It’s two days after this year’s Grammy award ceremony, and I am feeling recovered enough to jot a few thoughts down. I should explain, it’s not as if we are doing hard manual labor at this event, but it is strangely exhausting. I think it starts back in early December when they announce the nominations and your mind starts to think about the possibility and your responsibilities to make the most of the opportunity if you are fortunate enough to get a nomination. Then comes the promotion of your efforts in an attempt to get a nomination, which is not really an exact science. There is no master list of NARAS voters for you to solicit, and they wouldn’t want you doing that anyway. So some people take out ads, or send email blasts in the hope that some NARAS voters take notice. But you have to take a pretty wide shot and hope to bring some attention to your song or record. Then, after the noms are annonunced, you adjust your website, put your tracks up for people to hear, some people send out CDs, take out some more ads, send some more emails which all say “If it’s not too much trouble, mind checking out my music?” (You are not permitted to make trades like “you vote for me and I’ll vote for you.” That’s a NARAS-No-No.) The ballots go out, and first you vote for yourself then go through the ballot and vote in whatever other categories you feel qualified in. NARAS made things much easier this year by posting every single nominated track to a password encoded site so voters can go listen to the music to make their decision. This was cool and I’m sure helped eliminate people voting for friendship, or political reasons, although that no doubt still happens to a degree.
As the awards get closer you get to the “I don’t have anything to wear” phase, and you call up your stylist (yeah, I have a stylist, her name is Barbra Horowitz and she rocks) and go spend too much money on fancy duds, but justify it (rightly so) by saying “it’s the freakin’ Grammys and, what, you think you’re going to get nominated every year? You gonna wear that same tired shit you always wear? Get real.” Now you have your clothes, but your wife starts freaking out about what she’s going to wear, only about 1000 times more intense that you did. So you essentially leave her along to handle that and pay the American Express bill when it comes. And don’t forget, you have several events to attend, the actually ceremony, the Nominee Reception and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards, and maybe the Music Cares event. You gonna wear the same thing to all those events? Doubt it.
Then you start to deal with the fact you have a gig or a writing project right during Grammy week, and deadlines that don’t really care about your stupid nomination. So you are working overtime trying to get ahead of schedule so you can afford to take 2-3 days off to go all these events.
The big week comes, and one of the things you have to do is drive down to the LA Convention Center to pick up your tickets. They don’t mail ‘em. You have to pick them up or pay somebody else to do it.
Around this time you start to calculate your odds of winning and you end up deciding it is a pointless exercise. There are so many factors in play that nobody really knows how the voting will play out. So you figure, let’s just go and enjoy ourselves and if we win, cool. Remember that “it’s an honor just to be nominated.” Then you think, but if I do win, and have to get up there and make a speech, I’d better get something together. But… if I write an acceptance speech, am I jinxing it? Will that piss off the Grammy gods? Then you think “Screw it, I’ll just go up and wing it.” And not long after that, you sit down and jot down just a few ideas of stuff to say.
This Nominee reception was held on Saturday, and it’s a nice hang. The give out the Lifetime Achievement Awards in the afternoon, a nice ceremony honoring a wide range of industry vets, and this year they paid homage to Glen Cambell, Diana Ross, Steve Jobs and others. It was cool show, but the audience got pretty distracted mid-way through as the news of Whitney Houston’s death spread through the crowd. You had to wonder if Diana Ross, as she was up there accepting her award, had heard the news yet. She did get off the stage pretty quickly, so we kind of wondered.
The reception that followed is always fun, a chance to get your nominee medallion, get your official picture taken, eat some good food and hang and schmooze with people. There is music by the Grammy High School All Star band (they were burning) and a group of Grammy vocalists lead by my buddy Ron McCurdy (they were also awesome.) We usually try to clear out of there kind of early, since we have to get up early the next morning, and this year, we got home reasonably early.
And that morning comes pretty quickly, and mostly I try to stay out of Lisa’s way. Chicks have way more stuff to deal with than guys do, so you gotta cut them some slack. But I am mind-full of what a hassle it is to get downtown to Staples Center, so we need to leave pretty early (I keep saying, over and over.) The problem is, once you get to the downtown area, all the streets are blocked off, and it’s a huge hassle to park (except for in 2009 when we scored a primo parking pass) and then you have to hoof it to the Convention Center for the Pre Telecast Award Ceremony. So I usually aim to get to our parking spot – wherever that might be – an hour before the ceremony.
This year, our trip in was grooving, fairly light traffic. And we were able to pull right in to the underground parking at the LA Live complex, right across from Staples, so we were there plenty early, which is definitely how I like to roll!
Is all this detail about traffic and parking boring? Probably, but you know what, screw you, have some damn patience! It will make the exciting stuff to come all the better. So anyway, then we parked on level 2, not too far from the elevator and…jeez, now I’m boring myself. OK, let’s skip to the ceremony.
But first, I gotta pee. So I go into the men’s room and as I am washing my hands, Chick Corea walks in. Just like a regular human being, I guess Chick has to pee too! So I start washing my hands real slowly to wait for him to finish his business. He comes up to the sink and here’s our conversation:
GG: Hey Chick?
CC: Um, yeah?
GG: (I’m) Gordon Goodwin
CC: Oh… oh, yeah, right! How you doing?
GG: I’m good. Hey, Eric Marienthal told me you had lost a lot of weight – you look great!
CC: Yeah, thanks. You have a nomination today?
(Note: This is already the longest conversation we have ever had)
GG: Yeah, I have a couple.
CC: What categories?
GG: One for “Best Instrumental Composition” and one for “Best Instrumental Arrangement.”
CC: Cool. Think you’ll win?
GG: Well, I may have a chance now that you aren’t in those categories! (I have twice lost to Chick at these awards)
GG: Good to see you – good luck today.
CC: Thanks, you too.
I thought that was interesting because while I had met Chick a number of times, and he even played on the last Big Phat Band record (on my arrangement of his tune “Senor Mouse”) we really hadn’t connected much and I’m not even sure he remembered me. But maybe he did!
So, we work our way into the big convention room where NARAS has built a cool stage for the awards They have it all – lights, video, and live band. It’s pretty big time looking, and for the past few years they stream the event live as it goes down. For those who haven’t read my 2009 Grammy Wrap Up (March 2009), the Grammy Pre-Telecast is where they hand out most of the awards, around 70 of them (used to be around 90 until this year’s category reductions) with the remaining 10 given out at the telecast. So we find our seats and the program tells us that our categories are very early in the proceedings, #11 and #12.
Which is cool, we find out pretty quickly how things are going to go!
And before we know it, the announcer is saying “And the nominees in the category Best Instrumental Composition are…”
And up on the big video screen we see:
Life In Eleven Béla Fleck & Howard Levy, composers (Béla Fleck & The Flecktones)
Track from: Rocket Science
[eOne Music] Falling Men
John Hollenbeck, composer (John Hollenbeck, Daniel Yvinec & Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ))
Track from: Shut Up And Dance
[BEE JAZZ / Abeille Musique]
Hunting Wabbits 3 (Get Off My Lawn) Gordon Goodwin, composer (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)
Track from: That’s How We Roll
I Talk To The Trees
Randy Brecker, composer (Randy Brecker With DR Big Band)
Track from: The Jazz Ballad Song Book
Russell Ferrante, composer (Yellowjackets)
Track from: Timeline
[Mack Avenue Records]
It is at this moment that your mind goes back and forth between
“Wouldn’t it be great if I win” and “It’s an honor to be nominated”
and time seems to slow down as you hear the presenter say:
“And the Grammy goes to… Bela Fleck.”
And you get this feeling, one I’ve had eleven times in that room, one that says…”Yeah, that makes sense. Damnit. Ok, stay cool, clap for the winner, we all love Bela, no biggie, it’s an honor to be nominated…”
This year, we had no time to dwell on the loss, since Bela wasn’t present to accept his award, and we hear the announcer say:
“The nominees in the category Best Instrumental Arrangement are…”
And up on the big screen we see:
Rhapsody In Blue
Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)
Track from: That’s How We Roll
All Or Nothing At All
Peter Jensen, arranger (Randy Brecker With DR Big Band)
Track from: The Jazz Ballad Song Book
In The Beginning
Clare Fischer, arranger (The Clare Fischer Big Band)
Track from: Continuum
[Clare Fischer Productions/Clavo Records]
Bob Brookmeyer, arranger (The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra)
Track from: Forever Lasting – Live In Tokyo
[Planet Arts Recordings]
Song Without Words
Carlos Franzetti, arranger (Carlos Franzetti & Allison Brewster Franzetti)
Track from: Alborada
And NOW it gets interesting, because this is the category I thought I might have a shot in. And before we know it, we hear: “And the Grammy goes to…. Gordon Goodwin.”
Time really seems to kind of stop, or at least slow down. And then my wife Lisa shouts “Oh my God…RUN!”
I’m like, run? Where? Oh, to the podium! We were seated on the complete opposite side of the room, so I had some ground to cover.
So I kiss Lisa and take off, but not too fast, because I don’t want to look any geekier that I already am. You don’t see those rappers running to the podium! Plus, I had these new shoes on, with still- slippery soles, and slipping and falling down would be a Grammy moment I’d best not experience. So I get up there, accept the fake Grammy they give you to hold (it’s not really fake, but it’s a prop, not the one you eventually get), and it’s up to the mic to make my speech.
I had not written anything out, but I had thought in a general sense what I might say, and decided to just speak honestly and try to not overstay my welcome up there. So after some opening schtick, I paid quick homage to a couple of my fellow nominees, Bob Brookmeyer and Clare Fischer, both of whom had very recently passed away. I dedicated my award to Clare (who was a friend and mentor for me) and then got to people I wanted to thank. This is where these speeches get tricky because nobody else really cares who you are thanking, except for the ones getting thanked. And you can kind of feel the audience’s impatience with that segment, so you want to move through it with efficiency and good pacing. I thanked the guys in the Big Phat Band, the people at the Concord Music group, the producers of “That’s How We Roll Gregg Field and Dan Savant, and my wife Lisa. I didn’t have time to thank everybody that helped make this happen, which sucks – I even forgot to thank George Gershwin! Not to mention my manager Kevin Raleigh, or my attorney David Helfant, or my kids Madison, Trevor and Garrison Goodwin, or my ever-supporting mom Alice Goodwin or Tommy Vicari, our great audio engineer, or my high school band director Robin Snyder, or my college band director Joel Leach or…. OK, it’s happening again. There are so many people that provide help and guidance to you as you move through your life, and if you are lucky like me, you have a ton of them. And you can only hope that they know how much you appreciate what they did for you by your actions day by day.
If you want to watch my speech, it’s here:
So – moving on with Grammy day. You walk off stage and hand the prop Grammy to a pretty girl, who escorts to a backdrop where they hand you a 2nd Grammy and you take a picture with NARAS guy. You think “Man this guy has to take pictures with 69 more people today.”
They take the 2nd prop Grammy from you and escort you out of the LA convention center over to Staples Center, where you go take the “official” Grammy photo (hold Grammy #3). Then you go and talk to the TV and Radio Media, (hold Grammy #4). I know the drill with these guys (about 50-60 people in this room) by now, so I walk up to the mic and say with the right amount of self-deprecating sarcasm ”OK, people, I can feel the relief in the room because we have finally gotten to a category that you actually care about – Best Instrumental Arrangement. So please, one question at a time, and try to keep things orderly.”
I actually got a few inquiries from those guys. Next, off to the “official” Grammy archive video interview, while holding Grammy #5. Then, it’s off to talk to the print media guys. These guys were cool, especially the guy that asked “What made you think that you (he pauses)…should do an arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue?” I laughed and said ”You mean, what gave me the temerity to think I could do an arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue? Good question! Because I really didn’t want to screw it up. It’s an iconic piece of musical history!”
After chatting with those guys for a while, it was off to get more photos, this time in front of about 20 photographers, seated in bleachers. These people really want the money shot, so just standing there hold your Grammy (Grammy #6) won’t cut it. They want animation, they want emotion and excitement. I remember when I won in 2006, I gave them a completely shocked expression on my face, and all 20 cameras took about 10 shots each –dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit -and that picture ended up on the cover of Daily Variety. So, I gave them some stuff to shoot, acting goofy, kissing the Grammy, and then Lisa came out, looking FINE, and then they really started shooting. “Gordon, Lisa, look down here, lower left…Gordon, upper right… Lisa look here, center row.” It was total paparazzi time! We finally gave then a shot of us jumping in the air, and sure enough, that shot showed up all over the web the next day. Hey, not complaining here, it’s all good fun.
With that done, they take the prop Grammy from you and that’s the last you see of one of those until they mail you your real one a few months later.
Before going to back to the convention center to check out the rest of the awards, Lisa and I decide to check out the Red Carpet, which is starting to rev up for the Telecast that night. The stars are starting to arrive, so we watch a little of that but they kind of hustled us along, so we got back for the end of the afternoon ceremony.
As we were walking back in, we run into Steve Martin, just standing there looking at his phone. I knew he had a nomination for his banjo band, and figured he must have lost since he was not back there going through the gauntlet we just did. Lisa could not resist and went up to him and said “You are just… thanks so much for what you do.” He is a pretty private guy, but was gracious enough as he said thanks to her. But we knew we weren’t in for a long stop-n-chat. Maybe if we had been holding prop Grammy # 7!
After the pre-telecast ended, we all headed over for the big show at Staples. We had some good floor seats, fairly close to the action. The show started at 5:00, and, frankly, it’s an assault. Several of the acts are damn good (Bruno Mars, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Glen Cambell) and some were an embarrassing assessment of American culture. And some of them were loud, like really loud! We brought earplugs, and I didn’t care if it made me look like an old fart, no way am I going to damage my hearing while listening to that shit!
About halfway though the 3 hour show, it starts to hit you that you haven’t really eaten anything since about 9:00 that morning and the adrenaline had worn off, and we started to feel pretty trashed. The lack of jazz and classical music in the telecast is now a forgone conclusion and as long as the show gets the kind of ratings it does, that isn’t likely to change. But that is the subject of another essay.
After the show, we went to a special post Grammy party hosted by the Concord Music Group. It was a wonderful way to end the day, hanging with good friends from the label Gregg Field, Monica Mancini, Dave Koz, Phil Ramone, Teri Lynne Carrington (who also won a Grammy that day) Esperanza Spaulding, Karrin Allison, Larry Goldings, Al Schmidt, and other guests. Even though Paul McCartney bailed on the party, damn, that would have been cool!
The Grammy experience brings up mix of conflicting emotions for me. While I am flattered and humbled by the award, I am also aware that this is not why I write and play music. My music is not any better due to the win, not is it any worse when I lose. There are some amazing artists that did not win this year, indeed there are legendary artists that have never won a single Grammy (like the Beach Boys, can you believe that?). That fact makes me feel even more grateful that I was in the right place at the right time and got to experience this. And, if winning this Grammy helps me to be able to keep writing and playing music – that is the true value of that award.