Grammy Tributes

While a very slow night for landings at LaGuardia Airport thanks to the icy weather in New York kept me from seeing most of the 2016 Grammy Awards, I did manage to catch the last three big numbers: the tributes to David Bowie and B.B. King and the performance by the Hollywood Vampires, a salute to Lemmy.

The 2014 duet record with Tony Bennett Cheek to Cheek clearly signaled that Lady Gaga is in the midst of a career transition from oddball pop star to something more serious and adult that I heartily applaud. The Bowie tribute, with Nile Rodgers on guitar, was fast paced, visually alluring, loaded with Bowie hits and to my ears a big success. Ditto the King tribute where Chris Stapleton nailed King’s single note style and both Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt added their signature styles in both guitar playing and vocals in classy, respectful ways. The Vampires were fun, if disorganized and a little sloppy. Watching Johnny Depp play rock guitar dude was a bit squirm-inducing, as he tried to envince a seen-it-all, “no big thing” hard rock band attitude and a fashion fusion that mixed latter day Keith Richards scarves and rings with early years GNR tats and the `ol, guitar slung low, bob-in-place rhythm guitarist shtick.

While the Grammies have a notorious habit of not seizing the moment when it comes to awards—the Academy Awards have the same issue, Bogie loses for Casablanca but wins for African Queen?—two of this year’s winners struck me as absolutely right:

Best Historical Album: The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Volume 11.

Best Large Jazz Ensemble: The Thompson Fields, Maria Schneider Orchestra.

Anton's picture

Angélique Kidjo is my pick for most worthy winner of the year.

I gotta go Google the Johnny Depp song.

drblank's picture

Angelique's latest. Yeah, she's a class act for sure. I just got sick and tired of the Grammy's a long time ago and I think the last straw was when they gave M&M a Grammy. Plus, the Grammy's really doesn't cater to high quality music crowd. From what they have in terms of performers on stage as it seems to be geared towards the superficial pop crowd. It's a shame these awards shows are only in it for the masses and they cater the show to predominately young audience that easily gets brainwashed by the media.

The Grammy's rarely promote jazz, blues, classical or even the top world beat performers. It seems that the music that's got some actual musicianship behind it gets tossed to the back of the bus, and the stuff that lacks substance gets highlighted.

And with the constant childish Kanye West rants, that just makes it unbearable to watch.
I just wish the people that put on the Grammys had more class than they do.

Oh well.

Osgood Crinkly III's picture

Audiophile Reference Recordings won a Grammy (Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Paulus: Prayers & Remembrances). Or did you even notice, Mr. Baird?

David Bowie's son, btw, dissed Gaga on social media for her performance of a Bowie medley, which was unfocused, unmusical and, like all Gaga, merely a matter of costumes and props.

Taylor Swift, who won multiple Grammys AGAIN (yawn), gave a big middle finger to Kanye West, who's out begging Zuckerbug for money (the racist is $53 million in debt). Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold.

Nice to see Beyonce reduced to a brief appearance as an award giver. Her lip syncing the national anthem at Obama's second inauguration was the basest tackiness, a spit in America's eye.

Grammy ratings, @ 7 million, were an all-time recent low. Seems America doesn't care.

A little perspective: Hendrix, Janis, Dead and Doors, to name but a few, never won a Grammy. The Grammys merely celebrate Billboard sales. Is there any mention of this by Mr. Baird?

PS. One the bright side, Scofield and Steeldrivers won Grammy's. Do you even know who these are, Mr. Baird?

John Atkinson's picture
Osgood Crinkly III wrote:
Audiophile Reference Recordings won a Grammy (Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Paulus: Prayers & Remembrances). Or did you even notice, Mr. Baird?

Jason Serinus is writing up the classical and engineering Grammy awards, to be published tomorrow. (He is on a plane today, otherwise it would have been posted with Robert Baird's piece on the TV broadcast.)

And the tone of your postings continues to grate, Mr. Crinkly. Critical comments are fine but your comments cross the line, I feel.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Osgood Crinkly III's picture

[flame deleted by John Atkinson] My money is on your deleting this as a "flame," Mr. Atkinson.

John Atkinson's picture
Osgood Crinkly III wrote:
My money is on your deleting this as a "flame," Mr. Atkinson.

And you would win your bet. And as I warned, I am now blocking you from posting for a month.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

prerich45's picture

+1! Mr Atkinson, Well said!!!!

John Atkinson's picture
As promised yesterday, Jason's Grammy story is now posted:

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

djstoofie's picture

Airtime for Johnny Depp posturing but no time for Ornette tribute? Jive

Glotz's picture

Osgood has been rude and insulting for awhile. Thanks.

prerich45's picture

Yes...I'm one of those people who happen to be disappointed that Natalie Cole only received a short picture clip to include a clip of her singing "Unforgettable" in a forgettable memorial. Natalie Cole is a 9 time Grammy award winner and 21 time nominee!!!! That's huge! David Bowie - whom I love, has only won 1 Grammy and only garnered 10 nominations. Something is just not right!!!!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Grammy nominations are determined by voting panels of experts. While there are certainly problems with those panels - at least one former member of the Classical panel told me he quit because the entire classical nominations process was controlled by two people - the nomination panels frequently do manage to honor lesser known artists and labels that do not have huge financial resources behind them. That Reference Recordings has received so many nominations for its efforts is a case in point.

The actual winners, however, are determined by members of the Recording Academy. That means that labels are free to pack the voting blocks. It also means that people are often voting without actually hearing the music. Hence, for many categories, winners are often those with the biggest name recognition. And they frequently tend to be Americans.

Take, for example, this year's Best Classical Vocal Solo Album, Joyce DiDonato and Tony Pappano's live Wigmore Hall recital. You'll have a hard time convincing classical vocal aficionados that it's a better artistic effort than Jonas Kaufmann's Puccini album, Cecilia Bartoli's St. Petersburg, or Mark Padmore's mixed recital. But Joyce DiDonato is an American, born in KS, and she's sung the Star Spangled Banner at a major sporting event. She is also doing a lot to publicize opera to young listeners. And she's a wonderful singer. But the recording is simply not in the same league as the others, with tracks that are excellent brought down by other selections that are less than.

And so it goes. But when it comes to classical, don't think that the BBC Music Magazine Awards, where the writers determine the nominations and the general readership votes on all but one category, are any better.

crenca's picture

I have only heard one track from her album. Why? Because the jazz station on satellite radio played a track once. As a subscriber to Tidal I am able to listen to an incredible amount of music and subsequently I end up $purchasing$ more than I ever did before.

However, Maria Schneider has a bad attitude when it comes to streaming (see her interview in JazzTimes from this past summer) as too many artists do. I understand, they want to be $paid$ but Maria is limiting her exposure because streaming is in fact the new radio.

I suspect that if I heard her music I she would already have my $money$. Since I can't actually hear it (but instead read about it alot) I will spend elsewhere - why take the risk?

Allen Fant's picture

No need to "flame" anyone here- JA

Bob Levin's picture

Fine with Tony, but I thought the Bowie tribute was an exercise in sheer flutterblast-iness.
My first reaction, broadcast to the guy sitting next to me was "She looks like a spray-painted potato that swallowed an earthquake." (I was watching in a bar and this was well into my second pint.)
Noting the visual aspect first was probably the beer talking.
Seeing this spectacle again in the cold hard light of sobriety only made me cringe all the more.
She needs to stick with Mr. Benedetto.

grantray's picture

Old curmudgeons like that make me embarrassed to admit I'm an audiophile.

As for Kanye, that first track from the Life of Pablo is brilliantly recorded and engineered. A buddy brought the FLAC over to play on my rig, and it absolutely killed the small talk because we both went slack-jawed. Every sound was beautiful and incredibly dimensional. Dude may be deranged, but he sure knows how to lay a track.

kursten's picture

I was impressed with the new Kanye album until I heard the sample tracks on their own. Basically, Kanye is a great DJ, but not a musician by any stretch of the imagination. The entire album is nothing but samples with Kanye's rhyme-free rapping dubbed over the top.