Up for a Grammy award, Arturo O'Farrill still fights for eliminated Latin jazz category
Publication: New York Daily News
Author: Monika Fabian
Date: December 7, 2011
An outspoken critic of the Grammys’ controversial decision this year to eliminate 30 awards categories was graced with a nomination last week by the host organization, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).
“I’m extremely proud,” said bandleader and pianist Arturo O’Farrill, whose album “40 Acres and a Burro” has a bid for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
However, he still opposes the elimination of the Best Latin Jazz Album category, calling it “horrific.”
“To compete with big, big, big names is very healthy, but it doesn’t bode well for us [Latin jazz musicians],” said O’Farrill, winner of the 2008 Best Latin Jazz Album award and a four-time nominee.
“A lot of what happens is brand awareness,” he added. “It would be an amazing vindication of our artistic integrity and the academy’s position of it leveling the playing field if any of the Latinos had a real shot at winning.”
Also competing for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album — the only category in which Hispanic artists were nominated that did not involve Latino/Mexican/World Music — is Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenón, who saw in the academy’s restructuring a chance for Latin artists to gain more widespread jazz cred.
“Paquito D’Rivera is making jazz the same way that Chick Correa’s making jazz,” said Zenón. “In that sense, it’ll put everyone in the same bag and everyone will be seen in the same light instead of saying we have this sort of subcategory.”
Zenón’s sixth album, “Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook,” won him his third Grammy nomination.
NARAS said in April it would eliminate 30 award categories, including several ethnic genres like Hawaiian, Native American and Latin jazz. The move prompted an instant outcry from musicians.
The 54th Grammy Awards on Feb. 12 will feature four Latin categories, down from eight last year: Best Tropical Latin Album; Best Latin Pop, Rock or Urban
Album, and two for Mexican music — Best Regional Mexican or Tejano Album and Best Banda or Norteño Album.