With all due respect to Arcade Fire, the 53rd Grammy Awards’ most surprising moment came when prodigiously talented but relatively unknown jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding beat out Drake, Florence & The Machine, Mumford & Sons, and Justin freaking Bieber in the “Best New Artist” category. (Bieber nation was NOT amused). Jazz lovers might be slightly perplexed at the “new” distinction since she has issued two previous albums, has collaborated with Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Herbie Hancock, and performed at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, at President Obama’s invitation, but we’re thrilled that Spalding is now getting the recognition she so richly deserves. (We’re even willing to bet that some of those Bieber fans come around eventually.) We’ve had her 2006 debut Junjo on repeat.
We’d also like to congratulate the following Orchard artists for winning in their respective categories:
Mingus Big Band Live at Jazz Standard won in the “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album” category. It was the 7th Grammy nomination for a group called “the best jazz orchestra in the world” (Washington Post). The album is a rousing and raucous recording of a sold-out 2008 / 2009 New Year’s Eve concert featuring ten selections from Charles Mingus’s 1959 zenith, performed under the musical direction of his widow Sue Mingus. Special guests include Jeff “Tain” Watts and Randy Brecker.
Early music virtuoso Jordi Savall ‘s recently released album The Borgia Dynasty (Dinastia Borja) won for “Best Small Ensemble Performace.” It’s a three-volume set featuring performances of works by Renaissance-era composers Heinrich Isaac, Guillaume Dufay, and Cristóbal de Morales, as well as traditional works from the period. Its release coincides with the 500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Francis Borgia.
Larry Carlton and Tak Matsumoto‘s collaborative album Take Your Pick took home the award for “Best Pop Instrumental Album.” Larry Carlton, a former member of The Crusaders and Fourplay, and the composer of the Hill Street Blues theme, was previously nominated in the same category in 2008. He has received a staggering 19 Grammy nominations over the course of his long career. Tak Matsumoto is a superstar in his native Japan, where he has racked up 43 #1 singles, 23 #1 albums, and sold more than 79 million records with his group B’z.