Of Wins and Wins

The image on the screens at the Grammy Premiere Ceremony Sunday, as the nomination was read.

Being nominated for a GRAMMY for my liner notes for Astor Piazzolla, The American Clave Recordings, his “American” trilogy, was personally meaningful. The late Astor Piazzolla was a musical hero of mine and an inspiration to become a musician while growing up in Buenos Aires. Kip Hanrahan, the brilliant producer of these recordings, is a dear friend.

Getting the nomination was quite an (unexpected) achievement. Winning was another matter. The category included truly excellent work by John Schneider (for Harry Partch, 1942), Ted Olson on Doc Watson (Life’s Work: A Retrospective), and Gareth Murphy (for Andy Irvine & Paul Brady). And congratulations to Bob Mehr for winning the Grammy for the notes for Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)

I was disappointed, of course — and my next thought was to apologize to Astor and Kip. I felt I had failed them. When I mentioned it to Kip in a message, he didn’t want to hear about it and did what friends do: he threw me a lifeline. “Nothing having to do with Astor has ever gotten a Grammy before. This is as close as we got.”

Come to think of it, I don’t believe Kip, despite the exceptional body of work he has created over the past 40 years, has received his due, either.

I take this as a win, then. This is for you, Astor, and Kip. Thank you for the music.

The Palladium Ballroom Alive Again in Miami Beach

The Big 3 Palladium Orchestra performing “Avisale a mi Contrario” led by Tito Rodriguez Jr. (Sammy Gonzalez, vocals; Jimmy Bosch, trombone)

No place impacted the development and popularity of Latin music in the United States more than the Palladium Ballroom, the fabled Home of the Mambo. Located at the northeast corner of Broadway and 53rd Street, it started as a dance studio in 1946, and the following year, it added a live show on Sundays. The response was such that soon after, the Palladium was hosting live Latin music Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

As the rumba craze took over the country in 1948 and through the 1950s, the undisputed kings of the Palladium  – and mambo, cha-cha-cha, and the world of Latin music bubbling up to the surface in American culture –  were Machito and his Afro-Cubans, the Tito Puente Orchestra and Tito Rodriguez.

They were The Big 3 and not only set the bar by which Latin orchestras have been judged since, but their innovations changed the sound and accents of American music.

The 2023 South Beach Jazz Festival (Jan. 5 through Jan. 8 ) promises a compelling sampler of styles and talent, from established veterans to future stars. But a particularly intriguing highlight is the Big 3 Palladium Orchestra conjuring the sound of the Palladium Ballroom in New York City. The orchestra, led by three musicians with famous fathers and artists in their own right, Mario Grillo, the son of the great sonero Francisco “Machito” Grillo, Tito Puente Jr., and Tito Rodriguez Jr., performs Mambo Night in Miami Beach at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7 at the Miami Beach Bandshell (7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach).

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Astor Piazzolla and a GRAMMY Nomination



Astor Piazzolla (center) and his exceptional Quintet, with which he recorded two of the albums of his great “American” trilogy. From left to right, Horacio Malvicino, electric guitar; Hector Console, double bass; Fernando Suárez Paz, violin; and Pablo Ziegler, piano.

When an old friend at the Recording Academy surprised me yesterday morning with a message congratulating me on the GRAMMY nomination in the Album Notes category, my natural response was to thank her — and immediately think she was likely mistaken. We all have high hopes for our friends. But I didn’t want to say anything until I saw the list — and I did, and there it was.

It’s a nomination for the notes for Nonesuch’s Astor Piazzolla The American Clavé Recordings, a trilogy that includes Tango Zero Hour (1986), The Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night (Tango Apasionado) (1987), and La Camorra (1988)

It’s a privilege to have your work considered by your peers, in my case, writers I’ve read and learned from for many years. But it is also special for me that these notes are about Astor Piazzolla (my musical hero growing up in Buenos Aires) and his work with Kip Hanrahan, one of the most creative and generous people I know, and a dear friend.

The 2023 GRAMMYs take place Sunday, Feb. 5.

  1. Best Album Notes
  • The American Clavé Recordings
    Fernando González, album notes writer (Astor Piazzolla)
  • Andy Irvine & Paul Brady
    Gareth Murphy, album notes writer (Andy Irvine & Paul Brady)
  • Harry Partch, 1942
    John Schneider, album notes writer (Harry Partch)
  • Life’s Work: A Retrospective
    Ted Olson, album notes writer (Doc Watson)
  • Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)
    Bob Mehr, album notes writer (Wilco)

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