Glitz and glamour at the Jazz FM Awards




Bruce Lindsay finds there's plenty to celebrate on the UK and international jazz scene at the first ever Jazz FM Awards in London

Text and photos by Bruce Lindsay

The inaugural Jazz FM Awards, which took place at London's One Marylebone on 31 January, brought some glitz and glamour to the UK jazz scene and heralded the arrival of a welcome new event in the jazz calendar. A dozen awards were up for grabs, some of the finest musicians around had been nominated and there was a relaxed and good-natured feel to the evening. Ian Shaw (pictured below) acted as Master Of Ceremonies, keeping things (almost) under control with a mix of bad jokes and bonhomie.

The winners of two major awards had already been announced: Ramsey Lewis was the recipient of the first Gold Award For Outstanding Contribution To Jazz, presented by Jazz FM's Helen Mayhew, and Ahmad Jamal received his Lifetime Achievement Award from Jamie Cullum. Both men seemed delighted with their honours and received genuinely warm congratulations from the audience.

There were at least three nominees for each of the remaining awards, including UK Jazz Artist Of The Year which was decided by public vote. While the nomination processes were, like many awards, shrouded in a degree of mystery, there's no denying that the lists of nominees were strong and all of the winners deserved their recognition.

The Neil Cowley Trio won the award for UK Jazz Artist Of The Year, beating off stiff competition from Jamie Cullum and Troyka. UK Instrumentalist Of The Year went to alto saxophonist Nathaniel Facey (pictured above). Fittingly, fellow saxophonist Courtney Pine presented the award to the sharply dressed Facey and the young altoist then gave a charmingly self-effacing speech. It was also pleasing to see John Surman picking up the Album Of the Year accolade for Saltash Bells, overcoming a quintet of American nominees including Pat Metheny and Keith Jarrett.

There was plenty of live music on the night, including some superb performances from the award winners. Ramsey Lewis played a delightful three-tune solo set including a beautiful version of John Coltrane's Dear Lord. Nathaniel Facey showed exactly why he deserved his award when he joined Ian Shaw for a rendition of I Remember You, and UK Vocalist Of The Year Carleen Anderson followed up a very emotional acceptance speech with an equally emotional performance of the Oasis classic Don't Look Back In Anger.

Congratulations should also go to the event organisers for ensuring that everything went as smoothly as it did. Only one glitch was apparent to the audience and, in truth, it added to the evening's fun. Gregory Porter won the UK Live Show Of The Year award, but like a number of winners he wasn't able to attend and so it was planned that he would accept the award in a short recorded video. However, the screened video was not of Porter's speech, but Robert Glasper's acceptance speech for his Cutting Edge Award, which was yet to be announced. Whether anyone took the opportunity to place a last-minute bet on the Cutting Edge winner isn't known.

On this showing, the Jazz FM Awards look set to join the Parliamentary Jazz Awards as a major annual event in UK jazz. There's plenty of room for both. The Parliamentary awards – a less glamorous, more informal affair – recognise people on the UK scene, while the Jazz FM Awards – apparently a politician-free zone, at least this year – have a more international perspective. They're both enjoyable and, more to the point, they can only help to bring wider recognition to the UK jazz scene.

A full list of winners and nominees can be found at www.jazzfmawards.com.


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