In a year of national celebrations showing Canadians' pride in and attachment to their country, the national music awards have nominated a surprising number of jazz ex-pats living in the United States.
The 2017 JUNO Award nominations were released this morning. Among those selected in the three JUNO jazz categories were NYC residents Darcy James Argue, Bria Skonberg, Brandi Disterheft, Renee Rosnes, and Seamus Blake – as well as Quinsin Nachoff, who divides his time between Toronto and NYC. That's more than one-third of the 15 nominees in the jazz categories.
In 2016, only one of 15 musicians or groups nominated in the jazz categories was based in the U.S. In 2015, two of 15 were American-based.
Most of the remaining 2017 nominated jazz artists are from the greater Toronto area.
To be eligible for a JUNO award, musicians must directly submit their albums for judging. For each category, the JUNOs establishes a 10-person expert judging panel, whose first task is to make a first selection from all the submitted albums (which could be as many as 40 or 50) to five nominees. Each panel member then ranks the nominated albums in a second round of voting, and the album with the most votes wins.
As usual, the jazz categories cover a wide range of styles, from Argue's large-scale orchestrations to samba-flavoured vocal duets to jazz fusion. Notable are Metalwood's reunion twenty years after their JUNO Award-winning debut and fourteen years since their last release, and the Order of Canada Band, composed of renowned jazz musicians who have been awarded that national honour, paying tribute to Oscar Peterson's compositions.
Three of the five nominees in the Instrumental category are known for their jazz and improvised music performances: pianist David Braid, violinist Sarah Neufeld, and Pugs and Crows. As well, jazz vocalist Diana Panton is nominated for her children's album, and the Sultans of String for their jazz/world collaboration with sitarist Anwar Khurshid, which attracted enthusiastic audiences for two performances in Ottawa in 2016.
And the late Leonard Cohen has received a slew of nominations, including Best Album, for his last album, You Want It Darker.
Unlike previous years, most of these musicians have not played Ottawa recently, with exception of Amanda Tosoff, Neufeld, and Pugs and Crows (2016 Ottawa Jazz Festival), Bria Skonberg (2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival), David Braid (NAC Presents, 2015 Chamberfest), and the Sultans of Strings (NAC Presents, 2016 Chamberfest).
JUNO Week will be held in Ottawa this year from March 27 to April 2, including public concert showcases by nominated musicians and groups. OttawaJazzScene.ca will list any jazz showcases as they are confirmed.
The 2017 JUNO Awards will be announced on April 1 and 2. The jazz and other lower-profile categories will be awarded first, on April 1.
– Alayne McGregor
Vocal Jazz Album of the Year
- Matt Dusk & Florence K: Quiet Nights [Toronto/Montreal]
- Heather Bambrick: You’ll Never Know [Toronto]
- Barbra Lica: I’m Still Learning [Toronto]
- Bria Skonberg: Bria [NYC]
- Amanda Tosoff: Words [Toronto]
Jazz Album of the Year: Solo
- Brandi Disterheft: Blue Canvas [NYC]
- Renee Rosnes: Written in the Rocks [NYC]
- Shirantha Beddage: Momentum [Toronto]
- Seamus Blake: Superconductor [NYC]
- Mike Janzen: Nudging Forever [Toronto]
Jazz Album of the Year: Group
- Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society: Real Enemies [NYC]
- Dave Young Quintet: One Way Up [Toronto]
- Metalwood: Twenty [Toronto/Vancouver/NYC]
- Quinsin Nachoff’s FLUX: Flux [NYC/Toronto]
- Order of Canada Band: Sweet Canadiana (with Phil Dwyer, Terry Clarke, Joseph Macerollo, Jens Lindemann)
Instrumental Album of the Year
- Sarah Neufeld: The Ridge [Montreal]
- David Braid: Flow [Toronto]
- Pugs & Crows and Tony Wilson: Everyone Knows Everyone [Vancouver]
- Blitz//Berlin: Movements 1 (not jazz: electronica)
- The Fretless: Bird’s Nest (not jazz: folk)
Children's Album of the Year
- Diana Panton: I Believe in Little Things [Hamilton]
Contemporary Roots Album of the Year
- Matthew Barber & Jill Barber: The Family Album [Vancouver]
World Music Album of the Year
- Sultans of String: Subcontinental Drift [Toronto]
Best album, Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Adult Alternative Album of the Year
- Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker
Read OttawaJazzScene.ca's stories about previous JUNO nominations and winners:
- 2016 Jazz JUNO Awards winners: Allison Au, Robi Botos, and Emilie-Claire Barlow
- 2016 JUNO jazz nominations move westward, and in unexpected categories
- Jane Bunnett and Maqueque win 2015 JUNO Award
- 2015 JUNO Award nominations announced, including jazz music played in Ottawa
- JUNO Award nominations recognize many musicians who played in Ottawa-Gatineau