Year of the Chameleon
The year started off with a big surprise in the music industry: Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters (Verve) broke out of the jazz category and won Album of the Year at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. The competition was fairly fierce, popularly speaking-other nominees included Foo Fighters, rapper Kanye West, Amy Winehouse and country artist Vince Gill. As Hancock himself pointed out during his acceptance speech (after giving presenter Quincy Jones a bear hug), this was the first time a jazz album had won Album of the Year in 43 years, the last being Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s Getz/Gilberto in 1965. Can’t wait to see who wins in 2051.
Hancock celebrated his win on the “River of Possibilities” tour, a lengthy, high-profile excursion that stopped at major jazz festivals and featured an all-star ensemble-saxist Chris Potter, guitar upstart Lionel Loueke, drummer Vincent Colaiuta, bassist Dave Holland and prodigal vocalist Sonya Kitchell were onboard-playing everything from Hancock’s inventive Joni Mitchell covers to Loueke’s “Seven Teens” to Hancock staples like “Absolute Proof,” “Chameleon” and “Cantaloupe Island.”
If You Want the Job Done Right, Call a Jazz Musician!
Several prestigious institutions have hired prominent jazz players in recent years as artistic directors, charged with making creative decisions and furthering community outreach. Bassist extraordinaire Christian McBride holds artistic director posts at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass summer program and the Dave Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. As artistic director of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, trumpeter Jon Faddis leads master classes and workshops. And most recently, Irvin Mayfield, already the official Cultural Ambassador of the City of New Orleans, shifted his focus to the north country when he accepted a one-year post as the artistic director of Jazz at Orchestra Hall, the jazz series of the Minnesota Orchestra.