Hoo boy. Time to dust of the pissed-off file yet again.

As you know, tonight is Grammy Night. I stopped watching the Grammy Awards after they had butchered the Latin jazz category. Hell, I stopped watching right about when it became clear that performance was all about the skill of the pyrotechnics team and the sound guy, as opposed to the actual talent of the performer. And, considering that I have been lucky to spend the past six years heavily immersed in jazz music, I got a very different exposure to music. I – and a lot of my fellow friends from the jazz world – got to see it all from the inside. And trust me, I have no good reason to watch the Grammys.

But enough about that. Unfortunately, the Grammys are the pinnacle of acknowledgment in the music industry, for far too many people, and I’ve observed a curious thing. A lot of people I have met – Norman Brown, Gerald Albright, Chris Botti – were nominated. And I’m thinking, finally!!! Acclaim for great music!

And then I noticed for what: best instrumental pop album.

Instrumental pop.

Whiskey tango foxtrot?

Seriously, WTF?

Okay. If there’s one thing that infuriates me, it’s when people attempt to reinvent the wheel, especially when things are established and appreciated as they are. It’s contemporary jazz, people. Smooth jazz is a misnomer perpetuated by programmers of radio stations everywhere, who could not keep up with changes to the genre, who resisted introducing the new blood at all costs, who did not at all play the new material by the tried-and-true artists, and as a result, had paid for it with the existence of many of those stations. Conteporary jazz has grown and evolved, and the name smooth jazz has become a byword of what it was. It is no longer what it is, and as people get to know contemporary jazz – the new blood, the fresh, influenced, multifaceted sounds, not Kenny G (sorry Kenny) – they like it.

Jazz is one of the oldest forms of music. At last count, it’s about…what, 108 years old? It’s not just one thing, and never just one sound. It’s not just straight-ahead. It started as big-band swing. It evolved and continued evolving, from Brubeck, Davis and Coltrane to Clarke, Corea, Spyro Gyra. From there on to Grover, Boney James, Rick Braun, The Rippingtons. And now it’s  Dee Lucas, Matt Marshak, Vincent Ingala, JJ Sansaverino. It’s a dynamic, evolving genre. Latin jazz is one of its many, many subsets. And if you recall, Grammy committee people have decimated the jazz category and all but dropped the Latin Jazz segment. This resulted in legal action, and while I’m not fully up on the legal implicatins of this blatant eighty-sixing, there is a lot to be said for disenfranchising an entire subgenre.

Truthfully, regardless of what you think of the Grammy Awards as far as whether or not they’re sales-based, etc., it’s still something that a lot of people take seriously. So the trim-down of categories was a slap in the face for many artists.

But I never in my life thought that I would see contemporary jazz be re-titled as instrumental pop.

Say what?! Give me a damn break. It’s jazz. It’s contemporary jazz. It’s been firmly entrenched in jazz since the early days of Spyro Gyra. It’s been a mainstay with Special EFX. What part of the Rippingtons is instrumental pop? I mean, I can maybe see rock with the way Russ Freeman lets the electric rip. But the fact that they shoehorned Chris Botti (who won it, by the by) into instrumental pop is just an outright insult. I mean, really now. Botti is classically trained with the trumpet. You hear that in his every note. He is pure contemporary jazz, through and through: contemplative, intricate, maybe a little more sedate than some other trumpet gents out there (ahem, Rick Braun for the groove). Why in the ever-loving hell would you shoehorn Botti in anything even resembling pop?

I don’t know what in the world those people are thinking, if they are thinking, but I certainly never in my life thought I’d see a trained jazz instrumentalist be classified as pop in any way, shape, or form.

And you know, maybe it’s just me being a stalwart. Maybe it can be turned around and used as a resurgence for contemp-jazz artists everywhere. But on the other hand, I’m thinking: I have recently made a connection with some amazing vocalists, all of whom are circulate in the world of opera, and if that ever gets reclassified as anything, anything but classical, then by the love of all deities in the world, there will be some serious hell to pay.

…and on yet another hand, I should refrain from tempting Murphy’s Law.


Oh, and notabene: if you ever want to hear what instrumental pop sounds like, here.

“The Look” from Slowing Down The World


2 thoughts on “Wa-huh?

  1. I agree totally with you how meaningless the Grammy Awards are, Kat and Jazz always gets the back of the hand treatment. It is absolutely embarrassing that the music industry treats jazz like a crazy old uncle that has to be kept locked away and out of sight. The genre itself is in dire straights as radio gives up on jazz formats and fewer clubs offer live jazz. It depresses me so much I’m giving up reviewing jazz albums because I see a future where jazz will only be played on cruise ships, in a handful of countries across the pond and in museums.

    In the meantime, I have about as much respect for the Grammys as the Grammys have for jazz and that is little to none.

    1. Unfortunately, the future you see is already happening in reality. Personally, I blame the very steady and gradual dumbing down of young people in part, and in much larger part, the blame is squarely at the feet of the radio stations who had shoehorned the music into a commercialized facsimile of what it actually is. The result is a nice mess, by route of which a great genre is on the outs, and the musicians in it are relegated to…doing what, exactly? I’ve not forgotten the lawsuit that had sprung up as a result of the committee decimating Latin jazz. Not sure what all came out of it, but the message was loud and clear, and it’s still as much of a slap in the face as before.

      I’ve not watched the Grammys for about 8 years, primarily because it became about advertising. But renaming a genre for whatever BS reasons just because they weren’t willing to call it what it really is? Not okay with me by any stretch.

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