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Wayne Wallace: The Thrill of the Grammys

Wayne Wallace: The Thrill of the Grammys

Courtesy David Belove


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I have had the honor of performing on four Grammy-nominated recordings. Mister E, by Pete Escovedo, S.F. Bay, by the Machete Ensemble, Then Some, by Steve Berrios, and Far East Suite, by Anthony Brown and the Asian American Orchestra. This was my second time being a part of a Grammy presentation, but my first as the leader of a nominated project, let alone as a presenter for the Pre-Telecast Awards ceremony.

I arrived at LAX on Saturday afternoon, checked in at the Biltmore hotel and immediately prepared to attend the nominees' reception. Beautiful starlit warm evening, first class entertainment, fabulous people and sumptuous food everywhere you turned. The energy and excitement of being around so many great artists was contagious for all of the participants. As Grammy nominees the first order of business was to sign in, receive a Grammy medallion honoring the achievement of being a nominee and then having a photo taken for the archives.

Some of favorite moments were meeting fellow musicians/artists, learning of how they had gotten to this moment and how dedicated they were to their craft. Some were veterans of the Grammys and other first timers. Didn't seem to matter though, as everyone was savoring the lusciousness of the being there.

Sunday was the awards day. Everyone from my record label, Patois Records, had made the trip, so we went over to the L.A. Convention Center en masse. It was an honor and a privilege to have been asked to be a presenter for the Pre-Telecast Awards. I was presenting for the Latin and Gospel Awards, and had to be at there early for the walk through and staging for my segment. The director and technicians were all first-class professionals and made every step easy and fun. The hang backstage with Bobby McFerrin, Esperanza Spalding, Trombone Shorty and all of the presenters was a blast! We shared notes on the recording of each others projects, talked about new music we had heard and joked about the business.

In total there were 98 Grammys presented at the Pre-Telecast Awards. In my opinion, this segment felt like the "working class" of the music business. A majority of the artists had funded their own projects or received grants to record them. For many of them, being nominated was a reward in itself. Some of my personal highlights for the Pre-Telecast Awards were presenting to Oscar Hernandez and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Lalah Hathaway's talking about how she had brought several pairs of shoes to deal with the long day, Mavis Staples' emotional acceptance speech, Trombone Shorty's performance with the Pre-Telecast Grammy Band, and the McFerrin/Spalding duet to open the show. Folks have asked if I was disappointed in not winning a Grammy. I wasn't disappointed in the least. The honor of being recognized by your peers with such great artists as Pablo Aslan, Chucho Valdes, Poncho Sanchez and Henry Martingon is something to be cherished and treasured be its own merit.

After a one hour break, the CBS Telecast took place over at the Staples Center. Every segment was magnificently produced and staged. Kudos to the production team!!! Loved every moment of the presentation.

Had a brief but nice conversation with Cee Lo, before his performance. The tribute to Aretha Franklin was quite touching. When Esperanza Spalding won the New Artist of the Year Award, it was like someone had suddenly open a door and a blast of cold air rushed in and woke up the Staples Center. Everyone I talked to was thrilled!! To know that it's still possible for a talented musician who puts artistic integrity at the forefront to be honored in this way speaks to many of the reasons why we all love being musicians and artists. During the commercial breaks, we were entertained by videos of past Grammy performances. (My personal favorite was the Aretha Franklin clip of her subbing for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti on Puccini's Nessum Dorma, from Turnadot, with just 30 minutes to prepare).

The after party was a nice cool down from all of the day's frenetic energy. Once again we were treated to great music, conversation and incredible food. Bottom line, I had a blast!!! Looking forward to doing it again.


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