Jazz Awards '08

The Jazz Journalists Association announced the winners of its 2008 awards today. Here’s most of them—followed, in parentheses by how I voted:

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR: Herbie Hancock. (This is for his remarkable Joni Mitchell tribute-album, which crossed jazz and pop more compellingly than any fusion heard in some time. But I voted Ornette Coleman, for blowing as rivetingly as ever, and in some ways more gorgeously, at his concert at Town Hall.)

RECORD OF THE YEAR: Maria Schneider, Sky Blue. (Yes!)

REISSUE/HISTORICAL RECORD OF THE YEAR: Charles Mingus, Cornell ‘64. (Ditto!)

REISSUE BOX SET: Roy Haynes, Life in Time. (Yes again; it’s an illuminating collection. This is getting oddly monotonous.)

COMPOSER: Maria Schneider. (Who else?)

MALE SINGER: Andy Bey. (Well, I must confess, I didn’t vote for anybody.)

FEMALE SINGER: Abbey Lincoln. (I prefer her protege, Kendra Shank.)

SMALL ENSEMBLE: Ornette Coleman Quartet/Quintet. (Me, too.)

LARGE ENSEMBLE: Maria Schneider Orchestra. (Um-hmm.)

TRUMPETER: Terence Blanchard. (Ordinarily, I’d pick Dave Douglas, but nobody particularly knocked me out this year. If pressed, I’d go with Douglas by default.)

ALTO SAXOPHONE: Ornette Coleman. (Right, right, right.)

TENOR SAXOPHONE: Sonny Rollins. (Yes. And jazz is a young man’s game, no?)

PLAYER OF INSTRUMENT RARE IN JAZZ: Scott Robinson. (He’s become really, really good, and there’s nobody who plays so many reeds.)

PIANIST: Hank Jones. (Well, c’mon, he’s very good—not just “very good for 88 years old,” but by whatever standards you choose. But Jason Moran is still my man, followed closely by Frank Kimbrough, whose solo album this year, Air, is staggering. Fred Hersch, Paul Bley, Brad Mehldau, and—especially if he struck out on his own more often—Ethan Iverson are up there, too. Keith Jarrett is still on my s**t list.)

BASSIST: Christian McBride. (I can’t complain about this choice, especially given his agile performance with Sonny Rollins and Roy Haynes at Carnegie Hall. But I’d give higher marks to Ornette’s bassist, Tony Falanga; to his former bassist, Greg Cohen; and, his long-ago bassist, Charlie Haden, at least in his peak moments, which I saw him hit at the Village Vanguard not long ago.

DRUMMER: Roy Haynes. (Definitely gets the silver, but the gold goes to the unfathomably amazing Paul Motian. See the link to Charlie Haden above.)

CLARINETIST: Anat Cohen. (Yes, as I’ve written here a number of times, though the album of hers that I’ve praised, Poetica, is much better than anything she’s done before or since.)

GUITARIST: Bill Frisell. (Yes, at his best, there’s no one better; his latest album, History/Mystery, is a two-CD set—the first tight and cooking, the second loose and a bit soggy.)

STRINGS: Regina Carter. (No, plenty better here: Jenny Scheinman or Mark Feldman, violin; and certainly—what’s going on here, guys?—Erik Friedlander on cello.)

freenwood's picture

What's the beef with Keith Jarrett?

IMWright's picture

And the reward for self-congratulatory criticism goes to...

Dave_c's picture

Nice list Fred. Enjoy seeing your comments too.As for guitarist, while I have been a Frisell fan for many years (and continue to admire him greatly), Nels Cline is on fire these days and probably should have won here.But then most on this list are almost in the "lifetime achievement" category (no slight intended, but that's certainly the way it look to have played out).I look at Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake's amazing 'From The River To The Ocean' - on the Thrill Jockey label! - as a prime example of one of the best releases of last year and wonder where each of these players falls? Where's The Exploding Star Orchestra? How about William Parker?I mean Terence Blanchard?!?!? Hmmmm. . . Was Wadada Leo Smith even nominated in the trumpet category? Nils Petter Molvaer?Of course there are bound to be omissions, but the above list sure looks like a sign that jazz is firmly stuck in the past.BTW - I enjoyed your take on the Prima Luna CD player in the latest

Len's picture

Thanks for the list.

Giuseppe from Italy's picture

Yesterday morning Hank Jones played in Milan together with George Mraz and Carl Allen and I had the pleasure to be there.It was a thrilling exprience. Mr. Jones is a master of class and style. The interplay was fabulous. He is really a great player.I was particularly impressed by the quality of Carl Allen's drumming. A+ I will dig his discography...