Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Who Are You Picking in Your Office Grammy Pool?

Are you planning to watch the awards tonight? Did you even know they will be on? Pop and rock are in a pretty sorry state right now. Frankly, the Grammy’s are in a pitched battle with the Tony’s for least anticipated award show.

For Jazz listeners it’s an even more ho-hum affair. They booted our categories out of primetime long ago, relegating us to the awards banquet with best polka album. The truth is, we hardly noticed. The Grammy’s have declined to recognize many of the groundbreaking jazz albums from the last fifty plus years. Grammy’s for Kind of Blue? A Love Supreme? Nope. Who do you think won in 1959? Miles Davis for Porgy and Bess? Ornette Coleman for Something Else? Actually, it was Jonah Jones for I Dig Chicks. I like Jonah Jones and his muted jazz, but the Grammy’s clearly missed the boat that year.

Traditionally, we’ve been more interested in the magazine polls, particularly Downbeat. Grammy’s are nice, and they have recognized some important albums. Bitches Brew did win in 1970 after all. But they’ve never been our thing.

Now that NEA Chair Dana Gioia has dramatically increased jazz’s profile at the agency, the Jazz Master has become the top jazz award Under his stewardship a meaningful $25,000 fellowship has been added for recipients. Gioia has been one of the best chairs in NEA history, and is another reason to be thankful Bush was re-elected in 2004.