The Grammy Awards Give Jazz the Crazy Uncle Treatment

Rolling in the deep and raking in the Grammys.

This isn’t going to be a long post because it’s about the Grammy Awards. I didn’t watch the show just like I haven’t watched the show for the better part of the last ten years. No, this isn’t yet another “You’re not getting old, the music just sucks” rant. I am getting old and the music does suck, but at least if you’re a jazz fan you don’t have to stay up past your bedtime.

This was the first Grammy program since they cut out most of the major categories for jazz, Latin and other genres that are not pop, hip-hop and rap. Those Grammys are awarded during a pre-broadcast ceremony outside of the TV cameras.   Nobody wants to watch some old jazz cats taking home the hardware for music nobody listens to in America.

My buddy, Rachel Z., writing in support of reinstating the jazz categories dropped by the Grammys said, “Most of the Major labels have in the past 3 years dropped their Jazz Departments.  That is the sole reason why you are seeing a drop in submissions.  Many independent musicians and labels cannot afford a NARAS membership on their own.  Previously votes presented by major labels though a block voting system implemented by the majors.  What would you suggest that I tell my students at the New School who spend their life dreaming of a Grammy that now there is only one Jazz Category?  2/3 less chance to win!  This gives them the same chance as winning the lottery now after the cutbacks in the Jazz Category.  They are competing with people 5x their age in the Jazz Category.  Not to mention putting Latin Jazz next to traditional jazz…???!!!”

When Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea accepted the Best Improvised Solo award for “500 Miles High” from the terrific 2011 album, Forever, I wonder who was there to watch them besides the workers setting up the stage?

Public Enemy once said, “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy?” and the marginalization of jazz at the Grammys only confirms that sentiment for me. I don’t care about award shows. I’d rather the musicians make a buck or two, but recognition for them is nice.  It validates my taste.  Unfortunately, jazz is treated like a crazy old uncle the music industry would rather keep out of sight and forget about.

"Does this mean we get to meet Adele?"

They obviously don’t want any more Esperanza Spaldings or Herbie Hancocks taking up any of the face time among all the b.s. awards they have to hand out to nobodies and trendy flavors of the month. In fact that’s what they should call the Grammys: This year’s Flavors of the Month.

Jazz is not a genre where here today and gone later today flourishes. Nor is it a form of music where you can get by as a barely competent rapper or studio enhanced singer. You have to be able to sing. You have to be able to play. And if you can’t do either, you can’t play jazz. Period.

A few thoughts about Adele cleaning up at The Adele Awards (formerly known as the Grammy Awards). I’m an agnostic n Adele. Can she sing? Yes, and no Auto-Tune or wearing costumes made of meat are necessary.

“Rolling In the Deep” is a great song (though, please don’t call it soul) , but 21 is not a great album. “Rolling” kills, but after that it’s pretty slow going. Adele will have a nice long career, but she needs better material.

The Grammys are about celebrity and popularity.  If they could figure out a way to give Kim Kardashian an award for record that wouldn’t make them look insane, they would do it. Most award shows are bullshit anyway.  The Grammy Awards finds all new ways to make themselves even more irrelevant to the art form they pretend to be celebrating.