Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Grammy Predictions

Thanks to a WGA waiver the Grammy’s will go on this coming Sunday at 8:00 Eastern. Expect viewers to start asking the Guild to revoke their free pass around 8:15. At least we have something cool to listen for when Herbie Hancock performs “Rhapsody in Blue” with Lang Lang.

With the January 9th deadline for ballots long past, it is time to prognosticate. Last year I was not too far off. Of course other pundits won’t bother to predict these categories, so I’m basically competing against myself this year, with following.

Speaking of Hancock, I would be delighted to see him win album of the year, but he won’t. I don’t know what will, but I know I won’t like it. However, Hancock is a lead pipe cinch to win Best Contemporary Jazz Album. He’s set to play the show. The Academy knows him and likes him, plus a Joni Mitchell tribute album is something they can totally get behind.

Best Jazz Vocal Album is tough, but I’m thinking Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Red Earth: a Malian Journey. The world music angle is appealing and her NPR affiliation gives her added clout.

Best Instrumental Solo and Best Jazz Instrumental Album will go to Michal Brecker. There was a lot of affection for him in the industry, so I fully expect them to take advantage of a final opportunity to honor him.

A Tale of God’s Will was one of the 10 Best CDs of 2007 here. I doubt that cuts much ice with the Academy, but I still expect it to win Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Voting for it is a painless way to express solidarity with New Orleans, and it really is a powerful record.

2007 was the first year Paquito D’Rivera won the Downbeat Reader’s Poll. Look for him go on a winning streak with the Best Latin Jazz Grammy as well. Grammy voters probably don’t dig his straight-shooting on world events like we do, but he is still very popular with fellow musicians, and Funk Tango made many critics’ Top 10 lists.

Koko Taylor will own the Best Traditional Blues category. Old School is clearly a sentimental favorite as her comeback vehicle after long bouts with illness. Besides, would you want to vote against her? I don’t think so.

Moving down the ballot, Concord aggressively promoted Gustavo Santaolalla’s score to Babel, so it might be the only nominated soundtrack in any voters’ personal collections, unless they have kids. In that case, they are probably totally sick of hearing Happy Feet and Ratatouille. Babel also won the Oscar, so it looks like a safe bet.

Critics have been slavishly boosting the “rock opera” Spring Awakening, so I fully expect it to win hands down. Company would be a more adventurous choice, given John Doyle’s unconventional staging, but that guarantees no Grammy love. (Incidentally, Great Performances will be broadcasting Doyle’s revival of the Sondheim show February 20th. Look for a review here about a week before.)

For Best Instrumental Composition, Philip Glass is the only non-jazz composer and has a loyal following. Still, if Notes for a Scandal mania broke out last year, I totally missed it. I see this going to Maria Schneider.

I have plugged Steve Wiest “Besame Mucho” for Best Instrumental Arrangement before. I would like to see him win, so I’ll make that my prediction, and take the hit if I’m wrong to avoid having divided loyalties. I really do think he has an excellent shot, since he was nominated for the late, great Maynard Ferguson’s final recording.

As usual, you will have to go on-line to check these predictions, as there is never any broadcast love for the jazz categories. Regardless, congratulations to all the nominees in these categories for some great music in 2007.