Count Sheila E. among the artists who is upset that the Recording Academy condensed the number of Grammy Award categories from 109 to 78. But unlike some of her fellow artists, she is fighting from the inside.
"I was very offended Latin Jazz was taken out," Sheila (last name: Escovedo) told Billboard.biz at the 4th annual Mojamoja Awards Brunch and Benefit, hosted by KCRW's Garth Trinidad, at which she received this year's Vanguard Award.
Escovedo, who has been nominated for four Grammys, felt the excision of the Best Latin Jazz Album category dishonored not only her work, but the greats in the field who have come before her, including her father, Pete Escovedo and Tito Puente. "I want to officially say to [the Grammys], 'You've taken my identity away. You're basically saying I don't exist'."
Escovedo says she has discussed her objections with Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow and that the two will continue their dialogue. But she stressed that the best way to make changes was from the inside, which is why she became a Grammy Trustee last year after the changes were announced. "The only way [to effect change] is to join and have your voice heard," she said.
In the 2011 reorganizing, Grammy officials were quick to add that although categories were disappearing, no genre would become ineligible; instead, they would funnel into another, perhaps broader, category. For example, Latin jazz albums would now be submitted into the applicable jazz album category.
However, some musicians have protested such changes as de facto eliminating sub-genres. Artists such as Paul Simon, Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt have voiced their objections to the downsizing. As Billboard.biz previously reported, on Feb. 9, a group comprised mostly of Latin Jazz musicians dropped off a petition with reportedly 23,000 signatures stating the 31 eliminated categories should be re-added. Additionally, last August, four Latin jazz musicians filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court in New York, alleging the elimination of the category causes Latin jazz artists "Irreparable harm."
Escovedo's most recent release featured members of her famous family under the moniker E Family. "Now & Forever," which included guest stars Joss Stone, Gloria Estefan, Earth, Wind & Fire; and Raphael Saadiq, came out on Escovedo's own label, Stiletto Flats.