(CNN) -- Four musicians are suing the organizers of the Grammy Awards over the elimination of the Latin jazz category.
The lawsuit accuses the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and its trustees of axing awards honoring that genre "without any explanation for the basis" of their decision earlier this year.
The musicians hope the lawsuit will force academy officials to reinstate the "Best Latin Jazz Album" award at the annual ceremony, said attorney Roger Maldonado, who filed the class-action case in New York this week.
Doing away with the award was part of a reorganization announced on April 6, when the academy said it would cut the number of categories from 109 to 78.
The organization stood by the changes in a statement released after the musicians filed their suit.
"The Recording Academy believes this frivolous lawsuit is without merit, and we fully expect to prevail," the statement said.
But Maldonado said the consequences of changes in award categories are anything but trivial, violating contractual obligations to the academy's members and putting performers' livelihoods at risk.
"It will have very detrimental effects on the music careers of Latin jazz artists," he said.
Mark Levine, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said musicians have put their recording plans on hold, unsure of what to do without the possibility of winning the prestigious prize.
"This has completely upended people's business lives, their financial situations, their plans for the future, and (the academy) is supposed to be run for us," the 72-year-old jazz pianist said.
A committee spent more than a year evaluating the categories "with great objectivity and fair-mindedness, before presenting its recommendations to the Board of Trustees for ratification," the academy said when it announced the changes. Their goal, the academy said, was "ensuring that all fields be treated with parity."
But this week's lawsuit -- filed by Levine, Bobby Sanabria, Benjamin Lapidus and Eugene Marlow -- argues that eliminating the Latin jazz category means the plaintiffs and other musicians "will not have an opportunity to compete for a Grammy Award."
The academy first created a Latin jazz category in 1995, the lawsuit says. Winners have included jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and pianist and bandleader Eddie Palmieri.
"The goal of just about anybody who makes a record is to get a Grammy, because it boosts your career," said Levine, who said his workload tripled after his Grammy nomination.
But last month, Levine sent back the nomination medal he received for his 2003 album, "Isla," telling the academy he wanted nothing more to do with the organization.
Levine said he was "outraged" when he learned about the award changes, which also included cuts to classical, folk and blues music categories.
"I think it's part of the dumbing down of American culture. ... Everything seems to be heading toward an 'American Idol' kind of template," he said.