I'm delighted to announce the nine ensembles shortlisted to take part in the Yamaha Jazz Experience competition finals, hosted by Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 1 May 2010. Jazz FM broadcaster Helen Mayhew joined leading jazz educator Richard Michael and me, Yamaha's education liaison manager, Bill C Martin, to make the selection at Yamaha UK headquarters in early March.
The finalists for each category (ages as on 1 September 2009):
11 & under 15: Blue Lizard (Manchester Music Service); Pimlico Junior Jazz (Pimlico Academy); Blue Shift (Guildhall School of Music & Drama Junior Department)
11 & under 17: St Ignatius Jazz (St Ignatius College, Enfield); Dumfries Youth Jazz Group (Dumfries Youth Jazz); Time Team (Northampton Music & Performing Arts Service)
11 & under 19: Tomorrow's Warriors Biggish Band (Tomorrow's Warriors, London); Friendly Bacteria (GSMD Junior Department, London); Chetham's Jazz Sextet (Chetham's School of Music, Manchester)
Jazz ensembles from all over the UK - from Shetland in the north of Scotland, down to Devon on England's south-west peninsula - entered ensembles for the competition, with a chance to win gigs at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott's, The 606 Club and The Bull's Head Jazz Club in south-west London on 1 May 2010, along with a total of £9,000 worth of Yamaha prizes for their school, college or community centres.
To enter, participants had to set up a jazz ensemble comprising piano (or keyboard/vibes), bass, drums and optionally up to five additional performers. They had to prepare a blues and either a jazz standard or a piece of their own choosing, with impro at its heart, video their best performance of them and send them to Yamaha them to Yamaha.
Then in early March 2010 two of the distinguished Yamaha Jazz Experience judges, Helen Mayhew (jazz broadcaster, Jazz FM) and Richard Michael (2009 Parliamentary Jazz 'Jazz Educator' award winner and Yamaha Jazz Experience workshop leader), joined Yamaha's Bill C Martin for the difficult job of choosing only nine ensembles to take part in the competition finals in Cheltenham.
Helen, Richard and I had a fantastic time watching and listening to the wonderful video entries, from every conceivable kind of educational and music institution and from all over the UK. I was particularly pleased to hear entries from some of those teachers new to jazz who took part in our Jazz Experience workshops in 2009, and who have clearly moved their own skills on tremendously. We were stunned by the overall quality of musicianship in the entries, which made it very difficult to choose only nine finalists! We want to thank all the teachers and music leaders who have clearly put in so much work with their ensembles and, even if they haven't got through to the finals on this occasion, they may be consoled to know that Helen has noted names and will be on the lookout for emerging new jazz stars, no doubt to feature on her Jazz FM programme, 'The Yamaha Jazz Jam', in the future!"
On 1 May the nine finalists will perform before a distinguished judging panel of: Julian Joseph (internationally acclaimed jazz pianist and Jazz Experience workshop leader), Andrea Vicari (jazz professor at Trinity College of Music, professional jazz musician with Andrea Vicari Trio, director of Dordogne Jazz Summer School and Jazz Experience workshop leader), Liane Carroll (inspirational jazz singer, winner of 2008 Parliamentary Jazz 'Musician of the Year' award winner), Helen Mayhew (jazz broadcaster, Jazz FM), Peter Ind (Jazz Experience patron and legendary jazz double bass player) and inspirational jazz educator Richard Michael.
The judges will announce the winners at the event.
We would like to thank the Yamaha Jazz Experience venue partners, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott's, the 606 Club and the Bull's Head Jazz Club in London. We wish all the finalists the greatest success.
Yesterday I spent a wonderful afternoon at Chappell's music shop in Wardour Street, London, with Yamaha jazz artists Julian Joseph and Tim Garland. If you're just getting into jazz but haven't yet heard these guys, you really should! The occasion was to record a short video clip with each of them on two subjects:
1) what first got them into jazz
2) what improvisation practice advice they would give to music teachers who can already play their instruments well but who are taking their first steps in improvising.
The insight of these two amazing musicians is stunning! We kept the camera rolling afterwards while they chatted about a range of jazz-related topics that are essential viewing for anyone who wants to improve their improvising. We will post a link to highlights from the video here in a few days but teachers should enrol on one of the Jazz Experience workshops to get the full picture and begin the journey to really get your improvising working well. Once on that journey you'll have access to some great new ways to inspire young people musically and to help them unleash their own personal and musical creativity, in whatever genre they wish to apply it.
To join the project, download the application form and return it to Bill Martin at the email address on the form.