People (including this writer) like to joke about the Grammy Award process. This is, after all, the institution that gave Jethro Tull a Grammy for best heavy metal album. In truth, such goofiness is the exception to the rule. Grammy voters often get it right, and this year, they have an opportunity to recognize one of the greatest performances that folks in Roanoke have ever heard.
Lalah Hathaway and Snarky Puppy are well on their way to such recognition, after their performance of Brenda Russell’s “It’s Something.” Retitled “Something,” with an arrangement from drummer Robert “Sput” Seawright, the roughly 7:30 number was sultry, slow and arresting when Hathaway and Snarky recorded it live in March at Jefferson Center’s Shaftman Hall.
But toward the end, it got mind-bending.
Hathaway has developed a technique in which she can harmonize with herself to awe-inducing effect. During the first of two performances on March 8, the daughter of soul/jazz/R&B legend Donny Hathaway split her voice in two, providing herself with an ethereal harmony. This video shows her splitting her voice three ways in the second performance, later that night.
The number gathered huge buzz after the video was released to youtube, to promote the “Family Dinner Vol. 1″ CD/DVD set that brought Snarky Puppy and a stellar cast of rising performers to Shaftman. Prince even tweeted it. The combination of vocal performance, band vibe and sound was a winner, with the Hathaway video getting more than 1.6 million views to date.
Over the weekend, “Something” was nominated for best R&B performance. The other nominees were Tamar Braxton (“Love and War”), Anthony Hamilton (“Best of Me”), Hiatus Kaiyote Featuring Q-Tip (“Nakamarra”) and Miguel Featuring Kendrick Lamar (“How Many Drinks?”).
I just listened to every nominated song. And I can say this with absolute objectivity — the Hathaway/Snarky performance is the best, bar none. Hathaway does something superhuman but not showy on a wonderful number in which the band supports her perfectly — on a live recording. The award is for Best R&B Performance, so if the Grammy voters do it right, they are going to select a song played in Roanoke, at the city’s premiere music venue.
At the very least, the nomination should bump sales for “Family Dinner Vol. 1,” which had already been atop the itunes jazz chart and even bounced into the Billboard jazz charts for a minute. The beautiful part of that is a portion of the sales goes to the Music Lab at Jefferson Center. Visit http://snarkypuppy.ropeadope.com/album/family-dinner-volume-1.
Come on now, Grammy Awards. Show your relevance and give this performance the full recognition is deserves.