When the 62nd annual Grammy awards air on Jan. 26, two Pine Belt natives will be paying especially close attention. Vasti Jackson of Hattiesburg and Christopher Ray from Sumrall both worked on projects that received Grammy nominations.
Jackson coproduced and arranged music for Grammy winner Bobby Rush’s new “Sitting On Top Of The Blues” LP, which is nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album. This is Jackson’s third nomination with Rush. Rush won his first Grammy in 2017 for his “Porcupine Meat,” which won in the Best Traditional Blues Album category.
Ray worked on Wagner’s Lohengrin, which is nominated for Best Opera Recording, while working at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram from Clarksdale, who performed just last week at The Thirsty Hippo, is also a competitor in the Best Traditional Blues album category with his album, “Kingfish.” Other competitors in the category include Jontavious Willis, Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men and Jimmie Vaughan.
Much of the music recorded for Rush’s latest CD was recorded in Hattiesburg and Jackson said one of the great things about this particular CD is is that they had the opportunity to use Hub City singers Imani Stevens, Jacobi Daughrity, and Sylvalia Brown for the background vocals on “Shake Till You Get Enough.”
Jackson had not previously worked with the backup singers, but heard them perform at Live at 5 with Jackson’s youngest son playing keyboard with them.
“They sounded pretty good,” he said.
Jackson said he wanted to add a certain flavor instead of just himself singing all the background parts. “They came over to the house and we recorded a few songs,” Jackson said. “Out of the songs I recorded I suggested one of Bobby’s songs I was working on.
When he heard the parts he liked them and we kept them.”
Jackson has been working and recording with Rush for about 39 years. The two met in McComb when Rush was performing at the Lion’s Club. A friend of Jackson’s was the drummer and had worked together when Jackson was at Jackson State University.
“He invited me to the shows and invited me to sit in,” Jackson said
“It’s been such a wonderful experience,” he said. “Hattiesburg has brought so much positive to what I do as an arranger, producer and composer. I look back having been in Hattiesburg for more than 30 years and it’s always a treat to look back and see how two of the three homes we’ve lived in music has been composed and recorded and we’ve been nominated and won Grammys. So, thank you, Hub City.”
Ray, who currently serves as assistant conductor at the San Francisco Symphony and resident conductor at Opera San Jose
In 2017, Ray joined the music staff of the renowned Bayreuth Festival where he had the opportunity to work on Wagner’s Lohengrin
“The Bayreuth Festival is the festival that Wagner started in Bayreuth, Germany, for the performances of his works,” Ray said. “I worked on the musical preparation and for the performances as one of the chorus conductors.”
Ray said this was a unique position at Bayreuth.
“Because of the unique acoustic and covered orchestra pit, the chorus watches conductors who stand out of sight on the side of the stage rather than the main conductor in the pit,” Ray said. “We have headphones and video monitors to see the main conductor/hear the orchestra and time the chorus to match with the orchestra.”
Ray said this production included an all-start cast, including the final performance of Bayreuth favorite Waltraud Meier.
“The conductor, Christian Thielemann, is one of the conductors I respect most,” Ray said. “He is the music director of the festival and is really known for conducting Wagner. I’m proud to have been a part of this production.”
Ray is a graduate of Florida State University where he studied with Douglas Fisher and Carlisle Floyd.
The Grammy’s, which includes 84 categories, will air at 7 pm. Jan. 26 on CBS.