Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and Stars Jam at J Records Bash

J Records  

Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and Stars Jam at J Records Bash

It’s simply not enough to tell you that a lot of big name stars turned out at the Beverly Hills Hotel last night for Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy bash. I mean, at one point this jaded reporter was hyperventilating as I looked around the room at all the A-list names. So little time, so many questions.

For Davis, this year’s party was even sweeter than usual because it signaled the end of J Records’ first full year in business — and the ascent of the label as a force in the ailing record industry. Thanks to Alicia Keys’ six Grammy nominations and nearly 8 million albums sold worldwide, Davis didn't miss a beat in the transition from Arista to J last year.

You might say it was business as usual, but it never is in this unusual world. Rock stars, movie stars and business stars all came out to pay their respect to Davis. Even though the mood around the Grammy’s this week has been cool beacuse of the industry's poor record sales, the ebullience in the banquet room at the Beverly Hills Hotel was off the charts.

Imagine, for example, that the evening ended with an all- star jam session featuring Destiny’s Child, Justin Timberlake, Patti Labelle, Angie Stone, Mary Mary, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder all performing Stevie’s hits “I Wish,” “As” and “Superstition,” with dollops of “Do I Do,” and Keys’s hit, “Fallin’.”

Faces in the audience, seated at round tables more or less divided by record label, represented a cross-section of familiar faces that ranged in age, color and musical genre. This group included Rod Stewart, Natalie Cole, Freda Payne, the O’Jays, Diana Krall, Tony Bennett, Bonnie Pointer, Sean Combs, Busta Rhymes and actors Wesley Snipes, Tony Curtis, Kevin Pollack and Ian McKellen.

That's not all: at the center table in the front sat all of 'Nsync with Britney Spears, plus Lance Bass' parents and Justin Timberlake’s mom. The Backstreet Boys sat across two tables. At a sort of Hollywood royalty table were Dick and Patti Clark, David Foster and Linda Thompson, socialite extraordinaire Barbara Davis (wearing a brooch of emeralds set in diamonds that could have paid the national debt), CBS president Les Moonves and Los Angeles Dodgers managing partner Bob Daley with his wife, songwriter Carole Bayer Sager.

Nearby, AOL Time Warner chairmen Steve Case and Richard Parsons were busy chatting with Quincy Jones. Burt Bacharach and his wife were also on hand — at Barry Manilow’s table, which was right next to one with Rod Stewart and famed record producer Richard Perry. Their left was Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas. Somewhere in the front, Carlos Santana held court not far from Courtney Love.

If all that didn’t make heads swivel, how about Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock at the same table with Atlnatic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun and his wife, designer Mica? Penny Marshall was somewhere in that area, as were Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds with his wife, Tracey, plus Naomi Campbell, Chris Rock and his wife.

In his introduction, Davis — who like everyone else managed to speak without a TelePrompter — said: “We must speak our minds and protect our music,” — a reference to the ongoing battle over intellectual property in the music business that encompasses Internet downloading and CD burning. “We support artists’ rights,” Davis said.

That must have been good news to Courtney Love, who brought her seven-year-old daughter Frances Bean Cobain and sat at the Universal Music table. This was a tad curious since Love is currently suing Universal to get out of her contract. In fact, UMG president Doug Morris — who introduced Davis — skedaddled away from Love and left the banquet hall right after his remarks.

But Courtney would not just be a wallflower at such a table, would she? She talked off the ear of Universal’s Zack Horowitz, the guy she’s really suing to get away from, for a solid two hours. She smoked a cigarette and held Horowitz captive — he turned almost as white as her sheer cowboy dress. At one point she said to Frances, “This is the man mommy’s having a war with.” The child yawned, and sometime around 11:30 p.m. she was removed from the room.

Nevertheless, Love — who’s trying to overturn the law that binds artists to labels for seven years and thus exit Universal — did not give up. As mesmerizing act after act took the stage — Krall dueting with Bennett, the O’Jays pounding out “Love Train,” Angie Stone and Alicia Keys dueting on Stone’s new single — Love just kept on talking at Horowitz who, to his credit, never yawned. He did, however, look as though he’d been stuffed or programmed by a mad scientist to just sit and listen. I don’t think he blinked.

Courtney, by the way, wore silver boots that looked like they came from an episode of the old Flash Gordon series. When I asked her about being invited to Dani Janssen’s forthcoming exclusive Oscar party, she observed, “I can’t believe I made the cut!”

Davis’s dinner is so intimate, spontaneous and full of fun that it almost seems anticlimactic to have the Grammys at this point. Certainly a Grammy star, Keys turned in spellbinding performances last night of “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” and “Fallin'.” She is even more self-assured than a year ago, and gutsier in her approach to the music. She features her three back up singers in solos — which is very unusual — and they all shined. She thanked Davis, the J Records staff and everyone who’d supported her over the last year. It was heartfelt. She laughed when she said, “I never even knew what retail really was.” Now she knows — it’s album sales, and she’s had plenty.

During the big jam session at the end, all the performers in the room were asked to come up on stage. Of the whole boy band posse, only Timberlake took the opportunity. Kevin and A.J. of Backstreet Boys, Joey, Lance and J.C. of 'Nysync and Britney Spears all chose to remain soldered to their seats and kept their singing to a low, low hum. But guess what? For better or worse, Justin can sing. He even seems to be plotting a future for himself as a solo act, and has a nice, fun presence on stage. Who knew?

If that’s the main thing we got out of Clive Davis’s remarkable evening, then that was worth it. But much more tomorrow and Friday, including Rod Stewart’s quote of the week.