Despite my best intentions, I tuned in tonight to the Grammys, the music industry’s annual orgy of self-love, er, popularity contest.
Jazz and blues artists and awards were all but banned from the broadcast portion of this year’s awards.
Unless it happened when I momentarily left the room, there were no on-air mentions of Grammys in those categories. And the only musicians onstage representing those genres were pianist and New Orleans native Jon Batiste (of “The Late Show”) and Austin guitar slinger Gary Clark Jr., who, accompanied by a drummer, joined forces for a quick salute to two recent fallen icons — Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.
So … let’s honor them here:
- Best Improvised Jazz Solo: “Miles Beyond” — John McLaughlin, soloist
- Best Jazz Vocal Album: “Dreams and Daggers” — Cécile McLorin Salvant
- Best Jazz Instrumental Album: “Rebirth” — Billy Childs
- Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: “Bringin’ It” — Christian McBride Big Band
- Best Latin Jazz Album: “Jazz Tango” — Pablo Ziegler Trio
- Best Instrumental Composition: “Three Revolutions” — Arturo O’Farrill, composer (Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdés)
- Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: “Prototype” — Jeff Lorber Fusion
And jazz people won in a couple other categories:
- Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90” — Various Artists; Dae Bennett, producer
- Best Surround Sound Album: “Early Americans” — Jane Bunnett
Loved hearing Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris pay tribute to the late Tom Petty with an acoustic performance of his “Wildflowers.”
Glad, too, to see Grammys go to:
- Best American Roots Song: “If We Were Vampires” — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
- Best Americana Album: “The Nashville Sound” — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
- Best Contemporary Blues Album: “TajMo” — Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’
“Most of the (jazz and blues) awards were distributed during the Grammy Premiere Ceremony, which streamed live at grammy.com., ” as Nate Chinen points out in his column for WBGO.org. “One clear highlight of that ceremony was a performance by Jazzmeia Horn, who was in the running for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her self-assured debut, A Social Call.”
So, gee, thanks, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, for all but entirely squeezing jazz and blues musicians out of your broadcast, in favor of a variety of assorted musical nonsense. How’d ‘ya like U2’s lip-syncing?
In other news, Tampa’s own Chuck Owen, a pianist, composer, and longtime USF jazz prof, and his Jazz Surge received FOUR Grammy nominations for the band’s critically acclaimed “Whispers on the Wind” album: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Best Instrumental Composition (“Warped Cowboy”), Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella (“All Hat, No Saddle”) and Best Improvised Jazz Solo, for violinist Sara Caswell.
Unfortunately, Owen lost to (good) artists with higher profiles and much greater name recognition (remember that part about “popularity contest”?)
Still, how many artists — of any genre? — received 4 Grammy noms this year? Owen achieved quite a feat.