music, technology & life in pasadena, california

Herbie Loves Joni

Once in a while the Grammys get it right and last night was one of those nights when Herbie Hancock walked away with the Album of the Year. (I’m so glad they haven’t changed the name to CD of the Year or added a category for Download of the Year!) Herbie won for his love-letter to Joni Mitchell, River: The Joni Letters. It’s been 43 years since a jazz record won that award and in light of the fact that it has sold only 40,000 copies, it is truly shocking to me. And heartening…

Jazz (and classical music) has always been the ugly stepchild of the commercial record business during most of the last 50 years, getting shunted aside during the Grammy broadcasts in favor of the flavor of the month, many times to the embarrassment of the Grammy establishment. Can you say Milli Vanilli?

So, it is an incredibly joyous moment when someone with the talent and integrity of Herbie Hancock is recognized for something other than being popular and selling a few million copies. Maybe there is hope for the Grammys…on the other hand, during the post-show reports the talking heads of the music business bemoaned the state-of-the-industry once again blaming illegal downloading for the claimed 36% drop in sales since the year 2000. I’d say that’s not too bad, since the aggregate list of nominees seems to show a drop in talent and creativity of at least twice that.

February 11, 2008 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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