn’t know existed until now. I can hear my old friend Robert Mugge, who made dozens of great documentaries about American roots music that never were eligible for a Grammy, groaning audibly now.

The winners in the jazz and blues categories are bolded in the list of nominees below:

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album

  • Between Dreaming And Joy Jeff Coffin
  • Not Tight DOMi & JD Beck
  • Blooz Grant Geissman
  • Jacob's Ladder Brad Mehldau
  • Empire Central Snarky Puppy

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

  • “Rounds (Live)” Ambrose Akinmusire, soloist
  • “Keep Holding On” Gerald Albright, soloist
  • “Falling” Melissa Aldana, soloist
  • “Call Of The Drum” Marcus Baylor, soloist
  • “Cherokee/Koko”John Beasley, soloist
  • “Endangered Species” Wayne Shorter & Leo Genovese, soloist

Best Jazz Vocal Album

  • The Evening: Live At APPARATUS The Baylor Project
  • Linger Awhile Samara Joy
  • Fade To Black Carmen Lundy
  • Fifty The Manhattan Transfer With The WDR Funkhausorchester
  • Ghost Song Cécile McLorin Salvan

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

  • New Standards Vol. 1 Terri Lyne Carrington, Kris Davis, Linda May Han Oh, Nicholas Payton & Matthew Stevens
  • Live In Italy Peter Erskine Trio
  • LongGone Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and Brian Blade
  • Live At The Detroit Jazz Festival
  • Wayne Shorter, Terri Lyne Carrington, Leo Genovese & esperanza spalding
  • Parallel Motion Yellowjackets

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

  • Bird Lives John Beasley, Magnus Lindgren & SWR Big Band
  • Remembering Bob Freedman Ron Carter & The Jazzaar Festival Big Band Directed By Christian Jacob
  • Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra Steven Feifke, Bijon Watson, Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra
  • Center Stage Steve Gadd, Eddie Gomez, Ronnie Cuber & WDR Big Band Conducted By Michael Abene
  • Architecture Of Storms Remy Le Boeuf's Assembly Of Shadows

Best Latin Jazz Album

  • Fandango At The Wall In New York Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Featuring The Congra Patria Son Jarocho Collective
  • Crisálida Danilo Pérez Featuring The Global Messengers
  • If You Will Flora Purim
  • Rhythm & Soul Arturo Sandoval
  • Música De Las Américas Miguel Zenón

Best Instrumental Composition

  • “African Tales” Paquito D'Rivera, composer (Tasha Warren & Dave Eggar)
  • “El País Invisible” Miguel Zenón, composer (Miguel Zenón, José Antonio Zayas Cabán, Ryan Smith & Casey Rafn)
  • “Fronteras (Borders) Suite: Al-Musafir Blues” Danilo Pérez, composer (Danilo Pérez Featuring The Global Messengers)
  • “Refuge” Geoffrey Keezer, composer (Geoffrey Keezer)
  • “Snapshots”Pascal Le Boeuf, composer (Tasha Warren & Dave Eggar)

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella

  • “As Days Go By (An Arrangement Of The Family Matters Theme Song)” Armand Hutton, arranger (Armand Hutton Featuring Terrell Hunt & Just 6)
  • “How Deep Is Your Love” Matt Cusson, arranger (Kings Return)
  • “Main Titles (Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness)” Danny Elfman, arranger (Danny Elfman)
  • “Minnesota, WI” Remy Le Boeuf, arranger (Remy Le Boeuf)
  • “Scrapple From The Apple” John Beasley, arranger (Magnus Lindgren, John Beasley & The SWR Big Band Featuring Martin Aeur)

Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals

  • “Let It Happen” Louis Cole, arranger (Louis Cole)
  • “Never Gonna Be Alone” Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier Featuring Lizzy McAlpine & John Mayer)
  • “Optimistic Voices / No Love Dying” Cécile McLorin Salvant, arranger (Cécile McLorin Salvant)
  • “Songbird (Orchestral Version)” Vince Mendoza, arranger (Christine McVie)
  • “2 + 2 = 5 (Arr. Nathan Schram)” Nathan Schram & Becca Stevens, arrangers (Becca Stevens & Attacca Quartet)

Best Traditional Blues Album

  • Heavy Load Blues Gov't Mule
  • The Blues Don’t Lie Buddy Guy
  • Get On Board Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder
  • The Sun Is Shining Down John Mayall
  • Mississippi Son Charlie Musselwhite

Best Contemporary Blues Album

  • Done Come Too Far Shemekia Copeland
  • Crown Eric Gales
  • Bloodline Maintenance Ben Harper
  • Set Sail North Mississippi Allstars
  • Brother Johnny Edgar Winter

You can see the complete list of winners here.

Watch: Samara Joy Yamaha Session & Live Stream:

For over 27 years, Lee Mergner served as an editor and publisher of JazzTimes until his resignation in January 2018. Thereafter, Mergner continued to regularly contribute features, profiles and interviews to the publication as a contributing editor for the next 4+ years. JazzTimes, which has won numerous ASCAP-Deems Taylor awards for music journalism, was founded in 1970 and was described by the All Music Guide, as “arguably the finest jazz magazine in the world.”