Joe Henderson and Miles Davis were the big winners in this year’s jazz Grammy selections.
After laboring for years in relative anonymity as a “musician’s musician,” Henderson, 57, added awards for best instrumental jazz solo and best jazz instrumental performance by an individual or group to his initial Grammy in 1992. Davis, who died in 1991, was represented--directly and indirectly--in three of the five jazz awards.
The richly deserved solo award for “Miles Ahead” and album award for “So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles)” confirmed the rapidly emerging view of Henderson as one of the two or three finest living jazz tenor saxophonists.
Davis was, of course, the subject of the winning Henderson tribute album. He also won (with Quincy Jones) in the recording academy’s most archaic category, the best large jazz ensemble performance, for “Miles and Quincy Live at Montreux,” hardly up to classic Davis levels, yet undeniably significant as his last major performance.
Pat Metheny repeated in the best contemporary jazz performance (instrumental) with “The Road to You,” an album that expands the envelope of contemporary jazz, and a more impressive victory than last year’s win because of powerful competition from Chick Corea, John Patitucci, the Yellowjackets and Fourplay.
In a category that seems to see many of the same names every year, Natalie Cole won her seventh Grammy with a pop-oriented vocal outing, as the academy chose to ignore a rare nomination for the talented and too often overlooked Ernestine Anderson.
Sadly, only one of the jazz Grammys was awarded on camera, and Cole’s brisk, swing-style reading of “It’s Sand, Man” and a brief fluegelhorn solo by Clark Terry with Digable Planets were the only jazz performances--a reflection of the academy’s continuing cavalier treatment of the music.
But jazz talent of varying degrees managed to sneak into other categories, with wins by Kenny G for best instrumental composition with “Forever in Love,” Dave Grusin for best arrangement on an instrumental with “Mood Indigo,” and “The Complete Billie Holiday on Verve 1945-1959" as best historical album.