Honor roll: Jazz albums

Each of these Jazz albums has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.



Kirk Whalum

On Unconditional, Paul Brown, the hottest producer in smooth jazz, takes a crack at the distinctive Texas tenor saxophone of Kirk Whalum. If you overlook the connect-the-dots formula of the opening track, “Now ‘Til Forever,” where Boney James or any of Brown’s other buddies could be inserted, the producer does a good job of letting Whalum’s bright style come through the slick production sheen he applies to the 10-song CD. It’s Whalum’s originals—like the title track, “Song for Evan,” and the clever tribute “Groverworked and Underpaid”—that are typical of…



Neal Schon

Album:Buena Vista Social Club

Buena Vista Social Club

Ry Cooder, Various Artists

Ry Cooder’s name has helped bring attention to this session, but it’s the veteran Cuban son musicians who make this album really special. Reminiscent of Ellington in its scope and sense of hushed romanticism, Buena Vista Social Club is that rare meld of quietude and intensity; while the players sound laid-back, they’re putting forth very alive music, a reminder that aging doesn’t mean taking to bed. Barbarito Torres’s laoud solo on “El Cuarto de Tula” is both more blinding and more tasteful than any guitar showcase on any recent rock album; a…


Faith: A Holiday Album

Kenny G

Kenny G currently owns the smooth-jazz soprano sax with his popular, mainstream arrangements and compositions. And on his first holiday album, despite occasionally predictable charts and phrasing, the saxman delivers a thoughtful and moving collection of songs, spirituals, and hymns, with his trademark sound wedded to several ensemble and orchestral arrangements. The G-man stretches out in “Sleigh Ride” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” but these are balanced by more serious pieces such as the lovely, original “Eternal Light ( A Chanukah Song)” and “Ave…

Album:Hymns in the Garden

Hymns in the Garden

Kirk Whalum

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