The results are in for the Third Annual Latin Jazz Corner Best Of The Year Awards! The voting ran from December 2, 2009 – December 23, 2009 and drew thousands of voters from around the world. It’s been a thrilling process that has provided some interesting results about the state of the Latin Jazz world. You can learn more about the voting process HERE and keep up with the results on the Best Of 2009 Page.
2009 Latin Jazz Record Label Of The Year: Marsalis Music
The name Marsalis holds a prominent place in the jazz world, but it’s legacy lies in realms of swing, traditional, and modern jazz. Trumpet player Wynton, the most famous name in the Marsalis clan, made his name with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and then grew into a vocal figurehead for the canonization of jazz. His visible place in Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary along with his high profile position as artistic director of Jazz At Lincoln Center made Wynton a household name as well as a controversial figure. Saxophonist Brandon played alongside Wynton in the Jazz Messengers, but took a much more liberal path in his solo career. Branford took gigs alongside Sting and the Grateful Dead and served as musical director for the Tonight Show, all while carving a distinctively creative voice in the modern jazz world. Trombonist Delfayo developed a strong voice on his instrument while at the Berklee School Of Music, and then acted as an influential producer on a number of jazz recordings. Drummer Jason began performing professionally as a pre-teen and then moved towards a professional career with Los Hombres Caliente, Marcus Roberts, and as a band leader. Pianist and father Ellis led the whole Marsalis clan through their young education in New Orleans and amassed a serious collection of recordings as a leader. The Marsalis family has exerted a mass influence upon the contemporary jazz world, and it’s hard to walk through the modern world without a mention of the Marsalis name.
With such a deep legacy in the jazz world, an award for Latin Jazz Record Label Of The Year might seem out of place, but Marsalis Music certainly deserves this honor in 2009. The label released two of the finest Latin Jazz recordings of 2009, saxophonist Miguel Zenón’s Esta Plena & vocalist Claudia Acuña’s En Este Momento. Both recordings integrated unique Latin influences with Zenón digging deeply into Puerto Rican Plena and Acuña calling on music from across South America. At the same time, both Zenón and Acuña placed these rich traditions into the context of modern jazz, making the music both relevant and exciting. On both counts, the artists took bold risks that stepped outside the realm of Latin Jazz and traditional jazz traditions; their chances paid off, delivering outstanding artistic statements that paid tribute to the integrity of both musical worlds. The label deserves accolades for more than just the support of two Latin Jazz albums though – they took a chance on two daring releases. Saxophonist Branford runs the label, and his years of experience as a jazz innovator have allowed him recognize the importance of letting a rich artistic vision to reach its potential – an element that he has embedded into his company. Marsalis keeps the label focused upon the ability to document an artist’s best effort – something that they did with Zenón and Acuña in 2009. It was an important point that made Marsalis Music a defining part of 2009; they looked past genre and supported outstanding music. This kind of support in artistic merit should drive more record labels – it’s the type of thinking that will drive music forward in leaps and bounds. Without a doubt, Marsalis Music earned the Record Label Of The Year Award, and we look forward to more great music from them in the future.
2009 Latin Jazz Album Artwork Of The Year: Sube Azul, Sofia Rei Koutsovitis – Emra Islek, Photography & Federico Raffetto, Artwork
Cover art photography is a tricky art form that needs to simultaneously express the commercial and artistic needs of the musician while making a creative statement. First and foremost, the photographer needs to capture a clear image of the artist that introduces them to the general public. Jazz artists don’t enjoy the cult of celebrity awarded to pop stars, and as a result, people can’t associate a face with a jazz recording; a solid photograph on an album cover can solve this problem. A straight photograph of the artist seems drab though, creating a negative association with the album’s music. The photographer’s image needs to capture the spirit of the music and frame the artist in an intriguing light. Thought needs to surround the album cover’s photography, placing the artist at a vivid location or placing them in a situation that brings their personality to the forefront. Most importantly, the photographer creates an image that becomes undeniably associated with the recording; the more impact that the photograph makes, the better sales for the album. Some of the most important albums in jazz history are associated with iconic album covers, making them memorable on several fronts. It’s a sticky position – a sub par album cover puts a recording at a disadvantage while an outstanding photo captures an audience’s eye.
The combination of Emra Islek‘s photography and Federico Raffetto‘s artwork wraps Sofia Rei Koutsovitis’ Sube Azul in a fun and appealing package, making it a solid choice for Best Album Artwork of 2009. Islek captures Koutsovitis at a great moment of laughter, setting a fun and appealing setting around the singer. The image establishes a connection between Koutsovitis and her audience, making her approachable and inviting. She stands in front of a vibrant pink setting, creating a contrast that places her in the forefront of your attention. A variety of butterflies surround Koutsovitis’ cheerful face, adding variety and interest to the picture in unexpected ways. Among the cadre of butterflies on and around Koutsovitis, several artfully drawn shadows inhabit the image, giving the illusion of many more butterflies. On top of the picture, a playful text presents the album title in a loosely drawn cursive. The use of blue and white colorings blend the text into the image without loosing contrast. At the top left corner of the cover, Koutsovitis has written her name in her own handwriting, giving the album a personal touch that once again makes the recording inviting to the listener. Islek and Raffetto truly capture the spirit of the work and present Koutsovitis in a fun and engaging way, making a outstanding example of album cover art.
We’ll be spending the next several days looking at the results from the LJC Best Of 2009 Awards, so make sure that you check back tomorrow for more info. It’s a great way to reflect upon the year, celebrate some albums that you loved, and get turned onto some recordings that you might have missed. Don’t miss a single result – check back tomorrow!
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Digging Deeper Into Artwork: 7 Classic Latin Jazz Album Covers