NEW YORK - A group of Latin jazz musicians are suing the US National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for cutting the Grammy award category of best Latin jazz album.
In April, the Grammys announced a restructuring plan that cut 109 award categories down to 78.
Awards for Latin music were cut from eight to four. Some of the other awards to be cut were individual prizes for classical, zydeco and Native American music albums.
"[The Academy] shouldn't have done this," warned attorney Roger Maldonado.
"The concern is by lumping several categories together, it makes it much easier for larger record labels and those artists who have already gained recognition to dominate," Maldonado said. "Even being nominated for the award has enormous value for these musicians."
The Academy fired back, "This frivolous lawsuit is without merit," they replied, "and we fully expect to prevail."
These alterations are "irresponsible", Carlos Santana declared in a statement, while Paul Simon called the restructuring "a disservice to many talented musicians".
Percussionist Bobby Sanabria and pianist Mark Levine are among the artists who have joined the class action lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, calling for the reinstatement of the category.
Neil Portnow, president of the Academy tried to put a positive spin on the restructuring, "It ups the game in terms of what it takes to receive a Grammy. We are talking about the most prestigious, coveted award and it should be a high bar in terms of the measurement of receiving that."
Critics need to "work with their local trustees to draft proposals [for change]," board chair George Flanigen said. "We welcome member participation."
Not everyone thinks Flanigen is sincere. "George's statement that he welcomes 'member participation' is a joke, because this restructuring was undertaken without any knowledge by the membership or even by the [Academy] governors," complained Sandy Cressman, a former Academy board member.
"Portnow has said the Grammys have become too diverse and that it's too easy to win a Grammy," Sanabria complained. "How dare he say that! So you mean the four nominations I've gotten don't mean jack? These guys are cutting their nose to spite their face. That's elitist privilege."