Grammy Panel at the JEN Conference 2012
First let me say thank you to the Jazz Education Network (JEN) for staying the course with the NARAS controversy for speaking out about the elimination of multiple categories from the Grammys. It took extreme courage to include this panel in the conference.
I was asked to sit on the Grammy panel by Willard Jenkins and was honored to be in the company of Willard, Bobby Sanabria and Mark Levine. Bobby and Mark have put their musical lives on the line to protest this travesty. I have spoken out some, but truly, in comparison, they have taken the lead.
Photo: Panel discussion ‘Update on the Grammy category elimination controversy - Jazz next?’ feat. Williard Jenkins, Mark Levine, Bobby Sanabria, Randy Klein at The JEN Conference 2012
I have watched Bobby Sanabria and Mark Levine fight the Grammy fight for the last half a year or more, giving their time and energy to upholding the principal behind this issue. In April 2011, at the New York NARAS meeting, I sadly had to hear the great Latin Jazz musician, Eddie Palmieri beg Neil Portnow, president of NARAS, to reinstate the category which he fought so hard to create. It was even sadder, because in his explanation to Mr. Palmieri, Neil Portnow, in his answer and trying to impress Mr. Palmieri, expressed that he was a bass player once. A true musician would never be behind the eradication of music in any way. I don’t know many who would want to be on the same bandstand such a musician.
Bobby Sanabria has had the courage to call the decision by NARAS really what it is. He called it ‘racism of the highest order’. The esteemed pianist, Mark Levine has had the courage of his convictions to give back his well earned nominations and resigned from NARAS. I have posted blogs and signed the growing petition along with the others who believe that NARAS has acted inappropriately, but again, this is small in comparison to what Bobby and Mark have done.
Some points that were mentioned: There is a law suit against NARAS by musicians whose livelihoods have been affected by the decision. It is ongoing. There is a protest being scheduled to boycott the Grammys and CBS for airing the telecast. (Learn more on Grammy Watch website)
What has become very apparent to me is how the recording labels and their artists who were originally outraged by the NARAS’ deletion of the genres accept Grammy nominations as if nothing dastardly has happened. I have been told by some of those label executives that they are fighting the fight from within, yet it is very strange to me how silent their voices grew when nominations for their artists came in. Some may call it an ethical dilemma; I call it weakness of conviction. It amazes me how many musicians and groups that represent the other genres deleted from the Grammys simply faded away and have not continued to stand up for what is a despicable, disgraceful and downright shameful act. I have personally heard from some musicians who play with these Grammy nominated artists say that they have to take the gig. I understand this from the bottom of my musical heart and I sympathize with the musicians’ point of view. If I don’t take the gig, I can’t pay the rent. Surprise, money talks!
NARAS has done significant harm to the world of improvised music, Zydeco, Hawaiian, Gospel, Blues, Latin Jazz and Jazz. By deleting the categories, they are signaling to a vast audience that these categories simply don’t exist anymore. I see it this way, ‘If it isn’t there to be seen, then it isn’t there.’ So, I ask, who really suffers here. Yes, the smaller labels loose sales, the musicians who play the music lose potential audience base, but the big sin is that NARAS has stolen the right to hear this music from OUR CHILDREN. They have stolen the right to know and embrace these musical styles. The younger generation will simply have no reference of it. It won’t even appear on the lower third of the TV screen that someone one in the category ‘earlier in the evening’ was honored with an award for their musical contributions to the field. This is disgraceful, shameful and a sin. Music of the world has suffered due to this inane decision by NARAS. What is more insulting is that NARAS is continually spewing out the message that they are providing music education through their organization, but sadly they are teaching only the music that fits into ever narrowing format. The NARAS world should be expanding musical styles to include all, but it is sadly shrinking the list into nothingness. I am beginning to believe that a future Grammy telecast will soon consist of no more than groups performing with a vocabulary of the primal scream.
I have been in the music business for a long time, I have a pretty decent track record, I love music and it flows through my veins and I know from the bottom of my heart how hard it is to get recognition for the work you do and love. For me, the Grammy always meant a vote from your peers for excellence in your craft. Now, I know for sure it has very little to do with craft at all. I am angered and saddened by this.
Photo: Panel discussion ‘Update on the Grammy category elimination controversy - Jazz next?’ feat. Williard Jenkins, Mark Levine, Bobby Sanabria, Randy Klein at The JEN Conference 2012
The JEN Conference 2012 had the balls to have a panel on this controversial subject. That is because racism has nothing to do with Jazz education. At this JEN Conference, we all had one thing in common, the love of music and the art form Jazz and due the force of the music, the walls of racism disappeared. Music education is alive and well at JEN. I hope to see JEN open up its doors to genres that include more and more music of the world and to embrace more music that expands the form. NARAS’ should be ashamed for preaching that they are music educators. If they were, all genres of music would be included and exalted. NARAS do the right thing! Reinstate the categories and embrace all music, no matter who creates it or where it comes from! Do the right thing!
Sounds I Hate (Part 2)
In May 2011, I posted Sounds I Hate. In my quest for silence, I have assembled Sounds I Hate (Part 2). Please let me know if there are any sounds that you loathe that I could add to the ever growing list. Shhh…. Stay tuned….Randy
Sounds I Hate:
1. the sound of motors that constantly surround me
2. the sound of anyone talking on a cell phone loud enough for everyone else to hear
3. the sound of music blaring from a car window with the bass turned up
4. the sound of backup warning beepers beeping from a truck
5. the sound of popcorn being crunched during a love scene
6. the sound of the NYC subway system PA system
7. the sound of talking during a Jazz solo
8. the sound of dishes clanking at a restaurant
9. the sound of the radio when not tuned in exactly
10. the sound of my brain worrying
Randy Klein is featured in Bret Primack’s new video on the importance of Jazz education, taken at the 2011 JEN Conference in New Orleans.
Abandoned by NARAS - Open Letter to Neil Portnow
I became a member of NARAS in 1977. I was proud of my membership because it meant that I belonged to an esteemed group of musicians that did what I did… created music for the world to hear. I was a songwriter, a keyboard player and I was in the business of music… I was proud of NARAS and what it stood for. In the last thirty years, I have won numerous awards and accolades for my music as well as opened up a successful independent Jazz label in New York City, Jazzheads. I am proud of all of these accomplishments as well.
I am not proud of NARAS anymore. The decision to remove the categories is a terrible and insulting decision that has filled me with the feeling that the mothership has left and I am abandoned.
This sickening feeling can be erased by simply reinstating the categories. You have the power and possibly you might have the courage. This could be the most important musical decision of your life.
Press Conference in Protest of Grammy Travesty
Randy Klein’s Statement at the Press Conference in Protest of Grammy Travesty:
”Over the last few weeks, I have had this reoccurring thought that I would like to share with you.
To erase, eliminate, delete and/or expunge anything makes it invisible. If something is invisible it is not seen or heard. If it is not seen or heard, then it becomes forgotten and once forgotten it is almost impossible to discover it unless a team of archaeologists dig for it. It may exist as a footnote in a history book, but it is not felt or experienced.
The young generations of today are being cheated by NARAS by their decision to erase, eliminate, delete and expunge these musical categories. This younger generation will not feel or experience this music because it will not even be mentioned as a lower third running across the screen of the Grammy TV broadcast. This illiterate travesty means that the music of Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Puente, Gillespie, Don Ho, Joe Falcon, Nicolas Daskalou, Hart Wand, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are on the verge of being illuminated from musical history according to the very wise executives of NARAS.
Over the years, I have thought that the governors of the NARAS organization wouldn’t recognize a musical note if it hit them in the face. I have, up until now, given NARAS the benefit of the doubt, but, now they have proved to me and the rest of the global musical world that they don’t know what music is or where it comes from and more importantly what the result of elimination of it will cause to our youth. With the systematic cutbacks of art education since the Reagan administration and this decision by NARAS, the youth of today are on their way back to the time when the primal scream was the number one song on the Billboard Charts.
The categories that have been cut are deeply rooted in the history of music and our country. By eliminating it is like telling Beethoven, Don Ho, Tito Puente and Dizzy Gillespie that their musical contributions were worth zilch or less. Excuse me NARAS, but it is due to your lack of knowledge of music that has caused the music business to be in the shape it is today. Please stop telling us that NARAS is giving back by conducting music education programs for the youth of America. What could NARAS possibly be teaching? For sure it isn’t Latin Jazz, Classical forms, Cajun, Zydeco, Hawaiian or Polka. This is simply insulting to our intelligence and worse it is a prevarication. By eliminated these musical categories from the Grammy’s prove that you, NARAS, are the cause of the demise.”
Randy Klein - President of Jazzheads Records, pianist, composer, 4-time EMMY winner.
Nuyorican Poets’ Café, New York, May 22, 2011
NARAS side steps Latin Jazz Grammy issue
April 11, 2011, the New York Chapter meeting of NARAS.
Subject: The consolidation of Grammy categories and the deletion of the Latin Jazz category.
I guess the word spread that the Latin Jazz community was upset. So much so that Neil Portnow, the president of NARAS flew in from LA and was present in the front row along with other NARAS representatives who were prepared with the company explanation/policy of why the categories were cut, I mean consolidated.
This was not a celebratory meeting. In fact it was sad and embarrassing, especially when the legendary Latin Jazz pianist, Eddie Palmieri pleaded with Mr. Portnow for the reinstatement of the category he introduced and nurtured to the Grammy voters. It was also overwhelmingly upsetting to hear the multi-Grammy nominated drummer/educator, Bobby Sanabria speak about the diversity of music and then have to say that NARAS had insulted the Hispanic community. One speaker after another got up and practically begged for the reinstatement and simply continued to hear the NARAS message. The message that the consolidation of categories would increase audiences and they had all the faith in the world that Latin Jazz and other sub-genres could compete in these newly combined mega-categories against the major labels with deep promotional pockets to rise to the top.
No one dared speak about how this decision would affect the education of the Latin Jazz or the youth who will never hear or see the word Latin Jazz on the NARAS broadcast of the Grammy’s. Neil Portnow mentioned Esperanza Spaulding multiple times as if this was evidence of an independent artist winning the Grammy. Neil obviously forgot to mention that the Concord Music Group which is behind Ms. Spaulding is really a pseudo-major. (This is an independent label with so much money (Ray Charles CD sales) that they can hire a promotional machine to work for Esperanza Spaulding and deliver her to the top of the Grammy’s to win Best New Artist. This was a major deletion of fact by the president of NARAS. We indie labels are the first to congratulate Esperanza Spaulding for her music and the fact that she did win.
Trying to connect on a more personal level, Mr. Portnow told the passionate group that he once was a bass player and stilled owned his fender basses which sit in his office. Maybe, he should pick one up and play it. I would pray that it would have a re-connective affect and take Mr. Portnow back to a place where he started from, as a musician.
So, for three hours the question kept getting asked, ‘How can we reinstate Latin Jazz?’ and for three hours the questions was carefully dodged. Dr. Chris Washburne, author of a Sounding Salsa, an ethnographic journey into the New York salsa scene of the 1990s, explained how this form was the forerunner and impetus for the explosion of the Latin Pop and the Latin Pop Dance scene and even listed the many artists who have profited from these humble beginnings, (Shakira, Rickie Martin, Gloria Estefan and more) yet still no response from NARAS. He then went on to say, “The category changes of NARAS, where genres that represent cultural diversity and difference are the primary candidates for elimination and are now folded into larger categories where they will have little chance for recognition, remind me of a Tea Party-like agenda which favors the repeal of the socially progressive reforms, advances, and victories of the last 100 years in this country. NARAS has now negated the important advances made over the last 50 years in the music industry that recognize the important and innovative contributions that marginalized communities have made to American music styles. The diversity of voices is what makes American music so rich. NARAS has taken a step backwards and is no longer representing the music of our nation. I suggest they consider removing the word National from their name.” And again, the NARAS executives stayed on point and said it would benefit all.
The audience was told that this consolidation process was a two year program that had been studied by groups of experts and that everyone who was a Grammy member knew about it. The group of experts was sitting right there in the audience at this meeting and not one knew about the ‘consolidation’. Again, this decision to eliminate Latin Jazz from the Grammy categories is simply unnecessary, insulting and if it was known about for two years, it was not divulged. It came as a complete surprise. I guess the Indies who put out music without deep pockets and win Grammy’s were getting too close for comfort.
As I left the meeting I knew what I had to do. My label, Jazzheads, an independent NY based music label will continue to release Jazz and Latin Jazz recordings. We will continue to respect the music and the musicians who care deeply about the form. I am truly disappointed and very sorry that NARAS which used to honor the music and the creators of it are run by a bunch of suits.
NARAS Eliminates Latin Grammy Category
NARAS which is the governing organization for the Grammy’s has announced today that they have eliminated the Latin Jazz category. Over the years, I have had thoughts that NARAS wouldn’t recognize a musical note if it hit them in the face. I have, up until now, given NARAS the benefit of the doubt, but, now they have proved to me and the rest of the global musical world that they don’t know what music is or where it comes from.
Latin Jazz is a genre deeply rooted in the history of Jazz and our country. By eliminating it is like telling Tito Puente and Dizzy Gillespie that their musical contributions were worth zilch or less. Excuse me NARAS, but it is due to your lack of knowledge of music that has caused the music business to be in the shape it is today. Please stop telling us that NARAS is giving back by conducting music education programs for the youth of America. What could NARAS possibly be teaching? For sure it isn’t Latin Jazz. This is simply insulting to our intelligence and worse it is a prevarication. By eliminated Latin Jazz from the Grammy’s proves that you, NARAS, are the cause of the demise.
Sincerely, Randy Klein, President Jazzheads – A NEW YORK CITY BASED MUSIC LABEL.
I heard the author, entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk speak tonight about his new book, ‘The Thank You Economy’. He is a smart, funny, extremely sensitive, a very creative speaker and he is very in tune to market trends. Tonight he spoke about his views of where he sees business going in the next few years. He still believes that the cream rises to the top (I was personally happy about that!!!)……even though he does say that it is much, much harder to break through then ever before. He stated that there is more content being spewed out on the internet in a 48 hour period then during the period from the beginning of time till 2003. He also hinted that glut of constant information was probably the cause for the societal Attention Deficit Disorder problem. He continued by saying that we live in a world of information overload, where texting while driving is just one of the dangerous norms and where everyone is overly pre-occupied, so getting someone’s attention about a service or product is more than extremely difficult. He stated that over the next three to five years, the companies, no matter how big or small, that can continually show their loyal fan bases that they are important and give indicate to them that they really matter will be the companies that will are the survivors in the future economy. I have always thought that personal attention and caring is the way to make someone feel good. It is a pretty simply way of acting and doing business. Old fashion, maybe, but is old fashion a bad thing???? I read Gary’s first book, the New York Times bestseller, ‘Crush It’. It is enlightening and his methods for growing a business and attracting new audiences work. It takes time and patience, but the success is there. I look forward to reading ‘The Thank You Economy’. Thanks Gary Vaynerchuk…..You’re the real deal!!!!
Thank you, Jerry Boch!
The great composer, Jerry Boch, passed away today. I didn’t know him personally, but I felt a great loss when hearing the news. You see, even though I didn’t know him, I knew his music. I grew up with it. As a young teen I remember every night at dinner, my mother playing the cast album of ‘Fiddler On The Roof’. Yes, this is true. Every night….and for about a year and a half! Oy!!!! There I was in Fort Lee, NJ in the early 60’s eating my meals with Sunrise Sunset, Far From The Home I Love and of course Tradition. When I became a member of the Lehman Engle BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, I remember the first assignment was the analysis of the score of Fiddler. For me it was easy, I had it etched in my brain. I knew the lyrics, and of course the beautiful memorable melodies. Sadly, Mr. Boch has left us, but his beautiful music will live on for generations. Thank you Jerry Boch for enriching my soul (our souls) with your special gift!
Sounds I Hate
1. the sound of all vacuum cleaners
2. the sound of large air conditioner and refrigerator compressors
3. the sound of jack hammers tearing up the street
4. the sound of a New York subway braking, screeching to a halt on a winter day
5. the sound of monotone voices
6. the sound of the word ‘awesome’
7. the sound of a nagging continuous complaint
8. the sound of a leaf blower
9. the sound of chalk on the blackboard
10.the sound of my brain having an anxiety attack
The Conflict (making music - selling music) (pt 1 - introduction)
I have a gnawing urge to sit at the piano and play and at the same time I feel guilty about not making a phone call to promote the music I write and play. This never-ending pull that lives inside of me is the source of the conflict. My intent is not to be a self-help guru for musicians. So if I get to preachy, please excuse my lust for the subject. My intention is simply to put the information out there for you to take and incorporate into your own working situations and make for a positive way that may help you.
I often hear musicians say…
“I don’t have enough time to do the business.” And then in the same sentence say, “I want to get my music out there.”
Then muscians say…
“I have to practice, it is the labels job to promote the music.”
Then musicians also say…
“I am an artist, a musician. I have talent. But, I need to make money. But if I concentrate on making money, then my music suffers.”
As a composer and pianist, I completely understand and sympathize with the problem, but as a label president, I find the reasons for not acting and the excuses for not acting tiring. I don’t think there is one set of rules that addresses this problem. But there is a realistic and practical approach that allows the musician to remain balanced between the creation of their music and the effort it takes to promote it to the public.
I do believe that every creative musician has the ability, understanding and the time to both create the music and successfully create the business for their music.
I think one must be realistic with one’s expectations and keep a quick witted approach to the endless struggle of balancing the business and the art. (….to be continued)
Always spell ‘Jazz’ with a capital ‘J’!!!!!
Piano Talk: Fazioli Verses Steinway
I have played many concerts over the years, I am an exclusive Steinway artist and I own a 1904, 6’ Steinway. That said, I had the opportunity to play a Fazioli 9’ concert grand at a performance of my new CD release titled, ‘Sunday Morning’ presented at Klavierhaus, NYC. The Fazioli was impressive, to say the least. It was a wonderful and exciting musical experience. As an improvising pianist and colorist, the instrument I require has to have an immediate response time, cannot have an action that is sluggish or uneven, needs to be very well tuned and voiced and of most importance, have a soul (a limitless richness of color). And, before I go further, this is not an endorsement of either Steinway or Fazioli. Simply some more information for those of you might want to get another opinion on the state of these two fine instruments.
The Fazioli is a great instrument in many ways. It responds to exactly what you are hearing in your head and reproduces that sound with overwhelming accuracy. But, you better be able to control the instrument or it will control you. This piano can make the best players show their weaknesses. It is unforgiving in this way. But if you have the chops (control), if you can play what you hear then the experience of playing such a fine piano can be one of the most rewarding experiences a pianist can have. The instrument is bright and brilliant, not warm and fuzzy. This lack of warmth could be a turnoff to a true Steinway person. The unique harmonic series which is inherent in all Steinways, especially in the harmonics that linger when the sustain pedal is held is very different than the Fazioli. In my opinion, the Steinway allows you to reach deeper emotionally and that lingering response is directly tied to the music and musician playing. There have been plenty of Steinway’s that I have played that have the quick response similar to the Fazioli, but I could not find the lingering harmonic overtones in the Fazioli. So, to find a happy medium while playing the Fazioli, I found myself soft pedaling to try to create this overtone series. It doesn’t really get there, but, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The truth is that the accuracy of sound and that the Fazioli can be driven hard might make up for the lack in lingering emotionality. You can hear the specifics of the notes all the way down to the bottom of the instrument and hear the main part of the pitch in the top octave. The Fazioli can growl in the low end and sparkle brightly at the top, yet for those of you who like rich deep nuanced colors, the Fazioli may be too precise.
For me, a piano has to continually surprise. I want the sound of the instrument to inspire my work. As a colorist, this is of utmost importance to me. The Steinway does this and never fails. I hope my second experience with the Fazioli is as rewarding as my first and can hold up in time to my years of playing my beloved Steinways. We are talking apples and oranges….both great instruments….each with their own pallets. Time will tell and in the end, it all depends on personal musical preferences. It is nice to know one has a choice.