Kendrick Lamar may have been a popular choice as one of this year's Grammy contenders, but his rising tide wasn't enough to lift L.A.'s Kamasi Washington, who lent his saxophone and string arrangements to parts of Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly." Despite being one of the most talked-about jazz releases of the year, Washington's three-disc debut, "The Epic," went missing among this crop of nominations.
Second-guessing the Grammy voters' choices is something of an annual tradition, and the rest of the year's nominations offered the usual mix of welcome and head-scratching selections. For instance, 12-year-old piano prodigy Joey Alexander was a morning-show favorite for the promise shown on his album "My Favorite Things." While it showed an ear for interpretation beyond his years, his position as one of the contenders in the jazz instrumental album and improvised jazz solo categories points to the importance of buzz once it comes time for Grammy nominations.
Among the artists competing with Alexander in the album category are Terence Blanchard, with the socially conscious jazz-funk album "Breathless"; John Scofield, with "Past Present"; former Grammy winner in the R&B field Robert Glasper, for his piano trio album "Covered"; and saxophonist Jimmy Greene,' with the stirring "Beautiful Life," inspired by the death of his 6-year-old daughter in the 2012 shootings at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School. Also nominated in the improvised solo category were Scofield, Joshua Redman in his collaboration with the Bad Plus, Christian McBride and saxophonist Donny McCaslin, who appeared on the Maria Schneider Orchestra's "The Thompson Fields." Schneider was also honored in the large ensemble category, along with Arturo O'Farrill, Patrick Williams, Marshall Gilkes & WDR Big Band and the Gil Evans Project's "Lines of Color."
Also nominated for the 2014 Grammy Awards, Cécile McLorin Salvant returned to the jazz vocal album category with "For One to Love." Also in the running are drummer-vocalist Jamison Ross, Karrin Allyson, Lorraine Feather and Denise Donatelli. Genre-skipping Brooklyn group Snarky Puppy was nominated in the contemporary instrumental category along with Bill Frisell, Marcus Miller, Wouter Kellerman and Kirk Whalum. Miguel Zenón's "Identities Are Changeable" leads the Latin jazz album nominees, which also includes Eliane Elias, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Wayne Wallace and the Rodriguez Brothers.
Elsewhere, drummer Antonio Sanchez, whose manic pulse for "Birdman" was passed over by the Oscars, was nominated in the score soundtrack category.