More than in past years, 1990 Grammy voters were faced with very tough choices in the jazz division because so many first-class projects made it to the final ballot.
Take the big band jazz instrumental category. McCoy Tyner's zesty "Uptown/Downtown" (Columbia/CBS) and the romping Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra's "The Definitive Thad Jones" (MusicMasters), two examples of modern large ensemble jazz at its finest, are up against Miles Davis' "Aura" (Columbia/CBS), where the trumpeter is spotlighted in a number of settings, as well as Duke Ellington's "Music Is My Mistress" (MusicMasters) and Count Basie's Orchestra, conducted by Frank Foster, "The Legend, The Legacy"(Denon)--two stellar mainstream big band releases. While sentiment favors drummer Lewis, who died Feb. 2, the Foster-led Basie contingent seems a more likely winner.
The jazz/fusion category is another all-star slugfest. Davis' "Amandla" (Warner Bros.) dukes it out with the Pat Metheny Group's "Letter From Home" (Geffen), Larry Carlton's "On Solid Ground" (MCA), John Patitucci's "On the Corner" (GRP), Joe Sample's "Spellbound" (Warner Bros.) and Terri Lyne Carrington's "Real Life Story" (Verve Forecast). True, Carrington is the first woman ever to be nominated in the jazz/fusion slot and Patitucci's release overflows with good sounds; still, we see Carlton's effort--his first since recovering from a gunshot assault outside his Hollywood Hills home--as the one left standing after this Grammy title fight.
Some other picks: singer Dianne Schuur should score a female jazz vocal Grammy, with her "The Christmas Song" (GRP) besting Ruth Brown's "Blues on Broadway" (Fantasy) and Anita O'Day's "In a Mellow Tone" (DRG); Joe Williams should win another male jazz vocal for his "In Good Company," coming out ahead of Lou Rawls' "At Last" (Blue Note) and George Benson's "Tenderly" (Warner Bros.), among others, and "Chick Corea's Akoustic Band" (GRP) should top Wynton Marsalis' "The Majesty of the Blues" (CBS) and Andre Previn's "After Hours" in the group jazz instrumental arena.