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Rapper West leads Grammy field

Kanye West led the way with eight nominations as the contenders for the 50th annual Grammy awards were announced today in Los Angeles.

Kanye West led the way with eight nominations as the contenders for the 50th annual Grammy awards were announced today in Los Angeles.

The Chicago rapper and producer's CD Graduation is up for album of the year, as is Back to Black by Amy Winehouse, the troubled and heavily mascaraed British retro-R & B singer. Winehouse's six nominations include nods in all the major categories, including record of the year and song of the year, for "Rehab," as well as a Best New Artist nomination.

Five artists pulled in five nominations, including Jay-Z, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, T-Pain and the Foo Fighters, whose Echoes Silence Patience & Grace is also up for album of the year.

The other album of the year nominees were surprises: jazz pianist Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters, a tribute to Joni Mitchell, and country crooner Vince Gill's quadruple CD These Days, which came out in October 2006. (The Recording Academy's eligibility period is for music released between Oct. 1 of last year to Sept. 30 of this year.)

Bruce Springsteen received four nominations, as did Feist, Tim McGraw, Akon, Dierks Bentley, Chris Daughtry, N-Yo, Rihanna and recording engineer John Newton. But the Boss' Magic, which came out on vinyl in September of this year - one week before its CD release, in order to make the Grammy deadline - was shut out in the four major categories. Paul McCartney, who got two nods, was also shut out in the marquee categories.

Philadelphia soul singer Jill Scott was nominated in the best R & B performance by a duo or group for "Daydreamin'," her duet with rapper Lupe Fiasco.

Scott is also nominated in the female R & B performance category for "Hate On Me" from her CD The Real Thing, which garnered a nod in the best R & B album category, where she faces off against fellow Philadelphian Music Soulchild's Loveanmusiq. Music Soulchild is also up for best male R & B performance for "B.U.D.D.Y."

Saxophonist Michael Brecker, from Cheltenham, was posthumously nominated for best jazz solo for "Anagram," from his album Pilgrimage, which is nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

Wilmington-based guitarist David Bromberg competes in the traditional folk album category, with Try Me One More Time. Bromberg's album and Sweet Honey in the Rock's Experience ...101, which is up for best children's album, both were released by West Chester's Appleseed Recordings.

Besides best album, the three other major categories are record of the year, song of the year (a writer's award) and best new artist. Best record nominees are "Irreplaceable," by Beyoncé, "Umbrella," by Rihanna and Jay-Z, "What Goes Around . . . Comes Around," by Justin Timberlake, "The Pretenders," by the Foo Fighters, and "Rehab."

Song of the year nods went to Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah," Corinne Bailey Rae's "Like A Star" and "Umbrella" and "Rehab."

While the nominations of Winehouse, Feist, and teen star Taylor Swift, who was raised in Wyomissing, Pa., were expected, there were surprise choices, including Ledisi, the New Orleans R & B singer whose last name is Anibade, and the Nashville teen rock band Paramore.

While the Philadelphia Orchestra is reasserting itself in the market with new, SACD recordings of Tchaikovsky and Mahler, none was nominated, though music director Christoph Eschenbach, who also leads Orchestre de Paris, collaborated with Curtis Institute-graduate Lang Lang in a disc of Beethoven piano concertos (Nos. 1 and 4) that was nominated for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (with orchestra).

Another pianist long based in Philadelphia, Marc-Andre Hamelin, was cited for his Haydn sonata disc under "Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra)."

Philadelphia-based composer Jennifer Higdon was nominated under "Best Classical Contemporary Composition" for a piece titled "Zaka" - one of three nominations given to the disc Strange Imaginary Animals" by the contemporary music group, eighth blackbird.

Grammy Awards and nominations in classical music tend not to be the career-making events that they are for pop musicians, but in the low-sales classical world, performers and composers are grateful for most any kind of spotlight. "I get excited about it," said Higdon, who had one previous nomination, "and if it makes anyone pick [the disc] up, that's the important thing. But my life is still about composing things, which is what I like to do."

The Grammy awards show will be broadcast from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. The winners will be determined by the voters of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which refers to itself as the Recording Academy.