Herbie Hancock, the veteran jazz keyboardist, looked shocked as his name was called last night to come to the stage and pick up the Grammy award for Album of the Year. Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, a tribute to the songs of Joni Mitchell, was in competition with neo-soul singer Amy Winehouse, country singer Vince Gill, rapper Kanye West and alt-rockers Foo Fighters, all of whom had won awards earlier in the evening. Hancock (pictured) too had won a prior award for River, for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, before taking home the Best Album prize. During his acceptance speech, Hancock noted that this was the first time in 43 years that a jazz album had nabbed the Album of the Year honors, the last one being Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s Getz/Gilberto classic.
The evening’s other jazz awards were as follows:
Best Jazz Vocal Album: Patti Austin, Avant Gershwin
Best Jazz Instrumental Solo: “Anagram,” Michael Brecker, soloist
Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group: Michael Brecker, Pilgrimage
Best large Jazz Ensemble Album: Terence Blanchard, A Tale Of God’s Will (A Requiem For Katrina)
Best Latin Jazz Album: Paquito D’Rivera Quintet, Funk Tango
Best Instrumental Composition: Maria Schneider, “Cerulean Skies”
Best Instrumental Arrangement: Vince Mendoza, “In A Silent Way”
Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s): John Clayton, arranger (Queen Latifah), “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die”
Other big winners at the Grammys included Amy Winehouse, who won five awards, including Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year; Mark Ronson for Producer of the Year in the Non-Classical category; Kanye West, who took home four rap awards; and Bruce Springsteen, with three. Joni Mitchell, beside being the subject of Hancock’s winning album, also won a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental performance for “One Week Last Summer” on her own Shine album.
Among the performing highlights of the awards presentation was an orchestral rendition of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” featuring the dueling pianos of Hancock and classical artist Lang Lang. Winehouse performed her hit “Rehab” live from London, and Tina Turner and Beyoncé mixed it up on “Proud Mary” while the song’s author, John Fogerty, beamed in the audience. Fogerty himself later performed with rock ‘n’ roll pioneers Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. A Beatles medley featured songs used in the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil production called Love and the film Across the Universe. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and producer George Martin later accepted an award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album.