Following over a year of protests by thousands of musicians, many of them Latin jazz artists, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) has made a slight reversal on its decision to cut 31 categories from the Grammy Awards last year. At its annual Board of Trustees meeting last month, the organization decided to reinstate the award for best Latin Jazz Album and added two categories.
The AP reports that the Grammys will now include Best Urban Contemporary Album (for R&B albums that feature pop/rock) and Best Classical Compendium (for albums that “involve a mixture of classical subgenres”), in addition to Best Latin Jazz Album. The rundown now includes 81 categories, up from 78. In April 2011, 31 categories were gutted from the previous 109.
“Every year we want to look at these objectively and make a good musical decision and not be influenced by politics and pressure,” NARAS CEO Neil Portnow said. “I will say it’s incredibly unfortunate that a very small group chose to voice their discontent with a lawsuit that had no basis… Not only is it distracting from a time standpoint, but it costs a great deal of money to have to defend something that we knew was completely defensiveable.” Yes, “defensiveable” is the direct quote.
The “small group” to which he refers is the one that included the Rev. Jesse Jackson and parked itself outside this year’s Grammy awards, arguing the organization was damaging the livelihoods of effected musicians. Conversations about cultural bias also kept the heat on the cuts, which included several Mexican subgenres like Banda/Norteno and Tejan. Led by Latin jazz musician Bobby Sanabria, the group sought a lawsuit against NARAS, the demands of which included the reinstatement of the Latin jazz album category. The lawsuit was thrown out last month.
“I don’t hold anything against the Latin jazz community for the passion that they have for their music,” Portnow added. “The [Latin jazz] community put a good proposal together this year, and we see the results of that.” The 55th annual Grammys will be held February 10, 2013.