This year’s Grammy Award for Song of the Year was “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. The song title is apropos for the following thoughts “Jazz” was pondering during this year’s awards ceremony.
The host was multi-Grammy winner, actor and rapper LL Cool J. No doubt he deserved to host, but what about my shine in primetime media. Why do I get no hosting gig ever, no onstage gig (well, maybe a few times), no Grammy presenting gig and no Grammy presentation in primetime? (Hmm, maybe a few. Herbie Hancock comes to mind.)
Sure, the music world folks often say, “America’s national treasure is jazz.” Right, then when the Grammys come around, I’m treated like the girl who only gets a date on the staircase in the projects.
Yeah, I’m America’s original music. Similar to my little brother hip-hop, who came out of the ghetto. Everybody laughed at him, said he was just a fad. They said he’s too flamboyant, disrespectful to ladies, uses profanity and does drugs. He is gangster, has multiple arrests and even convictions. Regardless, he kept rapping, and here we are, years later, with millions of record sales and movie contracts, and I’m still in the shade.
Make note, I’m not hatin’ or complainin’—just saying. They were giving big props to “Hamilton” for winning “Best Musical Theater Album.” OK, cool the first major hip-hop Broadway production. Yeah, I know it’s all about the paper. Little bro hip-hop is making millions, getting all the media attention, while little ole’ jazz, in comparison, is just making short money, and that doesn’t warrant the Grammy stage during primetime.
But, dude, I was swinging in the first Black Broadway production “Shuffle Along” (1921), written by the jazz musicians and songwriters Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. Their songs from the play “I’m Just Wild About Harry and “Love Will Find a Way” are now a part of the Great American Songbook.
In 1912, when the jazz bandleader, composer and arranger James Reese Europe formed the Clef Club Orchestra and became the first jazz orchestra to perform at Carnegie Hall, it was me in the house swinging along. Bam! That was 21 years before Benny Goodman’s debut at Carnegie Hall, dig.
I was there during World War I with Lt. Europe leading the 369th Infantry Regiment (the Harlem Hellfighters) in France when they gave those swinging jazz concerts for the British, French and American troops. Yo, when those cats came home and marched through Harlem, stepping proud, playing some mean tune, that was me, daddio. Just thinking out loud, no complainin’, no hatin’, just saying.
During those horrendous, terrifying days of lynchings, I witnessed the “Strange Fruit” hanging from the sycamore tree. Being in “Alabama” with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was no joke, just ask John Coltrane he wrote the tune. When Nina Simone sang “Mississippi Goddam” and “Old Jim Crow,” I was all up in the mix, jamming in the trenches.
We were bebopping with Dizzy Gillespie, swinging low in his sweet Cadillac as folks jammed to Lou Donaldson’s “Alligator Boogaloo” long before you got gangsta and spit hip-hop.
Hell, baby, we started it all coming from Africa. The drum persisted, call-and-response resisted, the preacher was sweatin’ and Negro hymns from the gospel choir praised the lawd while down the block the devil was dancin’ to the blues, ragtime and jazz. Yeah, it all came through me; doo-wop, R&B, soul, funk and rap via Jocko Henderson, Jack the Rapper and Frankie Crocker, “the chief rocker.”
Yes, being America’s treasure sounds good, but all of my family is enjoying primetime while I’m still being treated like a booty call. What is wrong with this scenario? Hey, no complainin’, no hatin’, just saying.
Did you see Kendrick Lamar lay down that rap, hardcore kid and the youngster on the saxophone, dam, the dancers in African gear and the drums—now that was a statement, a musical journey. The young 12-year-old pianist and arranger Joey Alexander held down the jazz front with his dazzling performance of Thelonious Monk’s composition “I Mean You.” Ruth Brown’s posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award was heartwarming. After all, she crossed the genres from jazz to blues and R&B.
Anything else related to Grammy jazz winners was delegated to online views. Here are a few of the winners: Cecile McLarin Salvant, Best Jazz Vocal Album, “For One to Love”; Christian McBride, Best Improvised Jazz Solo; Eliane Elias, Best Latin Jazz Album, “Made in Brazil”; and the Afro Latin Jazz Suite featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa took the prize under the category Instrumental Composition.
The special tributes to Maurice White, B.B. King and that spectacular Lady Gaga performance for David Bowie were cool, but what happened to the Natalie Cole tribute? Like her father, Nat King Cole, her voice is unforgettable and she deserves a tribute.
After all, it was Miles Davis who explained the “Seven Steps to Heaven.” Granted, afterwards he was “On the Corner,” drinking “Bitches Brew” and getting involved with those “Water Babies but should that disqualify jazz from having Grammy prime time status?
Babes”—no, I shouldn’t.
“No complainin’, no hatin’, I’m just saying!” said Jazz.