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Herbie Hancock, Patti Austin Among Contenders for Jazz Grammys


Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock is one of the leading contenders for Album of the Year at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards February 10. His tribute to legendary songstress Joni Mitchell earned him three nominations. As VOA's Doug Levine tells us in a preview of the Grammy nominees in jazz, nobody was more surprised than Hancock.

With the announcement in December that River: The Joni Letters was nominated for Album of the Year, Herbie Hancock's first reaction was that of disbelief. "I was shocked, but jazz is out there," he says, "It's alive and manifests itself in a lot of different ways."

Not surprising was his nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, a category he shares with guitarist Will Bernard, bassist Brian Bromberg and keyboardists Eldar and Jeff Lorber.

Hancock's album also yielded a nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for the track "Both Sides Now." Soloists Terrence Blanchard, Hank Jones, Paul McCandless and the late Michael Brecker are also nominated in this category.

Saxophonist Michael Brecker was 57 when he succumbed to leukemia in 2007. Ironically, he had just finished making his final album Pilgrimage, one of five releases nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album by an Individual or Group. Other contenders include The Bill Charlap Trio, Joe Lovano and Hank Jones, John Patitucci and Joshua Redman.

For Best Large Jazz Ensemble, the nominees are The Bill Holman Band, The Bob Florence Limited Edition, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Charles Tolliver Big Band and Terence Blanchard.

No stranger to the Grammy Awards is saxophonist and bandleader Paquito D'Rivera, whose album Funk Tango, featuring the Paquito D'Rivera Quintet, faces off with four other contenders for Best Latin Jazz Album: Sammy Figueroa and His Latin Jazz Explosion, Bobby Sanabria Big Band, Hector Martignon and Steve Khan.

It's hard to resist a great Gershwin tune. Just ask singer Patti Austin who celebrates the music of George Gershwin on Avant Gershwin, one of five nominees for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Austin's competition in this category includes Dee Dee Bridgewater, Freddy Cole, Kurt Elling and Tierney Sutton.

The 50th Annual Grammy Awards will be announced in Los Angeles, California on February 10.