For a guy who doesn't sing, can't play guitar and hasn't toured in years, Quincy Jones made out pretty well at the Grammys last night.
Already the most nominated artist in Grammy history, the 57-year old producer, composer and arranger picked up five awards for his "Back On the Block" album, including Album of the Year and Producer of the Year. Of course, since Jones' contributions are of the back room variety, he missed out on Record of the Year and Song of the Year; those awards went, respectively, to Phil Collins, for "Another Day In Paradise," and Julie Gold for "From a Distance."
Though the bulk of his awards came in marginal categories -- Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Best Arrangement on an Instrumental, Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals -- that hardly detracted from his triumph.
In fact, Jones left the other multi-nominees in the dust.
M. C. Hammer, up for five Grammys, took home three, including Best R&B Song (which he shared with Alonzo Miller and Rick James) and Rap Solo Performance for "U Can't Touch This." Mariah Carey, also nominated five times, won only twice, taking both the Pop Vocal, Female and Best New Artist awards. Other multiple winners were Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Peterson, the duo of Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler, and the Vaughan Brothers.
But Wilson Phillips, contenders in three categories, were shut out completely.
Jones, typically, was the soul of modesty. Accepting the Album of the Year award, he recalled that Chynna Phillips, of Wilson Phillips fame, used to visit his house as an infant. "And now she's being nominated with me," he laughed. "I was getting ready to retire."
Even more amazing, Jones' album spun off two other Grammys. Ray Charles and Chaka Khan, who sang "I'll Be Good To You" on the album, took the R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Moreover, the album's title tune -- with rappers Ice-T, Melle Mel, Big Daddy Kane and Kool Moe Dee -- was named Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, prevailing over Public Enemy, whose members boycotted the show to protest alleged racism.
Sinead O'Connor, another Grammy boycotter, did win an award, for Best Alternative Music Performance. But because results in that category had been announced before the broadcast, America was unable to witness her high-minded refusal.
But high-mindedness has never really had much place in the Grammy pantheon, anyway. Perhaps the most principled aspect last night's broadcast was the insistence on actual singing and playing during the live performance segments (no Milli Vanillis this year!).
Unfortunately, that bit of musical ethics wasn't exactly to everyone's advantage. Some performances sizzled; Carey, a vision in her short, black dress, soared through "Vision of Love," while Collins, joined by a harmonious David Crosby, turned in a delightfully understated "Another Day In Paradise." But M. C. Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" was overwhelmed by its cast-of-thousands arrangement, and was too muddy to be moving. Still, he did better than Bette Midler, whose opening "From a Distance" was burdened by bad intonation and bum notes.
As usual, the telecast had its share of tribute segments, but instead of the star-studded production numbers, the homages to John Lennon and Bob Dylan were small-scale and respectful. Granted, the approach wasn't entirely fool-proof -- Tracy Chapman was left high and dry when her vocal mike cut out during her rendition of Lennon's "Imagine" -- but it definitely seemed truer to the spirit of those artists.
For a number of winners, last night's awards were tributes of a different sort, a sort of posthumous proof that each artist's music lives on. The late Roy Orbison led the way, winning the Pop Vocal, Male Grammy for "O, Pretty Woman" (from the "A Black and White Night: Live" album). Also named were Leonard Bernstein, with three awards including Best Classical Album; Vladimir Horowitz; guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan (as one of the Vaughan Brothers); the Rev. James Cleveland; and blues legend Robert Johnson, who, though dead more than half a century, took Best Historical Album for his "Complete Recordings."