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Boston’s many Grammy nominees

Local academic institutions foster a bevy of talent

Scott Haas
Boston’s many Grammy nominees
The Berklee Indian Ensemble at Symphony Hall. PHOTO: MIKE RITTER

Boston musicians are a big presence at this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony, to be held on Feb. 5 in Los Angeles. Faculty and alumni from the city’s two world-class institutions of musical education abound.

Nominees from Berklee College of Music include drummer and composer Terri Lyne Carrington; the Berklee Indian Ensemble, directed by Annette Philip; and pianist and composer Danilo Pérez. 

Annette Philip, Berklee Indian Ensemble artistic director and founder; and Berklee College of Music alumna, 2009. PHOTO: RYAN NAVA

From the New England Conservatory (NEC), faculty member Melissa Aldana is nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for “Falling.” Faculty member Miguel Zenón is nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album for “Música De Las Américas” and Best Instrumental Composition for the single “El País Invisible.” NEC alumna Aoife O’ Donovan is nominated for Best American Roots Song and Best American Roots Performance for “Prodigal Daughter” and Best Folk Album for “Age of Apathy.” Another NEC alum, Stephanie Economou, is nominated for Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media for “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok.”

Shuruaat” (Hindi for “beginning”) is the title of the Berklee Indian Ensemble’s album. It is their first release of what are very eclectic songs. Nominated for Best Global Music album, the recording embraces change as well as tradition. 

“It is a genre-bending collection of music,” Philip tells the Banner. “We created a space for musicians from all over the world to converge.”

Miguel Zenón is nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album and Best Instrumental Composition. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

Tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, on “Falling,” from her album “12 Stars” (Blue Note, 2022), brings originality as well as sounds that may call to mind the epic electronic advancements of Wayne Shorter. Aldana is a founding member of Artemis, the all-women jazz super-group, and her depth as a musician is evident.

Carrington, founder of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice (JGJ), is no stranger to Grammy awards, having won three so far. Her album “New Standards, Vol. 1,” recorded in collaboration with JGJ faculty members Linda May Han Oh and Kris Davis, is nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Carrington is also nominated in the same category for her performance on “Live at the Detroit Jazz Festival,” recorded with Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding and Leo Genovese.

It’s no surprise that so many musicians with ties to Boston are nominated: Although more venues are sorely needed for performances, opportunities for creative growth and development in music are fostered mightily at local academic institutions.

“Shuruaat” album cover. DESIGN: NIKHIL KAUL,

In addition to the big stars, lots of unseen faces from the Boston institutions also are making music that garners the attention of their peers.

Grammy nominee recordings this year include these Berklee alums: Matt Schaeffer as engineer/mixer on “The Heart Part 5,” by Kendrick Lamar, and Emerson Mancini as mastering engineer on “About Damn Time,” by Lizzo. Both recordings are Grammy nominees for Record of the Year.

On Mary J. Blige’s “Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe),” nominated for Album of the Year, you have Berklee alums songwriter Alissia Benveniste and engineer/mixer Chris Galland. 

Every album requires huge numbers of personnel devoted to the final recording. Each person must endorse the overriding themes, but individual expression finds a place in the best jazz recordings, adding to the experience of performers and listeners. 

For “Shuruaat,” close to 100 musicians are nominated for the Grammy.

“We have 98 musicians from 39 countries on this album,” said Philip. “Students, staff, alumni, as well as famous musicians like Zakir Hussain. We are artistically porous.”