This year’s Grammys’ Latin Jazz category is dominated by veterans. Chick Corea, nominated for his album Antidote, has 22 Grammy awards on his shelf. Rubén Blades, who is nominated in the first time in the Latin jazz category for a live collaboration with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, has already won 9 awards and has twice as many noms, in the Tropical and Latin pop categories.
David Sanchez, whose Carib is among this year’s nominees, has one previous Grammy (for Habana in 1997) and a long history of nominations. Miguel Zenón, nominated for his album Sonero – the Music of Ismael Rivera, is poised for his first win after seven previous nominations. The fifth nominee, pianist John Finbury, is new on the docket, honored for his collaborative album with Brazilian singer-songwriter Thalma de Freitas, Sorte! Finbury was nominated for a Latin Grammy song of the year award for “A Chama Verde” in 2016.
The breadth in this category reminds us of the fluid definition of Latin jazz and the strength of the state of the art, even if it does ignore the innovations currently being made by some spectacular young artists. The Latin jazz category was deleted from the awards in 2011, then reinstated the next year after fierce protests and a lawsuit by musicians for whom the category represented their only chance for a Grammy and wider recognition. Then as now, the music is proof of the Latin jazz’s rightful place at the Grammys.
Listen to tracks from the nominees for Best Latin Jazz Album:
Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Una Noche con Rubén Blades: Blades suavely delivers jazz vocal standards on this big band salsa album.
Miguel Zenón, Sonero — The Music of Ismael Rivera: The Puerto Rican saxophonist reinterprets well-known songs by the revered salsa singer and composer Ismael Rivera.
John Finbury featuring Thalma de Freitas, Sorte!: Pianist, songwriter (and attorney) John Finbury expresses his love for Brazilian music. On this album of original songs recorded with Thalma de Freitas.
David Sanchez, Carib: The musical traditions of Puerto Rico, Haiti and other sounds of the African diaspora inspired Sanchez’s Carib.
Chick Corea, Antidote: Corea recorded Antidote with an all-star band of players from Spain, Cuba, Venezuela and the U.S. This latest of Corea’s Latin-tinged recordings brings back some of his classic pieces as well as music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Paco de Lucia and others.