Music giants rip Grammys for ditching Latin jazz category
“The fact that we have less options now for us to be represented and that there are more Latinos in this country strikes me very much as cultural insensitivity,” said Grammy-nominated drummer Bobby Sanabria.
“The Grammys were the last stop for us as marginalized artists and marginalized forms of American music to get some recognition on the same level as [pop artists like] Usher and Lady Gaga,” Sanabria explained.
Sanabria and pianist and bandleader Eddie Palmieri spoke Monday night at a local chapter meeting of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the awards ceremony’s organizing institution.
The restructuring plan, announced a week ago, will consolidate the number of award categories from 109 to 78. Male and females categories will be merged, and several genres such as Latin jazz, Hawaiian and Native American music will be eliminated.
“I was very instrumental in getting the Latin jazz category into the awards and its elimination is very upsetting to me,” said Palmieri, an eight-time Grammy winner.
The remaining seven Latin categories have been consolidated into four. For example, best Latin pop and Latin rock, alternative or urban album is now one category, instead of two. And instead of four Mexican music categories, there will be two.
Academy President Neil Portnow, who attended the midtown meeting, defended the shrunk list.
“Frankly, I don’t see why there has to be a distinction between great Latin jazz and great jazz,” he said. “Great music is great music, and I think our members are capable of recognizing that.”
Portnow also cited this year’s surprise winners as examples that album sales or name recognition do not necessarily translate into statues.
“Justin Bieber did not win the Best New Artist award, Esperanza Spalding did,” he said.
Other members in attendance criticized the way the process was handled. “Just to go and do this and not inform anyone is beyond anyone’s comprehension,” said producer and academy member Bob Sancho.
But Portnow said the new rules were the result of months of careful review.
“All of the genre fields remain – that’s a important point to make here,” he said. “The nomination committee spent more than a year analyzing and evaluating the Grammy process.”
The slimmed category count will make its debut at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards to be held next February, but Sanabria said he and his colleagues intend to continue fighting the cut. “This is not over,” he said.