In a year that lacked some of the breakout narratives that have marked the jazz category in recent years — see Gregory Porter, Cecile McLorin Salvant -- Grammy voters once more leaned on veteran or otherwise familiar talents for the bulk of the nominations field.
Porter, who won the Grammy for jazz vocal album in 2014, returns to lead the nominees in the same category for his follow-up, “Take Me to the Alley,” which was his second release for Blue Note Records. It will be competing against Tierney Sutton’s album-length salute to the Sting songbook, “The Sting Variations,” along with recordings by René Marie, Catherine Russell and Branford Marsalis, who teamed with Kurt Elling on “Upward Spiral.”
Thirteen-year-old piano prodigy Joey Alexander, whose 2015 debut earned two Grammy nominations, is nominated in the improvised jazz solo category for his performance in the song “Countdown,” which appeared on his sophomore album of the same name. The category also includes nominations for fellow pianists Fred Hersch and Brad Mehldau along with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and guitarist John Scofield.
Scofield and Hersch also earned nominations in the instrumental album category along with Mehldau, who teamed with saxophonist Joshua Redman on the live duet recording “Nearness.” Releases by the Kenny Barron Trio and drummer Peter Erskine round out the field.
Local bandleader John Beasley and his eclectic Monk’estra ensemble earned nominations in the arranging category as well as large ensemble album, which also featured nods for John Daversa and Bob Mintzer, who also have L.A. ties. They will also compete against albums by the Ted Nash Big Band and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, whose topical “Real Enemies” was a critical favorite.
Outside of the jazz categories, the soundtrack for Don Cheadle’s biopic-adjacent film “Miles Ahead” received a nomination in the visual media category, and saxophonist Terrace Martin, who is part of the close-knit group of South L.A. jazz musicians who appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” was nominated in the R&B category for his genre-blending album “Velvet Portraits.”
Elsewhere, the eclectic jazz-adjacent group Snarky Puppy built on last year’s Grammy win with a nomination in the contemporary instrumental album category alongside albums by Bill Frisell, Steve Gadd, Chuck Loeb and Herb Alpert.