Letters to Naras: Mark Levine Returns His Grammy Nominations


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On Wednesday April 6th, The National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences announced a “restructuring" of The Grammy Awards, a move that included the elimination of the Latin Jazz Grammy. This unfortunate decision undermines the integrity of Latin Jazz and disregards its importance as a major piece of the cultural landscape in the United States. I would encourage all LJC readers to protest this decision and demand that NARAS reinstate the Latin Jazz Grammy immediately—you can do this by sending an e-mail to NARAS President and CEO Neil Portnow here—[email protected] Get additional information and updates on LJC's Support Page For The Latin Jazz Grammy.

Mark Levine has spent decades in the music business, dedicating himself to a high level of performance in the jazz and Latin music worlds. As a sideman, he's worked with some of the finest names in the history of the music, including Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, Francisco Aguabella, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Moacir Santos, Blue Mitchell, and many more. As a leader, he has led a bebop trio, collaborated with saxophonist Ron Stallings in the group Que Calor, and fronted the outstanding Latin Tinge, a group that brings together some of the San Francisco Bay Area's best musicians. He's traveled around the world as an educator, sharing his vast knowledge of jazz, improvisation, and Latin Jazz, helping insure that the next generation of musicians will keep the tradition alive. Levine has authored several books on jazz piano, improvisation, and theory, several of which have become leading texts on the style. Levine is a man that knows the music business intimately, he is an artist that has given himself fully to the music, and he is a caring individual concerned with the well-being and artistic evolution of jazz.

Along the way, Levine has garnered Grammy nominations, a fact that he has considered deeply since NARAS decided to eliminate the Latin Jazz Grammy Award, along with 30 additional categories. Like so many musicians before him, Levine benefited from the weight of the Grammy nod, helping him exist as a musician over the long haul. The current actions by NARAS limits Levine's future potential to earn a Grammy and continue producing high-level music—a fact not lost on the intelligent musician. Making a serious statement about his feelings on the category reduction, Levine has decided to wash his hands of NARAS and return his Grammy nominations to the organization. In a succinct, elegant, and poignant statement, Levine states his intention to return the nominations and his reasoning behind the action.

July 20, 2011

Neil Portnow, President
National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences
3030 Olympic Blvd
Santa Monica CA 90404

Dear President Portnow,

I am returning my 2003 Grammy Nomination medal and plaque to NARAS, and my 2010 Latin Grammy Nomination parchment to LARAS. I'm also refusing your offer of a Life Membership. I no longer want to be associated with your organization.

Your actions in delisting the categories that have most contributed to American music have been racist, and go against everything my parents taught me about America.

To quote Frank Sinatra at the original Grammies awards ceremony in 1959: “Remember ladies and gentlemen, it's about excellence, not popularity."

Mark Levine

Don't let this attack on Latin Jazz go unnoticed—send your e-mail in support of the Latin Jazz Grammy today. You can start with a message to NARAS President and CEO Neil Portnow, his e-mail address is: [email protected] Make sure that you sign the petition to get the Latin Jazz Grammy reinstated—you can find it HERE. Get additional information and updates on LJC's Support Page For The Latin Jazz Grammy.

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This story appears courtesy of The Latin Jazz Corner by Chip Boaz.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.


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