The five albums include new takes on salsa classics, music inspired by Puerto Rican and Haitian traditions and a band of Pan-Latin all stars.
This year’s Grammys’ Latin Jazz category is dominated by veterans. Chick Corea, nominated for his album Antidote, has 22 Grammy awards on his shelf. Rubén Blades, who is nominated in the first time in the Latin jazz category for a live collaboration with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, has already won 9 awards and has twice as many noms, in the Tropical and Latin pop categories.
David Sanchez, whose Carib is among this year’s nominees, has one previous Grammy (for Habana in 1997) and a long history of nominations. Miguel Zenón, nominated for his album Sonero – the Music of Ismael Rivera, is poised for his first win after seven previous nominations. The fifth nominee, pianist John Finbury, is new on the docket, honored for his collaborative album with Brazilian singer-songwriter Thalma de Freitas, Sorte! Finbury was nominated for a Latin Grammy song of the year award for “A Chama Verde” in 2016.
The breadth in this category reminds us of the fluid definition of Latin jazz and the strength of the state of the art, even if it does ignore the innovations currently being made by some spectacular young artists. The Latin jazz category was deleted from the awards in 2011, then reinstated the next year after fierce protests and a lawsuit by musicians for whom the category represented their only chance for a Grammy and wider recognition. Then as now, the music is proof of the Latin jazz’s rightful place at the Grammys.