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Jazz FM Awards 2018 - a banner year for Ezra Collective | reviews, news & interviews

Jazz FM Awards 2018 - a banner year for Ezra Collective

Jazz FM Awards 2018 - a banner year for Ezra Collective

Free jazz icons to bona fide jazz royalty are honoured at the fifth edition of the Awards

Award winners Zara McFarlane and Cécile McLorin SalvantRichard Young

Hosted by Jazz FM presenters Chris Philips and Jez Nelson on UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, rising stars and international icons were honoured at the fifth Jazz FM Awards on Monday night.

Grammy winner earlier this year for her remarkable 2CD set Dreams and Daggers, watching Cécile McLorin Salvant silence a capacity crowd at Shoreditch Town Hall with her vivdly dramatic reading of “The Peacocks (A Timeless Place)”, accompanied by regular pianist Aaron Diehl, was one of the evening’s standout moments. It followed her acceptance of International Jazz Artist of the Year.

Sax player and free improv icon, Evan Parker – back again having presented the Gold Award to Charlie Watts at the 2017 Awards – proved a popular recipient of Instrumentalist of the Year. Announcing the result, comedian and writer Stewart Lee said of Parker that he's "still pushing forwards and experimenting and setting himself new challenges all the time".

With an exceptionally strong shortlist that featured Blue Note All-Stars (Our Point of View), Cécile McLorin Salvant (Dreams and Daggers), Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (Diaspora), Denys Baptiste (The Late Trane), Phronesis (The Behemoth) and Thundercat (Drunk), Album of the Year – one of three categories voted for by the public – went to bassist, producer, and singer-songwriter, Thundercat.

Other international winners included Robert Cray for Blues Artist of the Year, Moonchild for Soul Artist of the Year, plus bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding for Digital Initiative of the Year  the creation of Spalding's most recent album, the limited edition Exposure, was streamed on Facebook Live over three days. “Thank you so much Jazz FM,” Spalding noted, “for amplifying this music and keeping it present and available. We have to be exposed to it for it to enter us  once that thing gets in there it's really hard to kick it." 

A previous recipient of Instrumentalist of the Year Award in 2015 and UK Jazz Act of the Year in 2017, sax player, bandleader and composer Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming, Shabaka and the Ancestors) continued his remarkable run by picking up Jazz Innovation of the Year for his array of musical projects.

Nubya Garcia, Pat Metheny and members of Ezra Collective

Breakthrough Act of the Year went to the rising UK star, sax player Nubya Garcia, who subsequently let loose her gorgeous, fulsome tone in a dazzling live performance accompanied by pianist and Musical Director Ashley Henry and the Jazz FM House Band. (Pictured left: Nubya Garcia with Pat Metheny and members of Ezra Collective, photo courtesy of Richard Young.)

It was a huge night for the London quintet Ezra Collective, who collected awards for UK Jazz Act of the Year and Live Experience of the Year for their Islington Assembly Hall gig as part of last year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, with both categories voted for by the public.

The evening’s most heart-warming moment saw Jacqui Dankworth presenting the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award to her mother, Dame Cleo Laine – the latter being the only artist to have been nominated for a Grammy in jazz, pop and classical music, as Chris Philips noted in his introduction. Dame Cleo then received a standing ovation following her incredibly touching performance of the Gershwin standard, “I've Got a Crush on You”, accompanied by pianist John Horler. (Pictured below right: Dame Cleo Laine, photo courtesy of Richard Young.)

Dame Cleo LaineWith a shortlist that included the stellar talents of Liane Carroll and Alice Zawadzki, the wondrous Zara McFarlane picked up Vocalist of the Year, presented by self-confessed “jazz fiend”, BBC news journalist Clive Myrie. “If there’s anyone here from the Home Office, my passport has been checked,” Myrie quipped.

Fabled US guitarist Pat Metheny, inducted last month into the 2018 class of NEA Jazz Masters and the recipient of a staggering 20 Grammys, received the PRS for Music Gold Award, while fellow US guitarist George Benson received the Impact Award for his incredible five-decade career bringing jazz, soul, funk and more to a huge international audience.

"When I look at the community of musicians gathered here by Jazz FM," Metheny noted in his acceptance speech, "representing an unbelievably wide variety of musical styles and dialects, I feel a kinship we all share in our commitment to creativity. For me, music is endless, eternal, infinite. While it often springs from the conditions of a moment in time, at its best it becomes timeless."

The full list of winners:

Instrumentalist of the Year: Evan Parker

Soul Artist of the Year: Moonchild

Breakthrough Act of the Year: Nubya Garcia

Blues Artist of the Year: Robert Cray

Vocalist of the Year: Zara McFarlane

International Jazz Artist of the Year: Cécile McLorin Salvant

Album of the Year (public vote): Thundercat – Drunk

UK Jazz Act of the Year (public vote): Ezra Collective

Digital Initiative of the Year: Esperanza Spalding – Exposure

Jazz Innovation of the Year: Shabaka Hutchings

Live Experience of the Year (public vote): Ronnie Scott’s presents Ezra Collective – EFG London Jazz Festival at Islington Assembly Hall

Impact Award: George Benson

PPL Lifetime Achievement Award: Dame Cleo Laine

PRS for Music Gold Award: Pat Metheny


Watch Thundercat perform 'Show You The Way’ from Drunk

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