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West, Winehouse top choices

Surprises among Grammy nominations: Herbie Hancock, Vince Gill, Foo Fighters.

Kanye West and Amy Winehouse led the way when contenders for the 50th annual Grammy Awards were announced yesterday in Los Angeles.

West, the Chicago rapper and producer, is up for album-of-the-year honors for his vividly creative CD


and also pulled in seven other nominations.

Winehouse, the troubled and heavily mascaraed British retro-R&B singer, nabbed six nominations for her dark soul confession

Back to Black

. She's up for awards in all four major categories, including record of the year and song of the year, for her all-too-autobiographical "Rehab," as well as for best new artist.

Neither West's nor Winehouse's success was unexpected. Both artists enjoyed the crucial combination of significant CD sales and critical acclaim that the Grammys typically reward, though Winehouse's wayward behavior of late may render her too controversial to go home with a handful of golden gramophones. That is, presuming the 24-year-old singer, who has canceled many recent performances on doctor's orders, makes the Feb. 10 awards show at Los Angeles' Staples Center.

But there were several surprises in the all-important best-album group. Pianist Herbie Hancock's

River: The Joni Letters

, a tribute to Joni Mitchell, proved to be the rare jazz album with enough marquee name recognition to garner an album-of-the-year nod, which maybe is not that surprising after all, when you consider that Norah Jones, Tina Turner and Corinne Bailey Rae, as well as Mitchell herself, are all on the CD.

Country crooner Vince Gill's impressive quadruple CD

These Days

, which came out in October 2006, may have been forgotten by short-attention-span fans, but it wasn't by Grammy voters, who included it in the best-album category. (The Recording Academy's eligibility period is for music released between Oct. 1 of last year to Sept. 30 of this year.)

Echoes Silence Patience & Grac

e by the Foo Fighters upset Bruce Springsteen's


to take the rock slot in the album sweepstakes. The Foos, led by the likable if rarely brilliant Dave Grohl, were among five who pulled in five nominations, including Jay-Z, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and T-Pain.

The three other major categories - among the total of 110 - are record of the year, song of the year (a writer's award) and new artist.

Best-record nominees are "Irreplaceable," by Beyoncé; "Umbrella," by Rihanna; "What Goes Around . . . Comes Around," by Justin Timberlake; "The Pretenders," by the Foo Fighters; and Winehouse's "Rehab."

Best-song 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 in the new-artist category, the left-field choices were New Orleans R&B singer Ledisi and Nashville rock band Paramore.

Bruce Springsteen got four nods, as did Canadian chanteuse Feist, country singers Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley,

American Idol

rocker Chris Daughtry, R&B singers Ne-Yo and Rihanna, rock duo the White Stripes, and recording engineer John Newton. But Springsteen was shut out in the major categories, as was cute Beatle Paul McCartney, who got two nods.

Philadelphia soul singer Jill Scott was the big local winner: The singer-actress was nominated in the category of best R&B performance by a duo or group for "Daydreamin'," her duet with Lupe Fiasco, as well as in the female R&B performance category for "Hate on Me" from her CD

The Real Thing

, which garnered consideration in the best-R&B-album category. In that slot, she faces off against fellow Philadelphian Musiq Soulchild's


. He's also up for best male R&B performance for "B.U.D.D.Y."

Saxophonist Michael Brecker, a Cheltenham native who died in January, was posthumously nominated for best jazz solo for "Anagram." The song comes from his album


, 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.

Philadelphia Orchestra 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) nominated for instrumental soloist performance (with orchestra).

Another pianist based in Philadelphia, Marc-Andre Hamelin, was cited for his Haydn sonata disc under instrumental soloist performance (without orchestra).

Philadelphia-based composer Jennifer Higdon was nominated for classical contemporary composition for "Zaka." "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."

This year's more notable contenders include two former presidents and one presidential candidate in the best spoken-word-album category - Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, respectively - going up against Maya Angelou and Alan Alda.

The best-producer competition - which ought to be a major award in today's pop music universe, where knob twiddlers are all-powerful - pits Timbaland, who worked with Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, against Winehouse helmsman Mark Ronson. Mike Elizondo, Joe Chiccarelli and Howard Benson are also in the running.

In the polka category, perennial Jimmy Sturr, who has won 16 times, faces a bunch of belligerent-sounding competitors, such as Brave Combo's

Polka's Revenge

and John Gora & Gorale's

Bulletproof Polka


Sounds like a shoot-out at the accordion corral.

For a list of all the nominees, go to Grammy nominees