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Up Close and Personal at the 57th Grammy Awards By Shelah MoodyPublished on Sunday, 22 February 2015 07:41
Lisa Fischer accepts the Grammy for the documentary 20 Feet From Lisa Fischer accepts the Grammy for the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom
Photos by Shelah Moody and Denise Robertson
There’s a good reason why it’s called music’s biggest night. During Grammy Week in Los Angeles every year, there are countless events leading up to the prestigious Grammy Awards ceremony, including music seminars, panels, workshops, concerts, tributes and exclusive parties.
During Grammy week, you may find yourself sitting at a table next to Beyonce’s mother, Tina Knowles and her fiancée, actor Richard Lawson, at Tom’s Urban eatery after a Stevie Wonder tribute concert.
You may be sitting high in the balcony at the Staples Center during the taping of the 57th Annual Grammy Awards Ceremony, watching Kanye West pull a “Yay” on Beck as he beats out Beyonce for Album of the Year. You may shiver as you experience the power of live music as multiple Grammy winners Mary J. Blige and Sam Smith perform a soul stirring version of “Stay with Me,” 2014 Record of the Year and Song of the Year. You may experience the same emotion as Usher, accompanied by a harpist, delivers an ethereal rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic,” from “Songs in the Key of Life” album, and the iconic musician later joins him on harmonica.
On February 8, “Grammy Sunday” as dubbed by the Recording Academy, I attended the 57th Annual Grammy Awards for the third time. For this blogger, the highlight of Grammy Weekend is attending the 57th Grammy Awards Premiere Ceremony at the Nokia Theatre. This is where the non-televised but equally important awards are presented, where the hard working jazz, reggae, dance, alternative, roots, world music technical, film and other artists are celebrated.
Around 1:00 p.m., I arrived in my seat just in time for the announcement of Best Reggae Album, which went to Ziggy Marley for “Fly “Rasta.” (Incidentally, Ziggy Marley and his Grammy-winning brother, Stephen Marley had the honor of being featured in a John Varvatos ad on the back of the official Grammy program guide). Guitarist Hunter Hayes, one of the afternoon’s hosts, accepted Marley’s award on behalf of the Recording Academy, as musical director Ray Chew and his orchestra played Bob Marley’s “Jammin” in the background.
Immediately after Best Reggae Album was announced, Benin’s Angelique Kidjo danced her way to the stage in traditional African attire as her name was announced as the winner in the Best World Music Album category. Overcome with emotion, Kidjo dedicated her award for “Eve” to the beauty and resilience of the women of the African continent.
Rev. Smokie Norful, 2014 Grammy winner for Best Gospel Performance/Song, (“No Greater Love”) probably made history as the first co-host to ask for the audience for an “Amen!” before he announced the winners in the classical music category.
For eight years, Oakland-based producer Larry Batiste served as musical director of the Grammy pre-ceremony and how sits on the Board of Trustees of the Recording Academy. This year Batiste was able to enjoy the Premiere Ceremony and other Grammy events with his wife, Linda.
As the saying goes, children and animals always steal the show. Yes, the wee folks, tuxedoed and primped and dolled up, were a strong presence at the Premiere Ceremony. Robert Glasper brought his son on stage as he accepted the Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance, “Jesus Children.”
Joan Rivers’ grandson Cooper proudly held the Grammy as his mother, Melissa, accepted her late mother’s award for Best Spoken Word Album (“Diary of a Mad Diva”). The children of the late producer Gil Frisen accepted the Grammy for “20 Feet From Stardom,” Best Music Film,” along with one of the film’s stars, prolific vocalist Lisa Fischer.
Dianne Reeves, 2014 Grammy winner for Best Jazz Vocal Album
As a music lover, there is perhaps no greater joy than being able to tell the hard working, constantly recording and touring artists who you’ve followed over the years how much you admire and appreciate them. During a break in the lobby, my colleague and I scored photo ops with Dianne Reeves and her producer Teri Lyne Carrington (winners for Best Jazz Vocal Album, “Beautiful Life”) and wildly popular R&B singer Kem, 2014 Gammy nominee for Best Traditional R&B Performance, “Nobody.”
2015 Grammy nominee Kem..
Making your way from the Premiere Ceremony to the televised Grammy Awards Ceremony at the Staples center, lends the perfect opportunity for star gazing. Lesson number one; if you see actress Jane Seymour or mega producer Jimmy Jam rushing to their seats, in the name of all that is bright and sparkly, do not attempt to make conversation! If celebrities do not have time to talk to you, #shake it off!
Luckily I caught the attention of 2014 Grammy nominee Sean Paul and his longtime manager Steve Wilson. Sean Paul described the love and effort he put into “Full Frequency,” which was nominated for Best Reggae Album, and took time to “big up” younger artists such as Chronixx, No-Maddz and Rootz Underground and Konshens, who he felt were also worthy of Grammy nominations. “Full Frequency” features collaborations with Grammy winners Damian “Jr. Gong Marley,” and 2014 Grammy nominated rapper Iggy Azalea. Incidentally, Sean Paul, who broke barriers between reggae/dancehall and hip hop in 2003 with his Grammy winning album, “Dutty Rock,” was in LA working with famed producers Rob Knox and ShonuFF.
When I spotted another familiar face, fellow Bay Area resident Ledisi, 2014 nominee for Best R&B Performance (“Like This”), I instinctively called her out name. On January 20, Ledisi was honored at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards San Francisco Nominee Celebration. To my surprise, the soul singer, regally dressed in black velvet, her auburn tresses flowing, pressed her way through the crowd to receive my congratulatory hug. #Happy!
Grammy winners as they relate to Streetwise Radio:
Best Reggae Album--Ziggy Marley-Fly Rasta
Best Jazz Vocal Album—Dianne Reeves, Beautiful Life
Best Jazz Instrumental Album--Chick Corea Trio—Trilogy
Best Improvised Jazz Solo—Chick Corea-Fingerprints
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album- Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band Life in the Bubble
Best Latin Jazz Album- Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra--The Offense of the Drum
Best R&B Performance- Beyoncé Featuring Jay Z--Drunk in Love
Best Traditional R&B Performance- Robert Glasper Experiment Featuring Lalah Hathaway & Malcolm-Jamal Warner Jesus Children
Best R&B Song- Shawn Carter, Rasool Diaz, Noel Fisher, Jerome Harmon, Beyoncé Knowles, Timothy Mosely, Andre Eric Proctor & Brian Soko, songwriters (Beyoncé Featuring Jay Z)--Drunk in Love
Best Urban Contemporary Album- Pharrell Williams-Girl
Best R&B Album- Toni Braxton & Babyface-Love, Marriage & Divorce
Best Rap Performance-I-Kendrick Lamar
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration-Eminem Featuring Rihanna-The Monster
Best Rap Song- K. Duckworth & C. Smith, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)-I
Best Rap Album-The Marshall Mathers LP2-Eminem
For more 2014 Grammy winners, go to www.grammy.com.
On the Road with Larry Batiste—Oakland’s Famed Producer/Musical Director Gears up for the 57th Annual Grammy AwardsPublished on Sunday, 08 February 2015 04:05
Black History Month Exclusive:
On the Road with Larry Batiste—Oakland’s Famed Producer/Musical Director Gears up for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards
By Shelah Moody
Photos By Michael Ealey
Watch the 57th Annual Grammy Awards 8/7c, Sunday Feb. 8 on CBS. www.grammy.com.
2015 Bay Area Grammy Nominee Ledisi
On January 21, some of the finest representatives of the Bay Area music industry were honored at the Recording Academy San Francisco Chapter’s 57th Annual Grammy Nominees Celebration at the Regency Ballroom. Amongst the glitterati—R&B superstar Ledisi, a New Orleans native and Bay Area transplant who is nominated for Best R&B Performance (“Like This”), singer and trustee Kitty Margolis, Suzanne Koga, manager of Roberta Flack, award winning west African singer/dancer/songwriter Fely Tchaco, and the Pacific Mambo Orchestra, who earned the Grammy last year for Best Tropical Latin Album.
Singer/Dancer Fely Tchaco And Streetwise Radio CEO Michael K. Ealey
Despite all of the glamour and glitz surrounding the music industry’s biggest night, there are those who remain critical. Many people from the hip hop, jazz and other communities have criticized the Grammy’s for being too unhip and too “white” when it comes to recognizing certain artists
2014 Nominee New Age artist Laura Sullivan
“I don't pay that much attention to the Grammy’s,” said Harrison Chastang, news director for KPOO FM Radio in San Francisco. “I'm always on the air when the awards are given out; and I think that in the jazz category; there is too much focus in on the older, established artists at the expense of younger artists. One person who I though should have been nominated for a Grammy was vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, but she wasn't nominated. I don't know anybody in the media or on the radio who has a Grammy vote. Maybe if more people who cover and promote music, either by sponsoring concerts, playing music on the radio or writing about music had a Grammy vote the nominees would be more diverse.”
One of the biggest stars of the San Francisco Chapter celebration was Oakland’s own Larry Batiste, who sits on the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees. Batiste has worn many hats over the years--trombonist, singer, songwriter, producer, arranger, musical director, educator and mentor to many aspiring artists.
Singer/Songwriter Rhonda Nicole
Batiste has worked with a wide range of artists including Patti Austin, Al Jarreau, L.J. Reynolds of the Dramatics, jazz great Bill Summers, reggae greats the Mighty Diamonds and stellar Bay Area-based singer Sakai Smith, who is currently on tour with Train.
For eight years, Batiste has had the honor or being the musical director of the Grammy pre-telecast ceremony. Here’s some footage of Batiste at work directing the band at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards Pre-Telecast Ceremony at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. http://youtu.be/pLJ4seSoo9M.
At press time, Batiste was in Los Angeles participating in a variety of Grammy Week activities, including a tribute to famed disco/funk guitarist and producer, Nile Rogers.
Shelah Moody: What is your role in the 57th Grammy Awards celebration in Los Angeles?
Larry Batiste: I'm not MD'ing the GrammyPre-show this year. We usually switch up about every five years and I've done it for eight. I'm also a trustee at the Recording Academy and at our last trustees meeting; we decided to give the show a new name, the GrammyAwards PremiereShow, with a new set and new band. My friend and colleague, Ray Chew is MD'ing. I'm looking forward to able to fully attend the festivities this weekend!
SM: What do you think of the 2014 Grammy nominees?
LB: You know, it gets better and better. There are a few names that I don’t know, which is a good thing. We’re living in a time where people are more independent with their music, and they are getting recognized, and I really appreciate that. It’s a good time for music right now.
SM: Many people from the hip hop, jazz and other communities have been critical of the Grammy’s for being too unhip and too “white” when it comes to recognizing certain artists. What is your opinion?
LB: Well, what I have to say is that you have to be a participant in the process. It’s really open for everybody. I advocate for people to join the Recording Academy and be a part of it and make a change. (See link: https://www.grammypro.com/join).
SM: Can you say a few words on your contemporary, Ledisi, who is nominated for Best R&B performance?
LB: I've worked with Ledisi on the Grammy awards pre-telecast show and in recording sessions. For years I've mentored her in the music industry in business and in life. She's my little sister (ya know what I mean). We just talked this morning and were together a couple of nights ago in LA for the Nile Rodgers tribute. I just love her! Besides her talent, there’s her heart—she’s absolutely pure. Her spirit is incredible! Hers is the story I tell in my workshops when I’m talking to young people in my about hard work and dedication. She’s really beat the pavement. She deserves all of the accolades that she gets.
SM: Have you ever worked with the late great Whitney Houston?
LB: I sang on "Lover for Life" on Whitney's “I’m Your Baby Tonight” CD, but wasn't credited (whole other story) so I don't usually put it on my résumé. I feel so bad for the Brown & Houston family for what Bobbi Kristina is going through!
SM: This year, Stevie Wonder’s iconic album “Songs in the Key of Life” is being honored. Will you be a part of the celebration?
LB: I worked with Stevie Wonder when he performed at a TEC Awards show (maybe 15 years ago) in NY. I was the musical director. I see him occasionally. Most recently, I saw him at National Association of Music Merchants a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I will be present at the tribute. I won’t be playing but I will be in the audience just loving it!
SM: What was it like working with the legendary disco/funk producer, Nile Rogers?
LB: I am so inspired by Nile Rodgers! At 62, his creativity and career longevity are amazing. In this forever evolving music business, he has so much history and still has relevance today--from Chic, David Bowie, Diana Ross to the current Sam Smith (2014 nominee for Best New Artist and five other Grammy Awards) and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky.” This week, he signed a deal with Warner Brothers to release a new Chic CD this summer. What artist his age is signing major record deals? Historical! What I loved about the other night were his stories about his inspiration for his songs. The song "I’m Coming Out" was inspired while he was in a gay club to check out new music; he went to the restroom and there were five Diana Ross impersonators in there! He called his Chic partner, Bernard Edwards and said "we have to write a song called “I'm Coming Out.” This is stuff you don't hear anywhere else. At the tribute, he also jammed with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the bass and Kathy Sledge (from ‘’Sister Sledge) sang "We Are Family.” Anyway, I was inspired!
Indeed, one of this year’s most talked about Grammy events will be: Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key Of Life—An All-Star Grammy Salute, featuring Usher, Lady Gaga and her musical director, Michael Bearden, John Legend, Janel Monae, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheehan, the Band Perry and others. This historic performance will take place at the Nokia Theatre, L.A. Live, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. Released in the fall of 1976 on Motown records, this iconic album, featuring Stevie Wonder classics such as “I Wish,” “Sir Duke,” “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” and “As” earned four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Producer of the Year.
One of my personal favorite Grammy moments was attending a 2014 panel called “How I Wrote that Song,” sponsored by BMI at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. The panel featured some true songwriting geniuses of the industry, including Whiz Khalifa, Charlie Wilson, Linda Perry, Alex Da Kid and Dallas Davidson.
In this video clip, Grammy winning singer/songwriters Charlie Wilson and Linda Perry provide some insight into the creative process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1XZXLe2cE8. –Shelah Moody
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