Well, let's move from the pre-telecast to the artists you did see on TV, if you were watching; the winners and nominees who were on stage at the Staples Center for a marathon evening ceremony. NPR television critic Eric Deggans joins us to talk about the big show.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: First, let me ask you this. With most of the awards given out actually before the ceremony, the Grammys - unlike the Oscars - are not really an awards show. What would you call it?
French dance music producers Daft Punk won Album of the Year for Random Access Memories and Record of the Year for their hit "Get Lucky" at the 56th annual Grammy awards on Sunday night. In a ceremony heavy on collaborative performances (Robin Thicke with Chicago, Kendrick Lamar with Imagine Dragons and Metallica with Lang Lang were a few of the more random pairings) and light on surprise, no single artist dominated.
This Sunday's Grammy Awards ceremony is the annual big-ticket item for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. More than 28 million people around the world tuned in to watch the concert show last year. And this year's telecast is once again being touted as the most complicated — and expensive — production on TV.
Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 11:42 am
Just before 11 o'clock on a crisp Monday night in Hollywood, 82-year-old Kenny Burrell put his Gibson guitar in its velvet-lined case and said goodnight to several members of the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited. He had just finished an intermission-free, two-hour-plus set with the large ensemble, as he has done once a month since the summer. Waiting patiently among the suits and smiles was a 21-year-old guitarist eager to meet his idol. When the room finally cleared, Burrell was amiable and inquisitive, talking to the young fan about music and Michigan, where he grew up.
Odd musical mergers in the Grammy Awards telecast are nothing new — remember Paul McCartney, Linkin Park and Jay-Z singing "Yesterday?" Still, when thrash metal band Metallica and classical pianist Lang Lang take the stage together Sunday night, it may seem more like a head-scratcher than a clever match.
Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 2:05 pm
She's probably not among your first, or second, or 10th, or 20th-round guesses, but the NFL just announced that American soprano Renee Fleming will sing the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2.
About 10 years ago, a disgruntled pianist in Los Angeles named John Wood began a popular bumper sticker campaign with the slogan, "Drum Machines Have No Soul." Not everyone was convinced, including producer Eric Sadler.
"Drum machines don't run themselves," Sadler says. "It's the people who put into the drum machines that give the drum machines soul, to me. I've definitely given some drum machines some soul."
After 15 months of acrimony, the longest labor dispute at a major American symphony orchestra has ended. The Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians reached an agreement last night and players will return to work on February 1. While all sides are relieved, most admit the hard work of rebuilding some seriously damaged bridges is just about to begin.
Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 5:07 pm
The logo for the 2014 Winter Jazzfest, marking the festival's 10th anniversary, is a giant iceberg floating into New York harbor. Like the iceberg, this year's edition was both big — 90-plus groups over five nights, representing just a small portion of a larger scene — and cold and wet, in that it rained both nights of the music marathon last Friday and Saturday evening. But Winter Jazzfest was hot on the inside, as we soaked up great music like a sponge.
In the room he uses as a practice space and office in his apartment in Corona, Queens, Jimmy Heath recalls a hit record from long ago.
"It's a song Bill Farrell, a popular singer, had years ago," he says, and then sings: "You've changed, you're not the angel I once knew / No need to tell me that we're through / It's all over now, you've changed." Then the 5'3" musician with the big sound picks up his tenor saxophone and blows.
One of America's most important — and controversial — literary figures, Amiri Baraka, died on Thursday from complications after surgery following a long illness, according to his oldest son. Baraka was 79.
Baraka co-founded the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. His literary legacy is as complicated as the times he lived through, from his childhood — where he recalled not being allowed to enter a segregated library — to the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. His poem about that attack, "Somebody Blew Up America," quickly became infamous.
Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 10:31 am
"Loudly and wildly the music played, always pointing to the light, to the way out, or the way in, to individualism, and to the remarkable if unsettling notion that life could possibly be lived as you might wish it to be lived."
Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz, who at age 20 swept all five top prizes at the 2005 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, can now add another prestigious award to his collection. Early Wednesday, Blechacz was named the 2014 Gilmore Artist.
The Gilmore may not have quite the name recognition as the Chopin Competition, but it has a distinguished cachet of its own, plus a generous $300,000 cash award.
At the entrance of a new exhibit at Montreal's Musée d'Art Contemporain, visitors are greeted with a red neon glow and a ping-pong of sounds. A dubstep groove thumps. A high-hat skitters. A pow-wow chant echoes from another room.
Beat Nation: Hip Hop as Indigenous Culture has become something of an art sensation in Canada. Featuring more than two dozen artists using beats, graffiti, humor and politics to challenge stereotypes, the exhibit coincides with the growth of Idle No More, an indigenous political movement in Canada.