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Joy to the World: Samara Joy Wins Big at the Grammys

The Singer Wins Best New Artist, While Robert Glasper Wins Best R&B Album.

Samara Joy
Samara Joy (photo: Shervin Lainez)

Defying expectations—and sparking an uproar on Brazilian Twitter—jazz vocalist Samara Joy won the 2023 Grammy Award for Best New Artist during the CBS broadcast of the awards on Feb. 5.

Bookmakers had pinned star Brazilian singer Anitta as the odds-on favorite for the award (hence the outrage). Instead, the 23-year-old Joy took the trophy on the strength of her 2022 album Linger Awhile. (The album also won for Best Jazz Vocal Album.) The victory was enough of an upset for the Los Angeles Times to publish a story headlined, “Who is best new artist Grammy winner Samara Joy?

Samara Joy: Linger Awhile (Verve)
The cover of Linger Awhile by Samara Joy

Joy had previously performed at the pre-broadcast Grammy ceremony, leaving little doubt about her artistic chops.

That said, no one was more surprised by the win than the vocalist herself, tearful and visibly shocked enough that she had to be helped up the steps to the stage. “I can’t even believe—I’ve been watching y’all on TV for so long!” she sputtered to the audience of her musical peers. “All of you inspire me because of who you are, you express exactly who you are authentically. So to be here by just being myself, I’m just so thankful.”

Another jazz artist triumphed in a mainstream Grammy category, with keyboardist Robert Glasper’s Black Radio III claiming the award for Best R&B Album. He, too, was flustered. “This was crazy,” he proclaimed to the audience. “My safety pin busted out of my pants as I was running.”


Carrington, Shorter and Genovese Score Wins In Jazz Categories

In the jazz award categories, Terri Lyne Carrington received Best Jazz Instrumental Album honors for New STANDARDS Vol. 1, while saxophonist Wayne Shorter and pianist Leo Genovese shared the award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo (on Endangered Species, from their album Live at the Detroit Jazz Festival with esperanza spalding and Carrington). The Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra, led by pianist Steven Feifke and trumpeter Bijon Watson, took Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for their self-titled recording. Best Latin Jazz Album went to Fandango at the Wall in New York by Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Jazz artists were also winners in ostensibly more generalized categories. The Best Contemporary Instrumental Album award was snapped up by Snarky Puppy’s Empire Central. Geoff Keezer’s “Refuge” was named Best Instrumental Composition. Meanwhile, the two Grammies’ two awards for arrangements—Instrumental or A Cappella and Instruments and Vocals—went to John Beasley’s “Scrapple from the Apple” and Vince Mendoza’s “Songbird” (arranged for the late Christine McVie), respectively.

Beasley was the most nominated jazz artist with three nods. Joy, however, was the only jazz artist to take home two trophies from the 65th Grammy Awards.


Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.