Grammy Award-Winning Albums This Year

May 1, 2022

By Masamichi Okazaki

The Grammy Awards are recognized as the highest honor in the music industry. This year, the 64th award ceremony was held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on April 3, postponed from the originally scheduled date, January 31, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’d like to introduce some of the albums that won this year's Grammy Awards.

#178 Message for "Hope" by Jon Batiste

We Are / Jon Batiste

We Are / Jon Batiste
(Verve → Universal Music UCCV-1186)

Having demonstrated remarkable achievements in his diverse activities as a singer, songwriter, producer, and pianist, Jon Batiste won the Grammy Award for "Best Album" in 2022 for his release of "We Are." It carries a message for "hope" in today's chaotic world celebrating "freedom" for the future by singing freely transcending various genres such as R&B, funk, jazz, and hip-pop, while keeping the firm focus on the traditions of American music. "We Are" is a milestone hit for Batiste, who has been promoting "social music" for more than a decade.

The title track, "We Are," was also the theme for the march in protest of the tragic death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. The gospel choir and marching band from New Orleans, where Jon was born and raised, joined "We Are," singing "We have a future. We are not alone…" Jon Batiste has also won a Grammy for "Best Music Video" for his wildly danceable and funky "Freedom," and continues to transform serious social issues into musical fervor creating innovative and fun sounds easy for everyone to understand. "We Are - Deluxe Edition" (Verve → Universal Music UCCV-1190) with different order of songs and adding six more tracks has also been released.

#179 Gonzalo Rubalcaba's Dream Trio

Skyline / Gonzalo Rubalcaba - Ron Carter - Jack DeJohnette

Skyline / Gonzalo Rubalcaba - Ron Carter - Jack DeJohnette
(5 Passion Records 5P-070)

"Skyline," recorded by a trio, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Cuban pianist, with Ron Carter (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums), won the "Best Jazz Instrumental Album" award. Needless to say, Carter and DeJohnette are legends who have taken part in the development of jazz music. Gonzalo has been deeply touched by their splendid performances since he was still young, and his love for the brilliant veteran players remains unchanged even he is in his mid-50s now. The "Skyline Trio" was formed at Gonzalo's request.

The opening track of the album, the Cuban bolero classic, "Lagrimas Negras" (Black Tears), is not only sweet and romantic, but it also takes an uninhibited turn gradually, which is typical of Gonzalo. Many of the songs are familiar to all three musicians, including <Gypsy> and <Quiet Place>, both of which were recorded by Ron Carter with his own band, <Silver Hollow>, which Gonzalo once recorded with Jack, and <Siempre Maria>, one of Gonzalo’s old works. In addition to the superb technique and exhilarating beats, Gonzalo's deep feeling for the music he plays is particularly impressive. I feel it is an expression of his respect for the two marvelous musicians. This is the dream session that Gonzalo, who has always been seeking change and growth, has reached. It is a unique and fulfilling trio’s album that shows his maturity as well as his thrilling sense of adventure.

#180 Soundtrack of Film Winning Grammy for "Best Feature Music Film"

Summer of Soul (or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Summer of Soul (or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(Sony Music SICP-6441)

In August, 1969, around the same time as "Woodstock," a rock festival, was held, "Harlem Cultural Festival" (HCF), another festival of black power, took place in Harlem, New York. "Summer of Soul" is a documentary film about HCF, which won the Grammy for "Best Feature Music Film" this year. The genre-bending performances including R&B, rock, gospel, and Latin were held every Sunday at Mount Morris Park in Harlem for six times, and the number of audiences is said to be 300,000 in total.

This was the time when the movement to improve the status of black people was gaining momentum. The HCF, which demonstrated the excellence of black music at such a time, was only partially televised at that time, and the film that recorded the entire event, which lasts dozens of hours, has remained in storage for nearly half a century. The film was made into a movie, "Summer of Soul," and this CD is the soundtrack to the movie. Although the CD did not win the Grammy, I believe it is carrying the excitement of the Grammy-winning film fully. Mavis Staples and Mahalia Jackson's chase on "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," and the transition from Sly & The Family Stone's "Sing A Simple Song" and "Everyday People" to Nina Simone's "Backlash Blues" are just astonishing. Although the sound source is from 50 years ago, a number of passionate singings and performances transcend time and appeal to audiences. The monaural recording and the live performance made recording significantly rough, but this does not matter at all because of the greatness of the music. I also want to add that "Summer of Soul" won not only the Grammy but also the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

About the Author

Masamichi Okazaki

Masamichi Okazaki

Surrounded by various kinds of music from his childhood, Masamichi Okazaki joined Waseda University Modern Jazz Club. He started contributing articles to music magazines when he was a student. He covers wide range of music not only trad, modern and contemporary jazz, but also from pops to classics. He writes liner notes for CDs and LPs, and is a regular contributor to “JAZZ JAPAN,” “STEREO,” and others. He joined a big band, “Shiny Stockings,” as a saxophone player. He is a director of The Music Pen Club Japan (MPCJ).