Fagen, Lovano, Marsalis Win Grammys

Rob Hochschild
February 23, 2001
Joe Lovano's Grammy Award for "52nd Street Themes" was his first.

Steely Dan, the group co-led by 1966 alumnus Donald Fagen, has for decades appealed to listeners of Top 40 radio as well as discerning jazz musicians, but has always managed to evade the radar of the National Academy of Recording and Arts and Sciences (NARAS). All that changed Wednesday night when Fagen and his partner, Walter Becker, captured the musical equivalent of a Super Bowl victory: the Album of the Year Grammy Award.

Coming 23 years after Steely Dan's most popular record "Aja," the group's new recording, "Two Against Nature," also earned Grammys for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Pop Vocal Album. There was a clear irony in Steely Dan's victory in the Album of the Year category over Eminem, Beck, and Radiohead, all of whom are younger artists admired for a level of musical adventurousness that had been Steely Dan's calling card in the 1970s.

"I think we're in real danger of losing our outsider status," Fagen said at a post-telecast news conference, according to a story on the NARAS website. "I think this means that the fans of ours who have survived have risen to positions of power and influence in the music industry, and that's very flattering," Becker added.

Also striking Grammy gold for the first time was saxophonist Joe Lovano '72, whose "52nd Street Themes" triumphed in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category. A Cleveland native, Lovano drew inspiration from the creations of hometown heroes Tadd Dameron and Willie "Face" Smith, whose compositions and arrangements comprise the bulk of the recording. Smith's lush orchestrations for the nine-piece group provide echoes of bebop and Miles Davis's "Birth of the Cool" period. Lovano, who had been named Jazz Artist of the Year by Down Beat in 1995 and 1996, had previously earned four Grammy nominations.

"It was nice to go back to something as familiar as my roots and my particular history," Lovano said of his new album during an interview with Jazzine. "If you can draw from what you've done, and document it and try to live it, that's the real music of the world."

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis '80 won for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group, for "Contemporary Jazz." It was Marsalis's third Grammy Award.

A Berklee faculty member contributed to a Grammy-Award-winning blues record. Associate Professor of Music Production and Engineering Terry Becker was the recording engineer for "Shoutin' in Key," by Taj Mahal and The Phantom Blues Band, which won for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

Congratulations go out to Boston-based jazz journalist Bob Blumenthal, a long-time friend of Berklee, whose writing earned him a Grammy for the second straight year. Blumenthal won the Best Album Liner Notes award for "Miles Davis and John Coltrane: The Complete Recordings 1955-1961."

Please read over the complete list of Berklee alumni and faculty members who received nominations.