More Grammy Highlights: Wins for Carolina Chocolate Drops, Esperanza Spalding, Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples and Fantasia Barrino

Impressive. Especially since the Chocolate Drops lost a founding member a week ago, and Spalding was a jazz musician and singer who expected to be upstaged by the likes of Justin Bieber and Drake.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops pose after their win for Best Traditional Folk Award (Courtesy: CST)

From the Charlotte Observer:

[The] Carolina Chocolate Drops put an exclamation point on a triumphant year Sunday night, winning a Grammy Award.

The Triangle-based old-time group won the best traditional folk album category for last year’s “Genuine Negro Jig,” over a formidable field of nominees that included 14-time winner Ricky Skaggs.

American Idol” star Fantasia also scored a breakthrough, winning best female R&B vocal performance. The High Point native had been nominated six times in years past, but this was her first win.

The Chocolate Drops added two more musicians to their line-up when founding member Justin Robinson suddenly decided to leave the group. (He is the dark-skinned brother at the right of Rhiannon Giddens.)   No explanation was given at the blog, Country Standard Time:

“When Justin, Dom, and I started playing together, we had no idea where it would all lead…we just knew that playing with (mentor, 92-year-old black Piedmont string musician) Joe Thompson was a privilege and an honor and we were thrilled to be spreading his music to different audiences out there in the world,” said Rhiannon Giddens on the band’s web site Monday.

“It’s been an adventurous and at times unexpected journey, but I’m extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish together in the last six years. We will certainly miss seeing and playing with Justin, and Dom (Flemons) and I wish him well in the next chapter of his life. All three of us are confident that the spirit of the Carolina Chocolate Drops will continue with Hubby (Jenkins) and Adam (Matta), and the welcome remains for Justin whenever he should come a-visiting.”

“It has been a great pleasure to work with Justin and to learn more about Southern music and culture from being around him. I wish him all of the best,” said Flemons. “With that being said, it will be a great pleasure to begin to work with Hubby Jenkins and Adam Matta. I’ve known Hubby for several years through his connection to the New York roots music scene, while I met Adam during our collaboration with the Luminescent Orchestrii. Folks can still expect great music from our group the same way a jazz band can change personnel without sacrificing the quality or the talent on stage.”

Matta is a human beat-box musician, while Jenkins is described as a multi-instrumentalist.

Fantasia won for her performance on Bittersweet. According to USA Today, she was the only American Idol alum to have carried home a Grammy, although Adam Lambert and Carrie Underwood also received nominations.

Esperanza Spalding, jazz bassist, poses before her win at the 53rd Grammy Awards (Courtesy: Billboard)

I’ve seen and heard Esperanza Spalding, the upright bassist before at one of those televised White House recitals on PBS. I like her a lot, and she’s also very deep into her music. At 26, she certainly snatched victory from 16-year-old Justin Bieber’s waiting fingers; before the cameras cut away, he was shown looking very disappointed at his loss for the award for Best New Artist. Spalding herself seemed to have sleepwalked her way up from her seat from farther back and passing Bieber, Drake and the rest of the stunned artists in the rows closest to the stage, wearing a lovely formal and a big Afro. From MTV:

Donning a lime green halter gown with pink shoes, the jazz chanteuse took the stage and graciously accepted her prize, after passing Drake on the way. “I know I don’t have a lot of time, so first, thank you to the academy for even nominating me in this category,” she said. “Thank you to the incredible community and family of musicians I’m so blessed to be a part of… my friends in Portland, all my teachers, colleagues… my beautiful family who’s here,” she continued, before naming names.

The smiling award-winner stated that she had every intention of using this opportunity to continue making music that she felt her friends, fans and family would be proud of. “I take this honor to heart so sincerely, and I’ll do my damndest to make a whole lot of great music for all of you,” she gushed. “It’s such a blessing and an honor. God bless. Thank you.”

While most thought the Best New Artist would be landing in the hands of Drake, Bieber or Florence, Spalding came out from behind thanks to a strong following in the jazz community. In 2010 she released several albums including Reencontro and Chamber Music Society, and she also joined Prince for select dates on his Welcome 2 America Tour.

Todd Martens over at the L.A. Times‘ blog “Pop and Hiss” is one of the few who applauds Spalding’s win:

Jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding wasn’t the favorite to be named best new artist, but she’s perhaps the most adventurous artist in the crop. Justin Bieber really never had much of a shot, as Grammy voters stay away from teen stars. Drake was deserving, as he released some of the more emotional hip-hop of the last year, and the debut from Florence + the Machine, “Lungs,” is full of highs and lows, but beyond hit single “Dog Days Are Over,” much of it is an album for fans only.

So it’s rare for a jazz artist to win: In 2008, Herbie Hancock’s “River: The Joni Letters” was named album of the year, the first jazz title to lead the field in approximately 50 years, and Norah Jones, who leans decidedly more toward pop, was named best new artist in 2003, one of the few talents with a jazz background to lead the field. I woulda put my money (except not, cuz betting, it’s bad) on Mumford & Sons, as the folksy act seemed more like Grammy artists, but Spalding, three albums in, has had the critical and industry support for a few years now.

So it’s not her first, but she’s an artist deserving of more recognition, and one the Grammy Awards should be highlighting. So….Grammy voters, congrats. You got this one right.

Swear to the Buddhist gods, some are asking (or rather tweeting) aloud whether Bieber was robbed. Please. Inside of another year, we may not hear from him again. If he pitched a bitch off camera, then he’s far less mature and unable to take disappointment as a step towards larger success as a serious singer. Teen heartthrobs are a dime a dozen; that’s why he was leaving empty-handed tonight. What’s he going to be or do when he’s 18? 21? The attention span of audiences are fickle. Meanwhile, our Latina sista will continue going from strength to strength and doing just fine developing her art.

Questlove from The Roots was blown away, too, but not too blown away not to tweet her a high five.  Blabbermouth Kanye West, however, was said to have held his tongue even on Twitter this time, but he was as flummoxed as all the rest of the mostly male and hip-hop contingent.  Before any one of them decides to diss her, they oughta realize that they’re not her speed. A Rihanna she is not.

Gotta go before too long.  However, just want to say that some of the old-timers either rocked the show or won some awards or both.  Most of these award-winners were relegated to the pre-Grammy show that happened during the afternoon. Buddy Guy, 74, carried home a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album for his album Living Proof.

Grammy winner Buddy Guy (best contemporary blues album), looking sharp in a pink suit and tilted cap, was keen to celebrate blues innovators who have been around even longer than he has, namely Pinetop Perkins, who had won a Grammy moments before.

“I remember back when I was picking cotton and I was hearing the Pinetop boogie, so I stole things from the piano that then went into my guitar,” he said.

In another instance of second wind, Mavis Staples of The Staples Singers won for Best Americana Album. Her album, You Are Not Alone, was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. It was her first Grammy ever. Mavis Staples is a legend.

It’s a shame the Chicago soul legend won’t be performing tonight, but she’s never not gracious. Staples was near tears as she walked up onstage, needing someone to lower her mike and hold her Grammy.

“Oh my God, that was the shock of my life,” Staples said of winning the first Grammy to her name. “My goodness. It’s been a long time, a long time coming,” she continued before finally breaking down in tears.

“Oh my goodness,” Staples continued. “OK, OK, OK, all right. Give the honor to God and to my father, Pops Staples. It’s because of you, Pops, that I stand here today. I tell you, you laid the foundation, and I am still working on the building … This Grammy took a long time coming. A long time. But it was worth the wait, worth the wait. But I’m going to be around a while. You will not see the last of me. God is not through with me.”

Staples caught a shot of herself on-camera. “They kept telling me all day that I looked glamorous and wonderful, but I didn’t know till I looked up there.”

She also thanked Tweedy for bringing the “young adults, the college kids” back to her, referring to the increased attention the Wilco name has brought to Staples

I saw 67-year-old Mick Jagger, as skinny as a drink of water, do his thing on stage, and I think most of the applause was because he is Mick Jagger, defying gravity, the dimming of the range of his voice, and age. Besides, he performed a good tribute to the late Solomon Burke.

And Barbra Streisand’s voice was unsteady and quavering.  Nobody has said anything about this queen’s performance, but I will.  What was it about her?  Was she suffering stage fright again?  Was she ill?  It was as if she was walking a tightrope and had no balance. She needed either a voice coach or more rehearsals. No doubt, she looked really good, but it was evident that voice–that voice that once insisted “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” is going. If she wants to do these kinds of shows; she’s got to take care of that instrument.

Maybe next year, Barbra.  Like with Aretha.

~ by blksista on February 14, 2011.

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