It’s that time of year when the Grammy Award nominations are out, and holiday gift guides are beginning to roll out with Christmas albums on the list by various jazz artists.
This year, there are plenty of deserving artists who have received Grammy nominations. Grammy nods help artists a lot, but not everyone believes in their true value. In fact, I’ve known some jazz artists who have called them the “Scammys.”
As for holiday jazz albums, I can think of old favorites, and now there are new favorites that could potentially be added to my list full of holiday cheer.
Vocalist Samara Joy is a two-time Grammy Award-winner, who is nominated again this year, this time for Best Jazz Performance (for new vocal or instrumental solo, duo/group or collaborative jazz recordings) for her album “Tight.” She also has a new holiday album entitled “A Joyful Holiday.”
Joy takes on the Christmas songbook with tunes such as “The Christmas Song” and “O Holy Night,” plus Stevie Wonder’s “Twinkle Twinkle Little Me,” among others. It’s certainly not your average Christmas album. And believe it or not, she just turned 24 years old on November 11.
Pianist Christian Sands puts everyone in a cheerful mood with his new album “Christmas Stories” out now on Mack Avenue Records.
He plays renditions of “Jingle Bells,” “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” and a wildly original “Silent Night” with the talented guitarist Marvin Swell. Also, “A Christmas Hymn” features vibist Stefon Harris. This one’s special.
Vocalist Gregory Porter also has a Christmas album entitled “Christmas Wish.” Check out his soulful version of “Someday at Christmas.” Other tracks include Marvin Gaye’s “Purple Snowflakes,” and “Little Drummer Boy,” among others.
Along with Joy, in the Best Jazz Performance category I was happy to see pianist Fred Hersh and bassist Esperanza Spalding nominated for “But Not for Me.” They are also nominated in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category for their album “Alive at The Village Vanguard.”
I just have a huge appreciation for their individual artistry and now for their work together. The title track “But Not for Me” features impressive vocals from Spalding, so it’s no wonder they were nominated in both categories.
Vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant is also nominated for her vocals on her album “Melusine.” In the Best Instrumental Album category (for albums containing greater than 75 percent playing time of new instrumental jazz recordings), pianist Kenny Barron is nominated for his album “The Source.”
Pianist Billy Childs is also nominated in this category for his album “The Winds of Change.”
In the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category, the Count Basie Orchestra directed by Scotty Barnhart is nominated for “Basie Swings The Blues.”
Also in this category is the Mingus Big Band for “The Charles Mingus Centennial Sessions.”
I was also thrilled to see saxophonist Miguel Zenon and pianist Luis Perdomo nominated in the Best Latin Jazz Album category for their album “El Arte Del Bolero Vol. 2.”
The same can be said for Vijay Iyer, Arooj Aftab, and Shahzad Ismaily nominated in the Best Alternative Jazz Album category for their album “Love in Exile.” Singer-songwriter and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello was also nominated in this category for her album “The Omnichord Real Book.”
Congrats to all the Grammy nominees. The 66th Annual Grammy Awards will take place live on February 4, 2024.
As for my old Christmas album favorites, I have to include “Together at Christmas” featuring saxophonist Houston Person and vocalist Etta Jones. The album is available on HighNote Records.
Finally, I must add my all-time favorite, “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas,” from Verve Records. “Sleigh Ride” is the ultimate track.
So, there you have it. Go ahead and get your holiday cheer on now and gear up for the Grammy Awards!