Backstage notes

Good tunes and good times

Producer Matt Serletic and songwriter Itaal Shur recounted the experience of bringing “Smooth” into its Grammy-winning incarnation. Shur had brought the song to Arista Records, where Pete Gambarg brought it to the attention of Rob Thomas. The song was then forwarded to Carlos Santana.

“We were in San Francisco and in a whirlwind way we said, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ ” Serletic said. “Rob walked in, Carlos walked in and in the second take we had all we needed.”

Shur agreed, saying “it’s the live version of the demo.” Serletic said Santana intends to spend the next four months learning contemporary recording techniques.

* * *

“Tarzan” swung into the winner’s circle via Phil Collins and he’s ready to head back into the animation jungle. “I’m in the process of writing for another Disney film,” he said, “and I hope to be more involved in the score.” The pic is four years away. In the meantime, he may start work on a solo album but he’s truly looking to spend time on his boat.

* * *

A shocked Christina Aguilera said that she hopes to “try to take pop a little deeper. I wish it wasn’t only about image. I would love to record the Etta James song ‘At Last.’ ” Before that happens, Aguilera will record a Spanish language album beginning in April, which she hopes will have a fall release. She will also be recording a Christmas album. “I want more writing credibility,” she said.

* * *

Rap artist Sean “Puffy” Combs was indicted Wednesday along with his bodyguard on charges of bribing a witness.

Combs, 30, already faces gun possession charges in connection with the Dec. 27 shooting.

“I am outraged by this new charge,” Combs, who was attending the Grammy Awards, said in a statement. “I am not guilty. From the outset I have firmly believed that the Manhattan district attorney’s office has unfairly targeted me for baseless charges.”

* * *

Rap band The Roots, which is the rare hiphop act that features instrumentalists, will soon launch its own label, Motive. They will start with three acts. While rap on the telecast was limited to Kid Rock, Roots bassist Leonard Hubbard said, “This event deals with whatever is current. It’s understandable that Latin acts would be emphasized. In America, we need a greater understanding of international music.”

* * *

This year’s Grammy ceremony was bound and determined to emphasize Latin music as it prepares a ceremony of Latin Grammys. For the purists there were two Latin artists from Cuba, Chucho Valdez and Ibrahim Ferrer.

Valdez, the pianist who performed during the Grammy ceremony, said Cuba and the U.S. need a greater exchange program because “it’s important for the Cuban musicians (for exposure) and for North Americans to see the new currents in Cuba.”

Valdez, who records for Blue Note, will tour the U.S. again this summer, making a stop at the Hollywood Bowl. Each tour he makes, Valdez said through an interpreter, he sees “more enthusiasm for his music and more people at the venues.”

Ferrer, the 73-year-old singer behind the Buena Vista Social Club, said he enjoyed going second in the performance lineup because “I got the impact of the first performer (Marc Anthony).” He expects to record a follow-up to “BVSC Presents” in Cuba in October. Unfortunately, none of the Buena Vista records has been issued in his homeland.

* * *

Producer of the year Walter Afanasieff is looking forward to working with the rock band Train after winning for his work with pop stars Ricky Martin, Barbra Streisand and Kenny G. “They’ll be a better and a bigger band,” he said, contributing it to their own maturity rather than any contribution he will make. “I have always wanted to work with a five-piece rock band.”

Afanasieff will also be recording with Marc Anthony and Martin, two artists he says will return to more of a Latin sound. “The emphasis now is on pop. The Latin side will make a comeback.”

* * *

Emmylou Harris won for her rendition of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” but she had great things to say about another of her collaborators, Beck. The two recorded “Sin City” for a compilation of Gram Parsons songs. “It was like falling off a log,” she said of the experience. “He knew exactly what he was doing and hired a great country band. He knew exactly what he wanted to do.”

* * *

Two of the biggest names in the history of jazz walked away with Grammys: John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Granted, the awards were in historical categories, but Coltrane liner notes writer Bob Blumenthal said “The Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings” reinforced “my ideas of what constitutes enduring art.”

Arnold Levine, an art director for Davis’ “The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions,” said Davis “was a continuing source of inspiration for us. All of the packaging reflects his life and his music.”

One of Davis’ saxophonists on “Bitches Brew,” Wayne Shorter, took home a Grammy for a jazz solo and plans to expand the range of his recordings on his next release for Verve. The record will include a tune written in the 12th century and some Spanish music “that Miles gave me and said ‘do something with this.’ ”

* * *

Buoyed by the success of “Annie Get Your Gun,” former “Dukes of Hazzard” star Tom Wopat is recording an album of standards for Angel Records. Stephen Ferrera, one of the producers of “Annie Get Your Gun,” will produce the disc, which will be a concept record based on the arc of a relationship. (The idea is also the basis of Joni Mitchell’s new album.)

Ferrera and Wopat are collecting songs with an eye to a June start date and a Christmas release.

* * *

Actor Michael Clarke Duncan had a suggestion for the supporting actor Oscar: “We have to wrestle, WWF-style. Or let’s go lift weights and see who’s strongest.” Duncan, who is featured in “The Green Mile,” said he was a major fan of Mary J. Blige and the Wu-Tang Clan.

* * *

Producer/songwriter Rodney Jerkins has a busy schedule in the next several weeks. He will be producing a remake of the Rolling Stones’ “(I can’t Get No) Satisfaction” with Britney Spears, new tracks from Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls as well as a duet between Whitney Houston and George Michael.

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