Latin Jazz Reclaims the Respect of the Grammy Awards

Jul 24, 2012

In the theme-driven second hour of All This jazz the other night --- see playlist here; I refer to the 7/21/12 show --- I played a couple of tracks by the wonderful Eddie Palmieri, the Puerto Rican pianist, arranger, and composer (pictured herewith) who's long been deemed one of the brightest stars in the Latin Jazz firmament. (His Wiki bio is here; and this is an enjoyable, recently-replayed interview that he did with Terry Gross for NPR's Fresh Air in the middle 1990s.)

I was spinning Palmieri's music because he was named last week as one of four 2013 Jazz Masters by the NEA. This is a "lifetime achievement" type of award; it's the highest honor bestowed upon jazz musicians, educators, and advocates in our country. But what I forgot to mention during the show was that --- in a terrific and welcome example, back in early June, of Things Turning Out Okay In The End --- the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences reinstated its Latin Jazz Album Grammy Award. This award had been eliminated in 2011, when the Academy reduced the number of its Grammy categories from 109 to 78 (while also consolidating or combining various categories).

Palmieri, who's won several Latin Jazz Grammy Awards over the years --- and won the very first one, actually, in the 1970s (for an album called THE SUN OF LATIN MUSIC) --- was one of a great many Latin musicians who spoke out against this elimination; others included Oscar Hernandez of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Bobby Matos of the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, Arturo O'Farrill, Bobby Sanabria, Carlos Santana, and even Paul Simon. Indeed, certain musicians filed suit against the Academy over the matter (although this action was dismissed in a New York court in April).

Now, however --- thanks to last month's reinstatement --- the wrong has been righted, and recorded Latin Jazz is again going to get its due at the annual Grammy Awards ceremony. Here's how the story was reported last month in the Los Angeles Times.