John Daversa leads jazz honours at Grammy Awards

John Daversa took home three awards and veteran jazz icon Wayne Shorter was honoured with a standing ovation as the Grammy Awards celebrated the best in music on Sunday night.

Daversa’s collaborative record American Dreamers: Voice of Hope, Music of Freedom won the title of best large jazz ensemble album, capping off a big night for the musician, composer, arranger and big band leader. That album was recorded with more than 50 singers and instrumentalists who came to the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. They’re among a cohort of roughly 800,000 “undocumented” people, known as Dreamers, who were thrust into the centre of a heated immigration debate in the U.S. when the DACA program was rescinded in 2017.

Daversa dedicated the win to those people upon accepting his third award Sunday evening. Before that, he had won the honours of best improvised jazz solo for the song “Don’t Fence Me In” from the American Dreamers album, and another for best arrangement (instrumental or a cappella) for the song “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Wayne Shorter took the stage to a standing ovation as his latest album Emanon won the Grammy for best jazz instrumental album, despite stiff competition from former Beyoncé band member Tia Fuller and others. It’s the 11th Grammy for Shorter, who turns 86 this year.

Cécile McLorin Salvant won for best jazz vocal album, as her record The Window earned her a third Grammy out of four nominations. In the final jazz category of the evening, the Dafnis Prieto Big Band won the title of best latin jazz album for Back to the Sunset.

lucy kalantari

Jazz artists were also represented outside their dedicated Grammy categories. Legendary session musician Steve Gadd’s fifth record as the Steve Gadd Band won for best contemporary instrumental album. Terence Blanchard took home the Grammy for best instrumental composition for his song Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil), part of his score for the Oscar-nominated film BlacKkKlansman. The Grammy for best children’s album went to All the Sounds by Lucy Kalantari & The Jazz Cats, a record of jazz-inspired music for families.

In the blues categories, Buddy Guy won the eighth Grammy of his career as the 82-year-old icon took home the honour of best traditional blues album for his 18th studio record, The Blues Is Alive and Well. Just after that, the title of best contemporary blues album went to Fantastic Negrito for Please Don’t Be Dead.

In other notable wins, Willie Nelson’s My Way was named best traditional pop vocal album. The veteran country artist’s 68th studio album is a tribute to Frank Sinatra, who was a close friend of his. Quincy, a documentary about Quincy Jones directed by Alan Hicks and Rashida Jones, won the Grammy for best music film.

Meanwhile, this year’s list of Grammy Hall of Fame inductees featured recordings by a number of jazz idols, including Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra and more.

Below are the winners and nominees in the jazz categories for the 61st annual Grammy Awards. For a full list of winners and nominees in all categories, click here.

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Winner
  • Emanon
    The Wayne Shorter Quartet
Nominees
  • Diamond Cut
    Tia Fuller
  • Live In Europe
    Fred Hersch Trio
  • Seymour Reads the Constitution!
    Brad Mehldau Trio
  • Still Dreaming
    Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade

Best Jazz Vocal Album

Winner
  • The Window
    Cécile McLorin Salvant
Nominees
  • My Mood Is You
    Freddy Cole
  • The Questions
    Kurt Elling
  • The Subject Tonight Is Love
    Kate McGarry, Keith Ganz, Gary Versace
  • If You Really Want
    Raul Midón with The Metropole Orkest conducted by Vince Mendoza

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Winner
  • American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom
    John Daversa Big Band featuring DACA artists
Nominees
  • All About that Basie
    The Count Basie Orchestra directed by Scotty Barnhart
  • Presence
    Orrin Evans and The Captain Black Big Band
  • All Can Work
    John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble
  • Barefoot Dances and Other Visions
    Jim McNeely & The Frankfurt Radio Big Band

Best Latin Jazz Album

Winner
  • Back to the Sunset
    Dafnis Prieto Big Band
Nominees
  • Heart of Brazil
    Eddie Daniels
  • West Side Story Reimagined
    Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band
  • Cinque
    Elio Villafranca
  • Yo Soy La Tradición
    Miguel Zenón featuring Spektral Quartet

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

Winner
  • Don’t Fence Me In
    John Daversa, soloist
    From American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom by John Daversa Big Band featuring DACA artists
Nominees
  • Some of that Sunshine
    Regina Carter, soloist
    From Some of that Sunshine by Karrin Allyson
  • We See
    Fred Hersch soloist
  • De-Dah
    Brad Mehldau, soloist
    From Seymour Reads the Constitution! by Brad Mehldau Trio
  • Cadenas
    Miguel Zenón, soloist
    From Yo Soy La Tradición by Miguel Zenón featuring Spektral Quartet