Philly artists have strong showing among Grammy nominees

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The War on Drugs perform in concert during the Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party

The War on Drugs perform in concert during the Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party at Festival Pier on Sunday, July 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. The South Philly band is nominated for a Grammy Award. (Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

The Grammy nominations were announced Tuesday morning, and a host of Philadelphia talent was represented.

The War On Drugs was nominated for best rock album, rapper Lil Uzi Vert for best new artist, and new music ensemble The Crossing for best choral performance.

The War On Drugs has been around for more than a decade, steadily gaining ground with fans and critics with its lush, psychedelic rock sound. Led by singer and guitarist Adam Granduciel, this year the band released “A Deeper Understanding,” its fourth album and first with a major label, Atlantic.

The album’s richly produced tracks, some clocking in at more than 10 minutes, clarify the sound Granduciel has been striving for all this time, say John Vettese, editor of the local music blog The Key for Philadelphia’s WXPN.

“It is, I think, the best document of Adam’s vision to date,” said Vettese, who has been following The War On Drugs for almost 10 years. “It’s his most refined statement.”

Lil Uzi Vert performs at The Budweiser Made In America Festival
Lil Uzi Vert performs at The Budweiser Made In America Festival on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Philadelphia. The North Philly-born hip-hop artist is nominated for a Grammy award. (Photo by Michael Zorn/Invision/AP)

Lil Uzi Vert, on the other hand, has been performing for just a couple years, releasing his first full studio album in August. The Grammy nominee for best new artist performed at the last two Made In America music festivals on Philadelphia’s Parkway and the Roots Picnic at Penn’s Landing.

Labeled “mumble rap” and “emo rap,” Lil Uzi’s heavily manipulated vocals are laid across electronic trap beats. In 2017 his single “XO Tour Llif3” exploded in popularity. He is a fantastically dynamic live performer. Vettese dubbed him the “hip-hop Iggy Pop.”

Onto something completely different, the Philadelphia new music group The Crossing has been nominated for best choral performance for a piece it commissioned and premiered three years ago, “The Fifth Century,” by the British composer Gavin Bryars.

The Crossing was nominated for a Grammy last year, too. It didn’t win then, but the nomination, alone, opened doors to a flood of new collaborations and commissions with other artists.

“Winning is not really as important having a nomination, at this point, in terms of people noticing it,” said artistic director Donald Nally.

“It’s easy for me to say that because we didn’t win last year,” he added with a chuckle. The Crossing and Bryars are already working on another new composition, expected to premiere next year.

Other Grammy nominees with local roots: jazz musician Christian McBride, a product of the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, already with 5 Grammys under his belt; jazz keyboardist Joey DeFrancesco, nominated twice before; and Temple University graduate Jean Baylor, formerly of the 1990s R&B duo Zhané. (“Hey Mr. DJ”).

Then Jean Norris, she married a jazz drummer from St. Louis named Marcus Baylor. Together they are The Baylor Project, nominated for best jazz vocal performance and best traditional R&B. They live in New York.

The Grammy awards ceremony will be Jan. 28 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Philly roots

Several nominees have Philadelphia connections. Some are based here, and some were born and raised here or nearby.

The War On Drugs: Best Rock Album, “A Deeper Understanding”

Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile formed this indie rock band in Philadelphia in 2005. In the band’s current iteration, Granduciel (vocals, guitar) is joined by David Hartley (bass), Robbie Bennett (keyboards), Charlie Hall (drums), Jon Natchez (saxophone, keyboards) and Anthony LaMarca (guitar).

 

Lil Uzi Vert: Best New Artist

This 23-year-old Philadelphia hip-hop artist, born Symere Woods, hit No. 1 in January on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 with his collaboration with rap group Migos, “Bad and Boujee.” In March, his single “XO TOUR Llif3” hit No. 7, his highest charting song as a lead artist. He released his studio album debut, “Luv Is Rage 2,” in August.

 

Musiq Soulchild: Best R&B Album, “Feel the Real”

Born Taalib Johnson, R&B, Philly-based funk, and hip-hop artist Musiq has two platinum albums, two gold albums and seven hit singles. Prior to this year, he has earned 11 Grammy nominations.

 

The Baylor Project: Best Jazz Vocal Album, “The Journey”; Best R&B Performance

This husband-and-wife duo, Marcus and Jean Baylor released their debut album, “The Journey,” on their own label, Be A Light. Jean found jazz in studying vocal performance at Temple University. She had some hits in the 1990s with the group Zhané.

 

Pink: Best Pop Solo Performance, “What About Us”

Born Alecia Moore in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Pink has been a solo performer since 2000. The single “What About Us” is from her seventh studio album, “Beautiful Trauma.” Prior to this, Pink has been nominated for 18 Grammys, including three wins.

 

Kevin Hart: Best Comedy Album, “What Now?”

Kevin Hart was born and raised in Philadelphia. After graduating from high school, he briefly attended the Community College of Philadelphia before moving to New York and later Massachusetts. His standup career began at an amateur night at a club in Philadelphia.

 

Christian McBride: Best Large Jazz Ensemble, “Bringin’ It”

Jazz bassist virtuoso Christian McBride studied at the Juilliard School and is one of the most recorded musicians of his generation. Well-known jazz bassists Lee Smith, his father, and Howard Cooper, his great-uncle, are among his early influences.  He has credits on hundreds of recordings with a dizzying number of artists. He is also a five-time Grammy award winner.

 

 Joey DeFrancesco: Best Jazz Instrumental Album, “Project Freedom”

Jazz organist, trumpeter, and vocalist Joey DeFrancesco was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, and attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. He signed his first record deal at the age of 16, and since then has played all around the world and released more than 30 albums.

 

Jeff Lorber Fusion, Best Contemporary Jazz, “Now is the Time”

Born in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, Jeff Lorber has had a recording career since the 1970s. He was previously nominated for a Grammy in 2007 for his release “He Had a Hat.” Many of his songs have been featured on The Weather Channel’s “Local on the 8s” segments.

 

August Burns Red: Best Metal Performance, “Invisible Enemy”

August Burns Red is a Christian thrash metal band formed in 2003 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The current lineup comprises Jake Luhrs (vocals), Brent Rambler (rhythm guitar), J.B. Brubaker (lead guitar), Dustin Davidson (bass and keyboard), and Matt Greiner (drums). The band was also nominated in 2016 for best metal performance Grammy.

 

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Best Musical Theater Album, “Dear Evan Hansen”; Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, “La La Land”

Ardmore native Benj Pasek went to Friends Central School before attending the University of Michigan, where he met his writing partner Justin Paul. The musical “Dear Evan Hansen” is based on an incident from Pasek’s time in high school. Pasek co-produced the musical and wrote the songs with Paul. The duo, known as Pasek and Paul, have written for musical theater, movies, and television, including NBC’s “Smash,” Broadway’s “A Christmas Story,” “Dogfight,” and “Edges,” and the film “James and the Giant Peach.” They won the Golden Globe and Oscar for best original song for the song “City of Stars” from “La La Land.”

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