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Latin Musicians Sue Over the Grammys

on August 10, 2011with 0 comments

A group of Latin jazz musicians, angry that their genre was eliminated as a Grammy Award category, have sued the organization behind the awards to get their prize reinstated.

The suit, against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, was filed on Monday in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan by four musicians who have been vocal critics of the recording academy’s decision, announced on April 6, to eliminate 31 of its 108 categories, including Latin jazz. The musicians are Bobby Sanabria, Ben Lapidus, Mark Levine and Eugene Marlow, and the suit identifies all four as members of the academy.

The musicians had announced their intention to sue in June, along with a call for a boycott of CBS, which has broadcast the Grammys for decades.

In the suit, the musicians say that by cutting categories, the academy breached contractual obligations to its members, and that the loss of the Latin jazz category “could have a severe detrimental impact on the plaintiffs’ musical careers.” In public statements, Mr. Sanabria, a Grammy-nominated percussionist, has called the academy’s decision “the most blatant example of racism in the history of any arts organization.”

In response the Academy released this statement, “The Recording Academy believes this frivolous lawsuit is without merit, and we fully expect to prevail.” The academy has defended its changes by saying that many of the cuts were made because the number of albums submitted in those categories had dwindled, and that the changes were made as part of a two-year review that looked at all categories. Among the other changes the academy made in April were merging some folk and Latin prizes and combining the separate male and female vocalist awards in R&B, pop and country. The suit says that the Latin jazz category “has consistently met the threshold for Grammy Award submissions,” although it does not say how many albums have been submitted.

In their suit the four musicians ask for reinstatement of only the Latin jazz category, but in an interview on Tuesday Roger Maldonado, their lawyer, said: “If there were to be musicians in other categories that wanted to file their own suits, would we coordinate with them? We would be happy to do so.”

Words by: By BEN SISARIO for NY Times

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