Drummer and bandleader Bobby Sanabria attended the New York NARAS meeting this past Monday night April 11, 2011. He was not alone – a huge number of New York based Latin Jazz musicians attended the meeting, hoping to make a serious statement about the loss of the Latin Jazz award. Despite a number of intelligent and emotional pleas, the NARAS representatives didn’t budge on their position. In fact, they engaged in some outright insulting behavior. In a message originally posted on the Yahoo Latin Jazz group, Sanabria reports on his experience at the NARAS meeting, filling us all in on the evening’s events.
After you read Sanabria’s feedback, make sure that you send an e-mail to NARAS CEO Neil Portnow – his e-mail address is email@example.com. Let him know that you value Latin Jazz and that you are demanding to see the Latin Jazz Award reinstated. If Sanabria’s statement doesn’t convince you to write that letter, check out the following video with footage from the NARAS meeting. After seeing Latin Jazz legend Eddie Palmieri treated with an incredible amount of disrespect, you’ll get writing.
For ongoing updates on the elimination of the Latin Jazz Grammy, check out LJC’s LJC’s Support Page For The Latin Jazz Grammy.
I was at the special NY Chapter NARAS meeting Monday night with Eddie Palmieri, Larry Harlow, Brian Lynch, Chris Washburne, Jose’ Clausell, Randy Klein, Bob Sancho, Joechem Becker, etc., and we all protested in FULL FORCE with impassioned speeches. Others present were Chembo Corniel, Hector Martignon, Brenda Feliciano, Alvie Alvarado (who videoed everything), Annette Aguilar, and many others. This is NOT ONLY about the Latin jazz category. It’s so important that Grammy CEO Neil Portnow flew in from L.A. and was present. It’s about full all out cultural insensitivity by NARAS.
First, they wouldn’t let me, Eddie, or any of us – not even reporters from the New York Times, New York Daily News, or The Wall Street Journal – in because they said that we had not responded to the RSVP invite. They said we had to wait and that MAYBE we could get in. The only notice we got about the meeting was an e-mail saying that it was an open meeting for EVERYONE (including non-Grammy members), and there was no RSVP attached. Bob Sancho showed them the print out. Luckily, Brenda Feliciano (Paquito D’Rivera’s wife) had a friend on the Board who walked in; that person told them, “Let these people in, they’re NARAS members.” Mind you – Eddie and Larry were former Board of Governor Members at NARAS. Eddie is an 8-time winner, Larry is a 3-time nominee, and Larry was also responsible for getting the Salsa/Tropical music category established in the Grammys. Larry finally left in disgust stating that “…this used to be a high class organization.”
CEO Neil Portnow was there and he introduced a gentleman that is responsible for the categories and the restructuring. This gentleman opened the proceedings by explaining how to enter and how voting happens in the Grammys – something we all knew already know as NARAS members. Then it was time for the Q & A. There were two opening questions by Grammy members addressing the Blues and Hip Hop categories. After that it was question after question regarding the Latin jazz category.
They stated that anything less than 48 entries would have only 3 nominations in the category. They stated that Latin jazz over the last 5 year has only had about 30 entries each year. 30 entries are more than enough. The limit used to be 25! They also cut contemporary jazz, rock instrumental, Mexican categories, World music, Classical, etc. Are these not representative of the diversity of the American musical landscape? Latin jazz is uniquely American! It was born in NYC with Machito and the Afro-Cubans continued by Dizzy, Puente, etc. Besides that, we have more Latinos in this country now than ever before! Chris Washburne made the point that it seems NARAS is now run by the Tea Party.
Joechem Becker from ZOHO records made the point that this seems to be a backlash from all of the indie labels being nominated and winning at the Grammys last year; it was the highest number of indie wins ever. The majors don’t want that competition, particularly after Justin Beiber lost to Esperanza Spalding. Did you read the full-page ad that Steve Stout (former record company exec) took out in the New York Times the day after the Grammys? He blasted the Grammys for Esperanza’s win and claimed that they have lost touch with popular culture. Someone had to pay for that $50,000 to $80,000 full-page ad and it wasn’t him. Last week he said the elimination of all these categories was a step in the right direction!
As Eddie Palmieri so succinctly stated Monday night, who cares that a category only has 25 entries? This is more than enough to justify a category. Even it had only 10 entries it would be justified. Now they want to cut things down to 3 nominees in a category if it has less than 48 entries. Who thought this number up? They say they have experts on Latin Jazz in the committees. Any expert would have told them that the category must remain separate, as should the contemporary jazz category. THEY ARE THREE DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT STYLES OF MUSIC!!!!
Latin Jazz as a genre will never get recognition now the way things stand. Now a CD by Pat Metheny (contemporary jazz) has to compete against Nicholas Peyton (straight ahead/trad jazz) and a Bobby Sanabria CD (Latin Jazz). That puts three absolutely different genres competing in one category. It’s one of the many reasons that we in the field are reacting as if it is a slap in the face to our culture and the music we produce . . . IT IS!
We all stated how completely wrong this is and how they have to change this extremely poor decision. I’ve already gone over the culturally insensitive, economic, and covert reasons they did this. Eddie made an important statement by saying that there has never been a Latin group or a jazz group featured on the telecast. I told them that I thought the Grammys were about diversity, not exclusivity. The Grammys was the last place where marginalized music and artists could finally get the respect they deserve. It was about celebrating great art. They are sending out the wrong message and that message is that they don’t care about cultural diversity!!! I also stated that I felt like a fool because for years I’ve been preaching to my fellow Latinos to join NARAS. Now they just laugh and say, “vistes!”
I mentioned how I had just returned from Eau Claire, Wisconsin playing at the Jazz Festival there. Over 108 middle, high school, and college bands competed and performed. THEY ALL PLAYED AS PART OF THEIR PROGRAMS SOME AFRO-CUBAN JAZZ!!! This music has spread to the educational system, is part of America’s history and has a rich tradition that is respected worldwide and is keeping jazz alive and they cut the category.
Others followed and made intelligent, impassioned pleas. One thing is for sure, the NYC Chapter governors as well as CEO Portnow were embarrassed and impressed at the veracity of the arguments made. Chris Washburne told me afterwards that a gentleman made a statement that it was embarrassing that a gentleman of Mr. Palmieri’s stature, someone who helped to define this genre and fought to get the category established, had to come down to this meeting to beg that the category be re-instated.
This NYC Chapter meeting is the first in a 13-city tour by CEO Portnow in an attempt to explain this incredibly wrong decision by NARAS. I implore all of you who live in these chapter cities to show up in mass. It is again not just about the Latin jazz category; it is about all of the categories that were cut. And you don’t have to be a Grammy member to show up and voice your opinion. Make sure you write to CEO Neil Portnow at firstname.lastname@example.org and make your voice heard. THIS IS A NATIONAL ISSUE NOT JUST A MUSIC, GRAMMY ISSUE. I believe the next city they are going to try to explain this debacle is San Francisco, a virtual hotbed of multi-cultural activity. Let local and National media know. I made three phone calls, and as a result, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The New York Daily News were there. It was as simple as that. They already are starting to be aware.
Neil Portnow’s e-mail is email@example.com
Video Footage From The 4/11/11 NARAS Meeting
Don’t let this attack on Latin Jazz go unnoticed – send your e-mail in support of the Latin Jazz Grammy today. You can start with a message to NARAS President and CEO Neil Portnow, his e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org Make sure that you sign the petition to get the Latin Jazz Grammy reinstated – you can find it HERE. Get additional information and updates on LJC’s Support Page For The Latin Jazz Grammy.