After fighting for decades to be recognized by the GRAMMY Awards, Latin Jazz is eliminated, disrespecting Latin Jazz legend Eddie Palmieri's efforts to get it recognized.
By Adrian Perez
NEW YORK, NY - If it wasn't bad enough to be bad-mouthed by Republicans and ignored by Hollywood, Latinos have now come under attack by the music industry. On April 6th, 2011, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) announced that they were eliminating the category of Latin Jazz GRAMMY as part of a "restructuring" whereby the total number of categories to be recognized was reduced to 78 from 109. But, the number of distinct artist entries was increased from 25 to 40 in each category.
"Every year, we diligently examine our Awards structure to develop an overall guiding vision and ensure that it remains a balanced and viable process," said Neil Portnow, President and CEO of The GRAMMYs. "After careful and extensive review and analysis of all Categories and Fields, it was objectively determined that our GRAMMY Categories be restructured to the continued competition and prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music. Our Board of Trustees continues to demonstrate its dedication to keeping The Recording Academy a pertinent and responsive organization in our dynamic music community."
The NARAS' decision immediately drew fire from numerous Latin Jazz artists and organizations, including the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance.
"The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance is shocked and disappointed by the news that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has chosen to eliminate the Latin Jazz category from the GRAMMY awards," read a statement issued by the organization. "We are deeply disappointed to find today that this progress will not be reflected in our country's most important musical award, where the message now seems to be, "Latin Jazz musicians need not apply."
The NARAS' decision comes on the heels of the 2010 U.S. Census that shows Latinos now comprise over 50 million people, or 16 percent of the total population. It is the nation's second largest population, yet continue to be treated as an insignificant part of America.
Latin Jazz evolved in the 1930s from the fusion of big band, jazz improvisations, and Afro-Cuban rythms by performers like Machito and the Afro Cubans, Tito Puente, and Mario Bauza. Machito inspired jazz legends like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Stan Kenton, who brought the Latin Jazz sound to mainstream American.
In 1993, Latin Jazz performer Eddie Palmeiri was appointed Governor of the New York NARAS and through his efforts, Latin Jazz was recognized as a GRAMMY Award in 1994. Now Palmeiri is leading a letter writing campaign to have the NARAS overturn their decision.
"I call upon everyone now, as a whole, to come together, in UNITY, by starting with your own communities and supporting your local artists and telling your friends and loved ones about a great band you just heard that has that swing, because without the support of the fans, we are not able to record as often as required by NARAS and to the entrepreneurial indie labels," said Palmeiri in a written statement. "Make sure that you file all of the necessary criteria online to NARAS’ website as per submissions, and to all of my fellow musicians out there, (young and old), please become a member of NARAS and get involved with your local Chapter."
The impact of not being recognized by the GRAMMYs is very significant to Latin jazz performers, composers, arrangers and producers because they will not receive the recognition enjoyed by their peers. It will impact these talented individuals' livelihood.