OK, you might think that jazz isn’t getting pride of place at this year’s Grammys. After all, jazz artists lost 20 per cent of their potential awards when jazz categories were cut down from five to four.
A total of 31 categories were slashed from this year’s ceremony in an announcement made last April. There are protests planned to take place outside the awards on Sunday night in Los Angeles. Latin jazz artists, whose category fell under the knife, started a petition, filed a lawsuit and have even planned a competing concert called “Not Those Awards All-Star Latin Jazz Jam.”
Latin jazz was just one of many genres to lose specific recognition. Hawaiian music, traditional blues, zydeco (I’ll be sending the Recording Academy a tear-stained letter of protest over that last one) are also gone, and will be forced to compete in a larger pool against a wider array of artists in broader categories.
But is releasing jazz into the general population necessarily a bad thing? For certain, there are going to be fewer jazz artists taking home hardware this weekend, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Jazz should be rolling up its sleeves and getting ready to take on the big boys of popular music.
And don’t say it can’t be done.
Last year, a young jazz bassist named Esperanza Spalding took home the Grammy for best new artist. And she only had to beat Drake and Justin Bieber to do it.
Trumpeter Nicholas Payton has been writing on his website about the problems with categorizing any music as jazz, in part because the word is a red flag for people who think they won’t like the music.
“When Black American Music became ‘JAZZ’, it separated itself from the American popular music idiom,” writes Payton.
“I’m just trying to take it back to its roots.”
It’s definitely a challenge when the number of awards is reduced, but perhaps this is an opportunity to push jazz into the mainstream. If a jazz artist can win best new artist, there’s no reason she couldn’t win best album.
Terri Lyne Carrington's beautiful mosaic
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on Feb 08, 2012