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The Grammy Awards: To Be or Not To Be?

The Grammy Awards: To Be or Not To Be?
Dom Minasi By

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I very rarely watch award shows. I feel like the entertainment industry is constantly patting one another on the back. I don't understand the need to have so many of the same types of award shows. Artisans seem to have an irresistible need to be consistently told how wonderful they are and so very often. Why do I care so much? I care, because as a professional jazz musician, I feel the Grammys don't present or reflect jazz, as it should. After all jazz is "America's Classical Music."

I tuned in a few times over the years to watch the Grammy Awards because jazz names were mentioned and I wanted to see them. What I got was Chick Corea playing with the Foo Fighters. I wonder what brainchild thought of that pairing? The next time was to the 2011 Grammy Awards, where Diana Krall was supposed to be featured with Paul McCartney. That was a bust. I think in some small way the committee was trying to reach out to the younger audiences. Wow, what a waste of 10 minutes that was. It was not the best situation for Krall to be seen in. It would have been nice to have her sing instead of McCartney. McCartney, no doubt, is one of the great pop composers, but he shouldn't sing or present himself as a Tin Pan Alley composer or singer. It was not good.

Before, I continue, I have to say this. It seems that when some pop or rock stars have reached a certain point in their careers, they, their managers or record company execs decide it's time to conquer jazz. And they have the audacity to actually put out a standards type album with lush arrangements and great musicians...and their singing is absolutely awful. Please, someone tell them to stick to what they know and stay away from an art form they don't know anything about or belong in. It takes real talent to be a jazzer. Sorry, I had to rant. So many of my jazz friends feel this way too, but never say anything.

Back to the Grammy Awards.

The Grammy Awards started in the early 1950s. The membership was small, but has grown tremendously in the last 62 years.

When you visit the Grammy website it lists categories you can join as:

Musician;
Songwriter;
Producer, Engineer.

All of the above categories fall into genres, the biggest and most popular being pop, rock and country. Some of these genres have their own award shows besides the Grammy Awards. As far as I am concerned there should only be one TV show. Too many awards for the same genre cancel each other out. Either have one show that covers all genres or have one show for each genre. In this way at least jazz would have a chance for some publicity. At the Recording Academy website you can see that there is a Latin Recording Academy, but nowhere is there a jazz Recording Academy.

In order to join you must have done something in one of these categories that is recorded and related to the industry. For instance, when I joined, I wanted to be able to vote in all three categories. Therefore I had to prove I was a recording artist, songwriter (composer) and producer. Once you have joined, you can vote in the various fields. When the first round of ballots comes in the mail, there is something like 100-160 best artists, solos, recordings, etc. to vote on.

This is how it recently got a little tricky. With the emergence in jazz of self-produced records or independent labels, many of these labels do not have the funds to join, much less send in thirteen required copies of a record for each field. If you want to submit one record in four fields, that's fifty-two records that have to be shipped to Hollywood. Big labels like Blue Note can not only afford to do this, but they have the big bucks to promote themselves. The small labels can't. This means many jazz artists are never submitted and it is a shame because there is some great music and musicians out there that the general voting population will never hear.

After you vote in the first round, a few months later you are sent a list of the final five for which to vote. You are urged to vote in your field of expertise. In other words, if you are a jazz musician, don't vote in the pop field.

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