Dateline, Little Rock, Arkansas, Monday, February 24, 2003. Subject:
The 2003 Grammy Awards
This morning, Bruce Lundval, President of Blue Note Records, woke up, as if from a dream, the happiest man in the world.
Why, might you ask?
Because, in addition to selling over six million copies of her debut recording on the Blue Note imprint, Norah Jones made a clean sweep of the top five awards at this year's Grammy Awards held last night at Madison Square garden in New York City. Oddly enough it was Blue Note's parent company, EMI, that was mentioned explicitly in the appreciations following each award Ms. Jones claimed. This is a proud day for Blue Note and, indeed, a proud one for jazz.
But how were the awards in general? In my youth, I never missed the broadcast of the awards. I always looked forward to hearing who claimed the top awards. While the Grammy Awards have not deteriorated into the angry hand-job the Oscars have in the past number of years, they are still a pretty shallow affair. That is unfortunate as there is some seriously interesting music being produced today, perhaps the most exciting music since, dare I say, the early 1970s.
The festivities this year were made exceptional compared to past years with fine performances. Simon ad Garfunkle, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award and awarded us their first live performance together in well over a decade, performed "The Sound of Silence". And God saw that this was good. It was quite good to hear the pair singing, even if a bit worse for wear. James Taylor chimed in with "Sweet Baby James." Ditto.
Avril Lavigne, decked out in black tie, showed that she is the real thing live, if not on disc. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band sounded fine with a renewed sense of conviction in the wake of the 9/11 terrorism. The band’s performance of "The Rising" was riveting as was Springsteen and Little Steven’s participation with Elvis Costello in a tribute to the late Joe Strummer of the Clash. The band belted out "London Calling" inspiring the mostly well-behaved crowd. Eminem proved that his music was of substance performing music from his over-hyped movie Eight Mile.
But in the end, it was a boy band that took off with the show. NSYNC, the boy darlings of the turn of the millennium, performed an over-the-top a cappella medley of Bee Gee tunes prior to the recognition of Marice Gibbs by his remaining brothers. The medley was a mere three minutes long but hit all of the high points. It was magic, even if a boy band was making it.
But the real magic was a little song performed by a large and controversial talent on a label that since its genesis has been known for the best in jazz. As Norah Jones mounted the stage with Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt to receive yet another award, she said se was "freaking out." Well, we all were.