I never attended the Grammy main event—hated filling out press pass forms—but they begged me to attend the jazz Grammys every year. I went several times. My favorite Grammy memory comes from the first one I attended, when it was still at the Biltmore, and is a helluva story, but I promised myself never to tell it till the parties involved are dead. They aren’t, so we’ll wait. My worst Grammy moment was the last one I attended, and which I had done only because Charlie Haden was being given a lifetime achievement award. Not that anyone in the place had a clue who Charlie Haden was. I’d never seen any of these people in the Nokia anywhere, I had no idea who they all were. I didn’t even know who the other press were. There was no evidence of jazz people there at all. They were there, the jazz stars, but tucked away in the VIP room, hanging with Neil Portnow as a deejay spun hip hop and gorgeous waitresses brought them complimentary drinks. None of them–not Portnow nor the big name jazz stars–were down in the main room when the Lifetime Achievement Award was being given. That moment comes, and Charlie Haden is brought out on stage for his award. He accepts, then is bum rushed off the stage as he is saying a few words of thanks to make way for some terrible smoove R&B act. It was ugly, disrespectful and laid bare the disdain of Grammy machine for real music. It was so goddam insulting I couldn’t stand breathing that air another minute and split instantly and went to a little jazz dive. Got lost in a saxophone solo. I think I trashed the ceremony in my next column. I went from having no use for the Grammys to actively hating them.
I saw Charlie Haden at the Redcat a couple weeks ago–just blocks away from the Nokia and LA Live but a whole different universe–and the respect and love that audience had for him was overwhelming. I kept thinking back to that moment at the Grammys and relishing its denouement at the Redcat. It was a beautiful, bittersweet night.
Ya know, it’s a shame…the Jazz Grammys were the real deal a generation ago. Time can be cruel.