New Orleans at the Grammys Sunday, Feb 13 2011 

The 53rd Grammy Awards are tonight and a number of mysteries remain. What spectacle will Lady Gaga bring to the stage? How will they announce Cee Lo Green’s “F**k You” as a nomination for record of the year? We know that it will go long and that many of the most interesting awards will be shunted off to side. And a number of New Orleans musicians will be represented in both the marquee and lesser-known categories.

Among the New Orleans nominees is Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews’ “Backatown,” which is nominated for best contemporary jazz album. The album was produced by Ben Ellman, saxophonist for Galactic. New Orleans native Wynton Marsalis is up for best improvised jazz solo in a recording with his Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra. And the venerable Dr. John will begin a season of recognition. His album “Tribal” is up for best contemporary blues album. While in March, he will be inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Although he spent a lot of time in jail on Riker’s Island, New Orleans’ own Lil Wayne is a formidable presence as a producer. His Young Money Entertainment has put forward rapper Drake, who is nominated for best new artist and best rap performance a duo or group. And the label’s Nicki Manaj and newcomer Tyga have been nominated for collaborations with other artists.

It should be no surprise to no one, but the relatively new Cajun and zydeco category is lousy with south Louisiana musicians. In fact with the Pine Leaf Boys, Chubby Carrier, Feufollet, Cedric Watson et Bijou and D.L. Menard it is a guarantee that local will carry home the Gramophone.  If you are not familiar with these acts, today’s nola.com has a collection of videos featuring their work.

Steve Earle

And finally, a couple New Orleans-related soundtracks are vying for recognition. Randy Newman’s song, “Down in New Orleans” from Disney’s “Princess and the Frog,” is up for best song from a motion picture. Dr. John recorded the tune for the film. And HBO’s “Treme,” in which New Orleans music plays a central role. A compilation album of music from the series is up for one award, while Steve Earle’s haunting song, “This City,” which closed the series’ first season, is up for another.

It’ll be nice if some of these musicians can receive some of the recognition that they so richly deserve.

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Allen Toussaint and “The Bright Mississippi” Sunday, Jan 31 2010 

The Grammy Awards will be presented tonight. Every year, it is safe say that music-wise, whether it’s jazz, blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, hip-hop, rap, well, you get the idea, there will be some musical notion from the street of New Orleans mixed in.

In recent years, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Lil Wayne, and Terence Blanchard have picked up Grammy Awards. But this year, with the exception of the Zydeco and Cajun category, New Orleans-area musicians are rather scarce among the nominees.

In spite of this, I’ll be watching to see if producer, composer, arranger, pianist, singer Allen Toussaint can score his first Grammy. Toussaint has produced acts like Irma Thomas, Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, and Meters. Others like Glen Campbell and the Pointer Sisters has had megahits with songs such as “Southern Nights” and “Yes We Can,” respectively. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the 72 year-old, with a long and distinguished musical career, has yet to win a Grammy. That could change tonight with his first jazz album “The Bright Mississippi.”

In it, Toussaint applied his experienced producer’s chops and R & B infused piano to more traditional tunes. And the result is fresh and original. Well-deserved recognition for trying something new. And while Toussaint has decided not make the trip to Los Angeles, it’s high time for him to be able to put a Grammy Award on his mantelpiece back home.

Follow-up: Chick Corea and John McLaughlin Five Piece Band bested Allen Toussaint for best jazz instrumental band. However, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra won for best large jazz ensemble, and Buckwheat Zydeco garnered best Zyedco and Cajun cd for “Lay Your Burden Down.”