Behind the Overdog: Jazz United Takes a Closer Look at the 2021 Grammy Nominations

Dec 4, 2020

With each year’s new slate of Grammy nominations, there comes a wave of armchair analysis.

Which artists have the momentum this year? Who got unjustly overlooked? How many more awards can overdog Chick Corea win before they retire his jersey and call it a day?

We’re being cheeky, but we know the real-world implications. Artists who take home a gold-plated gramophone trophy typically see an increase in ticket sales, industry clout and earning power. Despite it all, the Grammys do matter.

In this episode of Jazz United, we consider that calculus, and how we feel about this year’s nominee pool. There’s reason for some ambivalence about the process, and the uphill climb that unsigned and independent artists face against Hall of Famers.

What does it mean when a jazz artist chooses to compete outside the field? Is recognition surer or more plentiful for nominees in jazz-adjacent categories that forgo the J-word? And what is up with Jacob Collier?

We’re happy for all who were nominated, of course, including first-timers like Ambrose Akinmusire, Thana Alexa and the Afro-Peruvian Jazz Orchestra. We’re also happy to see recognition for eminently worthy contenders like Terri Lyne Carrington, Christian Scott Atunde Ajuah, Joshua Redman and Robert Glasper. We’ll discuss all of these artists and more — including a few who we feel should have received a Grammy nod.

The 63rd Grammy Awards will air Sunday, Jan. 31, on CBS and at

Music Featured in This Episode:

Jazz United is produced by Sarah Kerson. Our senior producer is Simon Rentner.

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