Welcome to Afterglow, [a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook], I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
This week on the program, it’s Afterglow’s annual preview of the Grammy Awards. The 2022 Grammy Award Ceremony was scheduled for January 31st, but just like last year, COVID had other plans. It was rescheduled for Sunday, April 3rd, just about a week away. So this week, before the ceremony, I’ll be exploring some of this year’s Vocal Jazz and Traditional Pop nominees. In the mix are a few new voices, and several Grammy-award darlings, like Kurt Elling, Esperanza Spalding, Norah Jones, and, of course, the one and only Tony Bennett
It’s a 2022 Grammy Award Preview, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - NORAH JONES, “I’LL BE GONE”
Norah Jones, live in São Paulo, Brazil in December 2019 with the song “I’ll Be Gone,” a single she had released earlier that year. That comes from her latest live album called ‘Til We Meet Again, nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at the 2022 Grammy Awards.
MUSIC CLIP - ELIANE ELIAS, CHICK COREA AND CHUCHO VALDÉS, “THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re taking a look at some of the nominees for the 2022 Grammy Awards, scheduled to air Sunday, April 3rd. As I do each year on this episode, I’ll be looking mostly at the traditional pop and jazz vocal categories, and I’ll start with those jazz vocalists.
This year’s Grammy nominees are all veterans of this particular award: Kurt Elling, Esperanza Spalding, Nnenna Freelon, Gretchen Parlato, and The Baylor Project, have all been nominated before in this category, so for the most part, these are safe choices. However, as well hear, some of these nominees are pushing the boundaries of what we may consider “jazz” in different directions.
We’ll start with the most current recipient of this award, Mr. Kurt Elling. This nomination is Elling’s 14th nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. He has won it twice, including last year for his album Secrets Are the Best Stories with pianist Danilo Perez. His latest album SuperBlue is arguably not jazz. It’s got jazz flavor, for sure, but it mixes this with a heavy sampling of funk, R&B, and hip-hop. The album really grooves, and is worth a listen if you’re a fan of neo-soul (which I am), but I’m not sure how Grammy voters will respond.
Like most of Elling’s albums, SuperBlue features a number of original songs. The one I’ll play for you now was co-written by every member of the band: Elling, guitarist Charlie Hunter, drummer Corey Fonville and bassist DJ Harrison. The lyrics—all about trusting God, but as if it were penned by Prince or D’Angelo—written by Elling himself.
Here is Kurt Elling with his song “Manic Panic Epiphanic,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - KURT ELLING, “MANIC PANIC EPIPHANIC”
Kurt Elling, and his original R&B song “Manic Panic Epiphanic,” from his latest album SuperBlue, one of the nominees for this year’s Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Album.
As long as we’re talking about boundary pushing artists in the Jazz Vocal category, let’s turn now to another Grammy-veteran, Esperanza Spalding. Spalding has been nominated twice in the Jazz Vocal category: once in 2013 for her album Radio Music Society and again in 2020 for her album 12 Little Spells and she’s won both times. She’s also picked up Grammys in other categories, including Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Best Instrumental and Vocal Arrangement, and, of course, her surprising Best New Artist Grammy in 2011, beating out some pop favorites like Drake, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, and Justin Bieber. So, it’s quite a Grammy track record.
Her latest album, called Songwrights Apothecary Lab, is even more experimental than her previous work, and I use the word “experimental” quite literally here. The twelve pieces on the album, called “Formwelas,” have been designed in Spalding’s traveling “laboratory” in an almost quasi-scientific approach. The goal here is not just to create music, but to create music with a therapeutic effect, which according to her, have been, quote “created through our research, divination, intuition, musicianship, taste, inspiration, and collaborative effort.”
I’ll play an excerpt from the album now, a track she made with vocalist Corey King. This is Esperanza Spalding with “Formwela 6,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - ESPERANZA SPALDING, “FORMWELA 6”
Esperanza Spalding with the sixth of twelve so-called “Formwelas,” an excerpt from her latest experimental album called Songwrights Apothecary Lab, a nominee for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
Let’s turn to another nominee in this category. The duo known as The Baylor Project, consisting of vocalist Jean Baylor and her husband drummer Marcus Baylor, have been nominated again, after a 2018 nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Their latest album called Generations is what the duo describes as “A Soulful Sonic Story Quilt,” a tribute to the generations of Black families who helped shape these two musicians.
I’ll play a track now that features another past Grammy-nominee, Jamison Ross, helping out on vocals. This is Jean Baylor of the Baylor Project and Jamison Ross with the song “Only Believe,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - THE BAYLOR PROJECT, “ONLY BELIEVE”
The Baylor Project, aka vocalist Jean Baylor and drummer Marcus Baylor, with singer Jamison Ross, and their original song “Only Believe.” That comes from their latest Grammy-nominated album titled Generations.
Our next nominee in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category is singer Gretchen Parlato. Parlato was last nominated in 2015. And despite being a featured vocalist on several albums since then (including on Esperanza Spalding’s album mentioned earlier), has not released her own solo album since then. So, this album Flor has been much anticipated and has been critically acclaimed. The album explores ideas surrounding motherhood, while paying tribute to the music of Brazil.
The track I’ll play for you now is one that Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz made famous in 1973, but here, Parlato has added her own English translation. This is Gretchen Parlato with the tune “E Preciso Perdoar,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - GRETCHEN PARLATO, “E PRECISO PERDOAR”
Gretchen Parlato with the Brazilian tune “E Preciso Perdoar,” featuring her own English translation. That comes from her latest album titled Flor, a nominee for the Best Jazz Vocal Album at the 2022 Grammy Awards.
The final nominee in this category is another veteran of the category, Nnenna (Nina) Freelon. Freelon has been nominated four times before, first in 1997. Her latest album titled Time Traveler is a tribute to her late husband Phil Freelon. Phil was the one of the lead architects behind the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture and passed away in 2019 from ALS. The album consists of all songs that were important to the two of them during their 40 year marriage, from Burt Bacharach’s “I Say A Little Prayer,” to a Marvin Gaye medley, to a couple of jazz standards, one of which I’ll play for you now. Nnenna Freelon, who is now in her 60s, sounds as soulful and powerful as ever.
Here is Nnenna Freelon with the classic Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer song “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - NNENNA FREELON, “COME RAIN OR COME SHINE”
Singer Nnenna Freelon with the jazz standard “Come Rain Or Come Shine.” That from her latest album called Time Traveler, a tribute to her late husband architect Phil Freelon, and a nominee for Best Jazz Vocal Album for the 2022 Grammy Awards.
MUSIC CLIP - CHICK COREA AKOUSTIC BAND, “HUMPTY DUMPTY (SET 2)”
We’ll have more 2022 Grammy nominees in just a bit, including a new album from Grammy legend, Tony Bennett.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - TERENCE BLANCHARD, FEAT. THE E-COLLECTIVE, “ABSENCE”
MUSIC CLIP - RON CARTER, JACK DEJOHNETTE AND GONZALO RUBALCABA, “LAGRIMAS NEGRAS”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring some vocal jazz Grammy nominees this hour, and I want to turn my attention to jazz and traditional pop singers in some other categories besides Best Jazz Vocal Album.
Singer Jazzmeia Horn, who has been nominated twice for the best Jazz Vocal Album Grammy, has been nominated this year, although in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Her latest album called Dear Love is a collection of love songs both old and new and is also her first album with a big band, an ensemble that she calls “Her Noble Force.” Let’s hear a track from that album now, an interpretation of a 1943 jazz standard by Gene De Paul and Don Raye.
This is Jazzmeia Horn and her Noble Force with the song “He’s My Guy,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JAZZMEIA HORN, “HE’S MY GUY”
Some electric singing there from jazz vocalist Jazzmeia Horn, along with her band known as “Her Noble Force.” That was the jazz standard “He’s My Guy,” a track off the album Dear Love, a nominee for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
Let’s turn now to some Grammy nominees in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album category. Six nominees in this category this year, including Norah Jones, who I featured earlier in the hour. Two of those remaining nominees—the legendary Dolly Parton and the incredibly gifted Tori Kelly—are nominated for their Christmas albums. Since the holidays are behind us, I’m going to skip those albums for now, and focus on the rest.
First up is the singer Ledisi and her latest album titled Ledisi Sings Nina. I featured this album last November on my Recent Releases episode. It’s an album of all songs originally performed by the great Nina Simone, which Ledisi has energized with the dynamic Metropole Orkest in the background.
Here’s a track from that album now, a Nina Simone classic. This is Ledisi with “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - LEDISI, “MY BABY JUST CARES FOR ME”
Jazz and R&B singer Ledisi with the Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn song “My Baby Just Cares For Me.” That comes from her Grammy-nominated album Ledisi Sings Nina, a tribute to the music of Nina Simone.
Our next nominee in the Traditional Pop category is no stranger to this category: country crooner and traditional pop enthusiast Willie Nelson. This is Nelson’s fifth nomination in this category, an award that he has won twice, the last time in 2018 on his Frank Sinatra tribute album My Way. His latest record, titled That's Life is another tribute to Sinatra, featuring many of “Ol’ Blue Eyes’” most famous songs. It even features a drawing on the cover of Willie and his famous guitar Trigger under a lamppost, evoking the famous cover art for Sinatra’s album In The Wee Small Hours.
Here is Willie Nelson with the Gershwin song “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - WILLIE NELSON, “NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT”
Willie Nelson with the Gershwin song “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” That comes from his second Frank Sinatra tribute album titled That’s Life, a nominee for the Best Traditional Pop category at this year’s Grammy Awards.
To close off this hour, I’ll feature a track from the remaining nominee in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal album category: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s Love For Sale, a duet album tribute to the songs of Cole Porter. This next song is kind of remarkable, for a variety of reasons. For one, this mark’s Bennett’s 18th(!) nomination in this category, a prize he’s won a whopping 13(!) times, including in 2015 on the album Cheek To Cheek, his first duet album with Lady Gaga. Mind you, they’ve only given out the award 30 times, so he’s won it nearly 50 percent of the time.
At age 95, Tony Bennett is not the oldest Grammy nominee (that honor went to blues pianist Pinetop Perkins, who won an award at age 97). However, the success of this album Love For Sale, sparked by the news that it would be Bennett’s last album after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, has led the Academy to do something a little unexpected. The Grammys has a couple of marquee “General Category” nominations: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. Normally, those are set aside for your big (young) pop stars. But this year, alongside Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Billie Eilish, Justin Bieber, Lil Nas X, and others sits the 95-year old Tony Bennett. Not only has Love For Sale been nominated for the general category of Album of the Year, this next song has been nominated in the general category of Record of the Year.
Here is Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga with Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - TONY BENNETT AND LADY GAGA, “I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU”
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga with Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” a nominee for Record of the Year at the 2022 Grammy Awards. That comes from their album Love For Sale, Tony Bennett’s last album, and a Grammy nominee for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year.
Thanks for tuning in to this look at some 2022 Grammy nominees on Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - JON BATISTE, “BIGGER THAN US”
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow