Above: Solange Knowles performs for the crowd at Greystone Manor
Grammy Week kicked off in earnest last evening with several events, including the fourth annual Essence Black Women in Music. Spotlighting breakthrough artists Lianne La Havas and Solange Knowles, the soiree was hosted by the magazine's editor-at-large Emil Wilbekin at L.A. nightspot Greystone Manor. Announced co-host Kelly Rowland was unfortunately absent as Wilbekin shared that she was under the weather.
L-R: Atlantic Records' president of black music Michael Kyser chats with the artist Tank
Milling about in the audience was a diverse array of artists and industry executives who were treated to lively, three-song sets by La Havas (including "Is Your Love Big Enough") and Knowles ("Losing You"). Spotted in the crowd: Jill Scott, MC Lyte, Prince protégé Andy Allo, Dawn Richard, Tank, Eric Benét, Goapele, Kenny Lattimore, Bilal, Mario, songwriter/producer Kerry "Krucial" Brothers, new Warner Bros. artist Andra Day with label rep Roderick Scott, Atlantic's president of black music Michael Kyser, Roc Nation's Jana Fleishman and Chamber Group chief Chris Chambers. Earth, Wind & Fire's Verdine White, who joined Knowles onstage for one song, shared news that the legendary group has finished recording a new album coming later this year. Chatter during the evening ranged from comparing Grammy Week party itineraries to speculation about who will be performing in tribute to Epic chairman/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid at the annual Clive Davis/Recording Academy pre-Grammy gala on Saturday. One name bandied about? Usher.
L-R: Prince protégé Andy Allo and Billboard's Gail Mitchell