Monday, February 13, 2012


I have never attended the Grammy Awards, am not a member of the NARAS voting board, and don't (yet) have any kind of product to even submit for Grammy consideration. But I've watched the show over the years as any music-loving spectator would: I look forward to my favorite artists receiving acknowledgement from the Academy for their high level of artistry, songwriting ability, arranging, engineering and production prowess, performance skill, etc. Was the 54th Grammy Awards going to pleasantly surprise or sorely disappoint me?

Over the years, my interest in the Grammy awards had fizzled, as they seemed to be shifting to more of a popularity contest. I'd occasionally watch, but never made plans or adjusted my schedule around it. But last year, when jazz genius Esperanza Spalding was nominated for Artist of the Year (usually a field dominated by pop artists), I had to watch! Of course, as a professional musician, I was hoping she'd win. Her biggest perceived competition, Justin Bieber, is a very talented young man, and I use his story as a means of inspiring my young music students to focus and practice. But Justin and Esperanza are in different worlds. Regardless, I watched and enjoyed the show because of the inclusion of such a brilliant jazz performer. More diversity on the show is better, at least for me and most musicians I know.

This year, I was sick with the flu, so I didn't watch the show as it aired. However, I was excited to find out if Adele (I'm a fan) would win, whether or not there would be some mention of the Grammy Awards eliminating 31 non-pop or country musical categories (including Latin Jazz, Cajun and certain forms of Gospel among others - highly controversial), and how they would honor Whitney Houston - who died the night before. On Monday, having risen from my flu induced stupor, I watched most of the performances, using my remote to zip past those which didn't capture my interest. Don't get me wrong: I do enjoy Country and Pop music, but Country act after Country act after Pop act after Pop act really got dull for me. No Jazz? No Classical? No World? No Latin? Yawn...

Well, here's my summation:

Jennifer Hudson's version of Whitney Houston's iconic song "I Will Always Love You" was perfect.

Adele went ahead and SANG "Rollin' in the Deep". Love her! I hope she has quit smoking! No more beautiful voices lost to that addiction, please!

• Bruno Mars was fun. I like his playful energy and catchy melodies.

• Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt were sweet in their tribute to Etta James (I'm a life long Bonnie fan, so just seeing them perform together made my day).

• Chris Brown? Twice? I too believe in second chances, but it would have been nice if he'd offered some a demonstration of remorse in his award speech (for those who don't know, he admitted to beating up the singer Rihanna in 2009), given it was probably one of his largest audiences since the incident with Rihanna. Something along the lines of: "I really appreciate being welcomed back to the Grammy Awards, and being given the chance for me to let everyone know that anyone can change - even me. We all know that I behaved in a manner that was reprehensible in the past, and I've paid for my wrongs. I want to be a better example to my young fans. Fellas! (or whatever young guys say nowadays) It's NEVER ok to hit a woman. Thank you to my team, my label, my fans and God. God bless everyone and good night!"
I think that would have captured every news headline in the country, lessened if not prevented the negative social media fallout, and would have taken him a long way towards reconciliation with people who still look at him with disdain when he appears in public. Hopefully someone will coach him about how to respond in a way that not only demonstrates his personal growth but will also promote record sales. Much harder for regular, decent folks to hate on someone who's publicly contrite.

• Nicki Minaj's performance was bizarre, indulgent, derivative, ill-suited for the occasion, and way, way, way, way, way....WAAAAAAYYYYY too long. They could have had a Jazz musician perform in all that extra time they allotted for her acting debut. Oops! Apparently Grammy thinks that no one wants to watch Jazz performers at the, according to the Grammy Awards website, "only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position"! Silly me! Jazz musicians at a music awards show? Balderdash! Better to have a Rapper do an extended skit about a Catholic exorcism!! Um....huh??? Nicki Minaj is such an amazing Rapper. Why did she waste so much time singing, acting and flailing about the stage? I kept waiting for her to really get into her flow. But no, she had to go do more "scenes" for her skit. Sigh...

Those are my thoughts. It would have been awesome if the Grammy producers had decided, instead of yet another Country singer or Pop ingenue or Rapper, to have had a performance like 2008's Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang, or 2011's Esperanza Spalding and Bobby McFerrrin. Oh yeah! They didn't broadcast that either. It was the pre-cast. Shaking my head in dismay...Maybe next can always hope...

Friday, February 03, 2012

NACA experience: CHANGE MY LOAN - Part 3

And so, after nearly 4 hours in the stale, chilly Cow Palace air, the gentleman representing my bank asked me to sit, gave me a very friendly smile, tinged with the slightest hint of insincerity (or was that a big dose of ennui?), and sent me home with a firm "no". Darn! Alas, my quest for a better mortgage continues. So, in which key shall I sing my blues?

NACA experience: CHANGE MY LOAN - Part 2

Three hours later: Everyone is so kind here! From the front door, to the lecturer for the orientation, to the woman who walked me to a separate division (based on anomalies in my situation), the experience has been easy and stress free so far. I'm now waiting to speak with my bank. Is impossible that they will be more responsive than they were 2 years ago when I tried to modify my loan? Too bad I didn't bring my little portable keyboard. Maybe they will change my loan for a song! (Rim shot, cymbal splash...ok I'll keep my day job....)

NACA experience: CHANGE MY LOAN, Part 1

This morning I'm sitting at the Cow Palace, just south of San Francisco, waiting in a long line with several other people, hoping to have my mortgage adjusted. Like many other Americans, I've been affected by the terrible economy and have found myself in a loan that seems to adjust on a whim, even when interest rates haven't changed.

I received an email message a couple of days ago telling me that NACA was holding an event in the San Francisco area. After getting another letter indicating a hike in my monthly payment, I figured "why not"? So, here I sit.

Apparently, several people actually spent the night here so that they would have a chance to be first in line. By the time I arrived, there we at least 300 people ahead of me. I'm hoping that I can secure a lower interest rate with a fixed mortgage. I've got hours to sit, so I guess I'll work on lyrics for some songs! 

How's this:

"My new mortgage rate
is so low that I can't wait
to watch my savings grow
so I'm solvent when I get old"


"I got the mean bank blues
they take all my money
what am I to do?

Oh, I got the mean bank blues
they take all my money what am I to do?
I hope they change my payment soon
or I might just have to move"

Wish me luck!