By all means, the 2022 the Recording Academy New York Chapter Nominee Celebration was a fantastic bash, and a welcome return to in-person reverie. But on multiple levels, the party this year was much more relaxed and fun – a reflection of the times we’re living in.
This brings us to the 2023 Recording Academy New York Chapter Nominee Celebration at Spring Place, a spacious, verdant, intimately lit workspace and social club in Tribeca. Adjacent to the main space was a candlelit “conversation room”; almost nobody went for it, opting to be shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar.
Sure, some opted for masks, but there was a tangible sense of relaxation. More than that, reverie — as a special appearance from New York Mayor Eric Adams underlined.
Adams began with a reflection on the pandemic’s impact on NYC, with some poetic asides about the spiritual power of music. “When you sing, when you dance, when you play an instrument, you feed something inside us — [it] feeds the emotional anatomy of our spirit,” he stated. He then broke the ice.
“Slick Rick, if you only knew how many shorties I met off your songs!” Adams called out to the rapper in attendance — a recipient of the 2023 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award — to raucous laughter and cheers. “Now let’s bring home the GRAMMYs!”
That’s all changing, said one GRAMMY-winning trombonist.
“I feel like it’s a musical shift,” Doug Beavers, a member of Spanish Harlem Orchestra who co-produced their latest album, Imágenes Latinas, told GRAMMY.com. To him, this year’s GRAMMYs nominations list — said album is up for Best Tropical Latin Album — reflects an increased grounding in artistic communion, and the here and now.
“Instead of relying on our eyes, we’re going back to our ears more,” Beavers continues. “I feel like what’s represented is good-quality, listenable music. We’re going from the streaming stuff and gimme, gimme, gimme now, to: Let’s sit down with this record and really enjoy what they’re trying to say with it.”
It’s worth stressing that the General Field is not the be-all-end-all of the GRAMMYs nominations; all fields, from American Roots Music to Global Music to Best New Age, Ambient or Chant, are of the most esteemed importance. Driving this home was the preponderance of musical theater artists on the red carpet.
While you might have to scroll down 63 sections to find that field, it’s essential to what Adams called “the baddest city in the world” — and to the Recording Academy.
Jason Veasey, who performs as part of the Broadway musical “A Strange Loop,” cites the importance of cast recordings to those who can’t readily travel to — or live in — the Big Apple. “Until I got to New York, it was the only thing that I had,” he told GRAMMY.com. “All these idols that I loved, I learned about through a [vinyl] album or CD.”
Flash forward to the 2023 GRAMMYs, where “A Strange Loop” is nominated for Best Musical Theater Album: Veasey is touched by the honor due to the primacy of the format. “That’s how half of our fans found the show,” he says. “So, with that genre and art form, it’s actually one of the most important things that can happen.”
When considering the weight of a GRAMMY nomination, John-Andrew Morrison — who was part of the original cast of “A Strange Loop” — looks back to his childhood abroad.
“The GRAMMYs have been something that I watched since I was a little kid in Jamaica,” he tells GRAMMY.com. “I’ve seen all these brilliant reggae artists and all of these people win, and it’s been the pride of Jamaica to see that every year.”
Morrison notes that getting a show to Broadway is something of a superhuman feat: to him, “a million and two things have to go right at exactly the same time.” “To be able to make a Broadway debut on a show that I love in an industry that I love, and then have all of that wonderful stuff happen,” he continues, “to then get nominated for a GRAMMY feels like supremely rarefied air.”
Read More: 2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List
Jazz singer/songwriter Nicole Zuraitis was nominated for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals at the 2019 GRAMMYs. As she looks ahead to her upcoming album, the Christian McBride-co-produced How Love Begins, in July, she considers how the nomination changed her trajectory.
“I think [husband, drummer, composer, and fellow GRAMMY nominee] Dan [Pugach] and I were at the point in 2018 where we were working so hard, but not getting very far,” Zuraitis tells GRAMMY.com. “And when we got our GRAMMYnomination… there’s that validation of the hard work that we put in.”
“The Recording Academy makes us want to put out the best work that we possibly can,” she continues. “My best work, I think, is ahead of me.”
These two worlds that can be a little niche — musical theater and jazz — are not lost on the Recording Academy, and they were tremendous presences at the 2023 New York Chapter Nominee Celebration. In a hypercompetitive city, under a global culture where pop can hold something of a monopoly, seeing these worlds so happily and generously represented was moving. (This especially applied to musical theater; folks from “MJ: The Musical,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “SIX,” and more were on the red carpet.)
Maybe the cultural, technological and pandemic-related squeeze is giving way, it was hard not to think. Maybe we’re sitting down and really listening.
This year’s annual platinum event partner was The Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment, along with annual gold event partner Great South Bay Music Group, and annual silver event partners include Concord and The Orchard. GREY GOOSE® Vodka is the official spirits partner.
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