Monday, February 09, 2004

"I'd Like to Thank Spank the Academy..."

The Grammy Awards were last night, and as those old Garfield posters would say, big fat hairy deal. I wasn't even watching until some of my friends on AIM told me to go watch something or another: Kurt Elling getting some nice face time, Sonny Rollins receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, stuff like that.

So why am I so down on the Grammys? Well, I had a friend in college who got a nomination, actually, for an arrangement on a One O'Clock Lab Band CD, and I found out a lot about how the process works. It ain't pretty...

Maybe I'm naive, but I expected that the voters would actually listen to the things they were voting on. Turns out that's only true if the record label's promotions department makes it so. For a big label like Columbia Records, this is actually doable, despite the large number of voters (to be a voter, you have to be a member of the Academy; to be in the Academy, you have to have appeared on a Grammy-nominated recording...sounds a bit inbred to me). For a small outfit like North Texas Lab Band Records Inc., this is nearly impossible. Sure, my friend was up against some heavyweights--Dave Grusin, Henry Mancini and James Horner, if memory serves--but he never had a prayer if the voters didn't even get a chance to actually hear his arrangement. Without this ability, the voting is as much of a popularity contest as a high-school homecoming queen election.

I've also been miffed at the Grammys for years for almost never including the jazz awards in the live evening telecast; most of the categories are awarded in the late afternoon, well before the TV cameras are rolling. My friend was in the third row for that presentation; when the "big stars" arrived for the evening show, he got moved to the third balcony. There are also some issues with pronunciations; the PA guy one year referred to one of my favorite guitarists as "Pat METH-uh-nee." I griped about that for five minutes on my radio show the next morning; my basic idea was hey, fly me in there if you need to, since I can pronounce the names of the jazz stars and the pop stars.

At any rate, the credibility of the Grammys suffered a great deal in my eyes since then, so I tune in only if I know that someone really cool will be on. Kurt Elling is some sort of VP of the Academy at the moment, so maybe some good will come of that, but until then, I sit here happily at my computer until one of my friends tells me to go watch the TV.

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