The 2012 JJA Jazz Awards Nominees were announced recently. I've copied & pasted them below, with some wholly off-the-cuff and knee-jerk comments. My picks in bold, but what does that matter, as I'm not allowed to vote.
1) LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN JAZZ
Muhal Richard Abrams
I'm guessing Wayne Shorter will win this, and it's not like he doesn't deserve it. I just happen to prefer Muhal Richard Abrams, but he's too much of a fringe artist for the majority, I think.
2) MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
I miss a whole bunch in this category, but the most obvious one is Craig Taborn, who was all over the spectrum, with great results, last year. Of the nominees, I'd pick Sonny.
3) COMPOSER/ARRANGER OF THE YEAR
Hmm, hard one. I liked Kris Davis' arrangements on Tony Malaby's Novela, as well as Ben Allison's on his 2011 album. Still, Hollenbeck is a gifted arranger too.
4) UP AND COMING ARTIST OF THE YEAR
There's a wealth of talent around these days, my favorite being Darius Jones. He's been around a few years, though, but so has Tyshan Sorey, who'd be my pick of the above.
5) RECORD OF THE YEAR
James Farm (Nonesuch)
Keith Jarrett, Rio (ECM)
Christian McBride's Big Band, The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue Records)
Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 2 (Doxy Records)
Wadada Leo Smith's Organic, Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform Records)
Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM)
Miguel Zenon, Alma Adentro – The Puerto Rican Songbook (Marsalis Music)
Naturally, I miss a host of nominees here: Avram Fefer, Darius Jones and Tony Malaby's efforts chief among them (See my favorites section or my 2011 Jazz Critics Poll ballot for more. Plus, does Keith Jarrett have to be nominated for an award every time he squeezes out a record? Oh, he does. Well, sorry then. I guess one wouldn't want angry Jarrett harassing you.) Of those nominated, I'd pick Wadada Leo Smith's (Disclaimer: I've not heard the McBride album yet).
6) BEST HISTORICAL OR BOXED SET
Miles Davis, Bootleg Sessions, Vol 1, Quintet Live in Europe 1967 (Columbia Legacy)
Julius Hemphill, Dogon A.D. (Mbira/Freedom-International Phonograph)
Bill Dixon, Intents and Purposes (RCA Victor-International Phonograph)
Roscoe Mitchell, Before There Was Sound (Nessa)
The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions (Mosaic)
I actually really enjoyed all of these, but Hemphill edges it for me.
7) LABEL OF THE YEAR
You know, I'm inclined to say Engine, a tiny label out of Chicago. Clean Feed is still releasing ace quality jazz albums, but have been stronger in previous years. ECM is, well, ECM, so I’m going with Pi here.
8) LARGE ENSEMBLE
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Mingus Big Band
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
No strong preference here, really, 'though I would've like to see Captain Black's Big Band get a look in.
9) SMALL ENSEMBLE
Jason Moran & Bandwagon
Joe Lovano Us Five
James Farm is a super group of sorts, so I'd either put my money on them or Moran's group to win it. I have absolutely no preference among these, though. I wish Avram Fefer's Trio - with Eric Revis and Chad Taylor, by now a working group - was nominated. There's also the exciting Endangered Blood, as well as the great Mostly Other People Do the Killing, who toured and released a live album in 2011. So where does that leave us ...
10) MALE SINGER OF THE YEAR
11) FEMALE SINGER OF THE YEAR
I'm betting on Parlato to win this, but my fave female singers of 2011 was Andrea Wolper and Fay Victor, though the latter probable belongs in a separate category all together: ace performer of the year.
12) TRUMPETER OF THE YEAR
Wadada Leo Smith
You just know Akinmusire will win this, but I'm a Wadada fan myself.
13) TROMBONIST OF THE YEAR
14) MULTI-REEDS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
15) ALTO SAXOPHONIST OF THE YEAR
Darius Jones all the way for me, but he's not here, so I'll go with Mahanthappa, 'though he was arguably a greater presence in 2010 than in 2011.
16) TENOR SAXOPHONIST OF THE YEAR
As much as I love and worship Sonny Rollins, I'd love to see J.D. Allen get some plaudits, but I'm guessing Rollins or Lovano will win it.
17) BARITONE SAXOPHONIST OF THE YEAR
18) SOPRANO SAXOPHONIST OF THE YEAR
Jane Ira Bloom
19) FLUTIST OF THE YEAR
No preference. I should note that Henry Threadgill toured in 2011, so one wonders why he wasn't nominated. Would win it for me if he was.
20) CLARINETIST OF THE YEAR
21) GUITARIST OF THE YEAR
Halvorson for me. Frisell a close second.
22) PIANIST OF THE YEAR
Close one, but Taborn appeared on several great albums in 2011, proving he's an innovative and interesting musician in several different settings, and I'd vote for him. Iyer has a new album out this year, and Shipp is still a major player who I follow with great interest.
23) KEYBOARDS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
24) BASSIST OF THE YEAR
William Parker is one of my favorite living musicians regardless of instrument, but I still miss several nominees in this category. Adam Lane did stellar work on Darius Jones' record, Eric Revis perhaps even more so with Avram Fefer. There was John Lindberg on Wadada Leo Smith's Heart's Reflection's and Trevor Dunn with Endangered Blood. Still, Parker's work with Taborn on the second Farmers By Nature album was stellar as always, as was his playing on Fay Victor & Other Dimensions In Music's Kaiso Stories and with David S. Ware on Planetary Unknown. Ben Allison is a great musician, arranger and composer, but he'd place below my nominees. I admire McBride greatly, and Ron Carter is a legend, but neither of those impressed my nearly as much in 2011 as my nominees.
25) VIOLINIST/VIOLIST/CELLIST OF THE YEAR
R.I.P. Billy Bang.
26) PERCUSSIONIST OF THE YEAR
27) MALLETS INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Uh, where's Chris Dingman?
28) TRAPS DRUMMER OF THE YEAR
You'd think Paul Motian would win this posthumously. Such is the way human nature works. Flabbergasted that neither Pheeroan akLaff (for his work on Wadada Leo Smith's Heart'sReflections. He was the heart, after all) nor Damien Reid for his work on Greg Ward's Phonic Juggernaut aren't nominated.
29) PLAYER OF INSTRUMENTS RARE IN JAZZ
Edmar Castaneda, harp
Gregoire Maret, harmonica
Toots Thielemans, harmonica
Gary Versace, accordion
Meh. 'Though, there's Jacob Sacks' work with harpsichord.