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Billboard's Own Grammy Nominee On The Art of Writing Liner Notes

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I am nominated for best album notes for Craft Recordings’ The Complete Cuban Jam Sessions, a box set of five remastered albums of improvisational sessions recorded for the pre-Revolutionary Cuban label Panart. These are my first-ever liner notes, but I previously wrote a series of articles about the label, which captured an indelible age of Cuban music in the 1940s and ’50s.

In 2016, when I read that Concord had purchased the Panart catalog as part of its acquisition of the Mexican label Musart, I cold-mailed a Concord executive. Concord’s legacy label Craft subsequently commissioned me to write the notes and co-produce the box set with Craft’s Mason Williams.

It hadn’t even occurred to me that I could be nominated for a Grammy. The other nominees in this category are all experts in specific musical genres and periods; for me, writing these notes was a chance to expound on, research and document music I care deeply about. Today, liner notes may seem vintage — words on the back of a record found in a flea market bin. But to me, they were essential literary works I read in my teen years and guideposts to my future career. Rather than a dying art, I like to think that liner notes are an evolving one.

After all, people haven’t stopped wanting to read stories about music and — thanks to renewed interest in legacy recordings and artist editions — notes, like vinyl, are making a comeback. And yes, there is a Grammy category for that.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 25, 2020 issue of Billboard.

2020 Grammy Awards