CMB Goes to the Grammys!

| February 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

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by Torch

The Lumineers, a Colorado band, were up for a Best New Artist and Best Americana Album awards at the Grammys, but little known few other Colorado artists were also nominated. Peter Cater was up for Best New Age album, and a collection of Colorado, national, and yes international, musicians got together and made a children’s album, Jumping Jazz Kids and it too was nominated for a Grammy.

This project was spearheaded by local musician Mark Oblinger, and included Steve Barta (Keys), Chris Daniels (Singer, Songwriter), Christian Teele (drums) Bob Rebholz (Flute, Saxophone) James Tuttle (Sound engineer) Chris Engleman (Bass) Jazz great Al Jarreau, Blues great Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Jazz flutist Hubert Laws. The concept for the album was a way to teach kids about Jazz music in a fun engaging story as opposed to the tiresome “Wheels On the Bus” style songs. This revolves around a story told by James Murray and written by Mark and Linda Lawson, with songs from monkeys and elephants!

Thursday, I flew out with the Jumping Jazz group who seemed a bit disconnected, as most of them were in the studio at different times, but knew one another. The magic came when we all got to LA, dropped off our luggage, and headed to a non-descript part of town to some rehearsal studios, which blended into a warehouse district. Once inside, and as musicians do, the groove started, and the excitement was tangible as everyone showed up. The room was huge at first and too small with the camera crew, everyone’s assistants, family and so on, but it gave all of us the chance to laugh, listen, and enjoy this great music they created.

I found it strange to listen to Al Jarreau sing, this familiar voice I knew came from a stranger. As I was on the floor taking pictures I introduced myself as “Hi, I am Jennifer, nobody of any importance.” He said, “Hi, I am Al nobody of any importance too.” Game on, me, “Hey maybe we’re related. I must tell you, however, I was married at one time and my married name was, Well Shit Jenny, but I changed it back.” He got a laugh out of that, and I made a friend. He told me his son was dating a Jennifer, and I said how he must have his hands full. Al said, “You’re not just banging your gums there.” What a great turn of phrase but with quite an unsavory visual.

Dee Dee Bridgewater came in with her little white dog who immediately checked us all out and went back and sat on her lap as she sang. It was amazing to hear how she used the highs and lows of her voice as she went into her song “This Elephant’s Gerald” a play on Ella Fitzgerald. Hubert Laws was the last to show, with a quick hug here and there and he was ready.  This was the magic, everyone singing or playing their parts, dancing like monkeys and doing the elephant dance, blue jeans and laughter. Suddenly there were no “stars” in the room, just musicians doing what they love to do! After taking hundreds of photos I stepped out into the lounge just outside the studio 3.

I was sitting back on the couch; camera around my neck chatting with Al’s personal assistant, and a skinny guy went running by. He came back a few moments later and proceeded to say, “Wow, you know when you’ve been holding it for so long that when you actually get to go it feels so great!?” Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Me: “Yeah, it is almost orgasmic.” Now this is when I know I am crappy reporter as I have Adam Levine standing in front of me talking about urinating; do I ask for an interview? No. Do I lift up my Nikon and take his photo? No. Why? I would rather just be me marveling at how he is talking to two complete strangers about urinating. I saw him again later outside smoking and did I talk him up? No. Why? I don’t find him that interesting, and all I could think was “You idiot, you’re smoking and you’re a singer!”

Once rehearsal started winding down, I was still on the couch and Alicia Keys came by, as she was in the next room rehearsing with Maroon 5. She wanted to meet Al Jarreau, so with her baby on her hip, she shook his hand and began to chat him up. I, the “reporter,” sat silent, Nikon still dangling from my neck. I just don’t find it appropriate to approach people like paparazzi, she was having her fan moment with Al, good for her.

Our next big event, Friday, was the performance at the Grammy museum in the Club Nokia venue. The room was filled with almost a thousand kids, the stage set with giant stuffed animals, and band ready to play. The only down side of the performance was that the stage lighting was set too far back, so the primary singers and players were sort of in the dark. The storyteller, James, started the show, and soon the music ensued and the kids were all doing the Elephant Dance. Mark was in the crowd singing to the kids, Chris Daniels was in the crowd with his elephant hat on singing and dancing with the kids, too, and even Dee Dee came down off the stage and got those little feet dancing with her. It was such a success to see all the kids enjoying the fun of the story and dancing to some really great music. They especially got into the swing song “Welcome to the Shake” where Chris sings the part of a dancing elephant doing moves like the trunk to tail. After the performance the group gathered for photos on the stage. That was the last time the entire group would be together.

Saturday, all the groups nominated for best children’s album played consecutive short performances at a dive bar called The Mint. It is usually a blues joint, and had that old bar stench to it along with great décor of albums stuck to the ceiling, and fun old chandeliers for lighting. The concert was sold out, and people were burgeoning out the doors and halls. It was perplexing as I watched performers who play grade schools and libraries dance about to pre-recorded tracks. The Okee Dokee Brothers, a Folk/Bluegrass band of three, sang and played songs that had no connection to kids, they didn’t even try to interact with them. The Jumping Jazz group, minus Al, Dee Dee, and Hubert played a few songs, and once again had the kids dancing and adults heads bopping at the Mint–oddly named bar, since it really needed one. I thought hands down the Jumping Jazz band had what it would take to win the Grammy.

The big day came, and the group had dwindled since not everyone was able to get a ticket to the show. The pre-telecast awards included the best Children’s category. We all waited through over 30 awards, a few performances and finally the award went to…. The Okee Dokee Brothers! Dreams were dashed. Now for the politics of the whole thing, The Okee Dokee Brothers should have been in the Americana category with the Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, and veteran Bonnie Raitt who won that category, thus the competition was insurmountable. The Okee Dokee Brothers did their online social media push with sites like Grammy 365, where voting members listen to other people’s albums, make “friends” and try to get them to vote for you, a site similar to Facebook. They even thanked Grammy 365 in their speech.

The Telecast show, which some of you may have watched, was quite the event. I think the true winner for the night was the stage production. On the down side was L.L. Cool J. He has no charisma to carry a show like that, as we saw with the Academy Awards. Award shows should stick with seasoned comedians people who can think fast on their feet. From there, it is kind of surreal, as you are in a room with some of the most famous people in the world, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Sting, Mavis Staple, and my weak-in-the-knees moment, Johnny Depp.

The moment of odd arrogance was when Prince walked on stage, diamond cane in hand, to huge applause, which he didn’t acknowledge, and said, “The nominees for Best “insert category” are,” names announced on screen, then he uttered, “The winner is “insert name.” That was it. He uttered the fewest syllables possible. Ocean was terrible, but he was not the only one. I was so excited to hear legendary bassist Stanley Clarke and the show threw in a few minutes of Jazz by having them walk out on stage play for a few minutes, then cut them off before their song was over and left them standing there in the dark. This show was all about pop culture and who was backed by corporate support. Fun. played, and they had great production with the city in the background, clouds and then pouring rain; it was one of the best performances of the night. The Lumineers, however, were in the same category, and they were treated like some musicians found loitering in the back. They had them walk out on stage, no production whatsoever, play and go…. Humm who won? Oh yeah Fun.

I guess after this experience I really saw how it’s not about the award, it is not the best songs or musicians who win, it is a corporate-sponsored popularity event. It isn’t even about music as a whole, but pop culture music. Some of the best music I heard was at the pre-telecast event, Latin, World, New Age and more. On a great note, Colorado is continuing to put out great music in all sorts of genres and they are getting noticed. Colorado has a great music community that is very supportive, creative, and growing, and all those little gold phonographs that are so sought after, are made by an artist in Ridgeway, Colorado!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Category: Exclusives

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