A full scale, from prime choices to mismatched entries

Special to The Times

Typically, the jazz nominations for the 45th Grammy Awards are a mix of prime choices, vaguely defined categories and entries that belong elsewhere.

On the prime side, there is the classy best jazz instrumental album lineup. It's hard to go wrong with a grouping that includes Wayne Shorter, Dave Douglas, Michel Camilo, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove.

The best large ensemble album category is almost as good, balancing the traditional big band sounds of Sammy Nestico, Slide Hampton and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra with the adventurousness of Dave Holland and the Mingus Big Band.

And the best Latin jazz category offers similarly diverse choices, from the lighthearted Caribbean Jazz Project and the Brazilian jazz of Duduka Da Fonseca to the Cuban rhythms of Jane Bunnett, the urban sounds of John Santos and the envelope stretching of Omar Sosa.

Matters get dicey in the contemporary jazz category. Nothing wrong with Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, the Yellowjackets and Joe Zawinul, but what definition places them in this group? If there's a contemporary jazz category, should there also be a traditional jazz category?

So, too, for the best jazz instrumental solo, always the vaguest jazz segment. Brecker, Hancock, Metheny, Pete Christlieb and Tommy Flanagan are fine players, but what definitions make their solos more worthy than thousands of other recorded improvisations?

Finally, the best jazz vocal album category is even more mismatched than usual. Etta Jones is a blues singer, no matter her material; Patti Austin and Natalie Cole are excellent pop artists working in jazz settings; Luciana Souza is a talented jazz vocalist, but in this album she sings Brazilian songs. Which leaves Diana Krall as the sole full-time jazz entry. She, at least, is represented by her best outing in years. Go figure.

For The Record Los Angeles Times Friday January 10, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 16 inches; 573 words Type of Material: Correction Jazz singer -- A commentary on the jazz Grammy nominations in Wednesday's Calendar incorrectly said that Etta Jones is a blues singer and does not belong in the jazz vocal album category. As explained in today's jazz column, writer Don Heckman was mistakenly thinking of blues singer Etta James when he wrote Wednesday's article. The late Jones was a jazz singer and does, in Heckman's opinion, belong in the category.
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