Review: Jazz FM Awards 2017

Bruce Lindsay was at the fourth Jazz FM Awards to see the mainstream of jazz honoured while guest presenter Evan Parker joked 'I bet 98% of you have never heard of me'

The crowd, the star-name presenters, the breadth of talent displayed by the award winners and the optimistic vibe all seemed to signal one thing - the UK jazz scene is in rude health. The 2017 awards took place in London’s now glittering East End - Shoreditch Town Hall to be precise - and attracted a large, good-natured bunch of musicians, promoters, journalists and supporters.

Fourteen awards were presented on the night: three of them - UK Jazz Act Of The Year, Album Of The Year and Live Experience Of The Year - were the result of a public vote, the rest being decided by a panel of judges. The awards were presented by a varied range of guests, including Brexit challenger Gina Miller, DJ Gilles Peterson (who also won the Digital Initiative award) and singer Tanita Tikaram.

Two of the most popular awards went to Charlie Watts (pictured right) and Georgie Fame. Watts received his Gold Award from saxophonist Evan Parker, who began by modestly declaring “I bet 98% of you have never heard of me.” Watts graciously responded to Evan’s brief speech by telling the audience “I should be giving this to him.” There was also a deserved mention for Watts’s old friend and musical collaborator, bassist Dave Green. Georgie Fame received his PPL Lifetime Achievement Award from Van Morrison (Morrison and Fame pictured below left). 

Watts returned to the stage twice more, accompanied by Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood, to collect the awards for Album Of The Year and Blues Act Of The Year won by the Rolling Stones. Sir Mick did most of the talking, but all three seemed genuinely pleased with these awards for the band’s return to its blues roots on the album Blue & Lonesome. The younger generation was also represented, with the Breakthrough Act award going to the duo Yussef Kamaal while Shabaka Hutchings took home the award for UK Jazz Act Of The Year.

In contrast to much of last year’s crowd this year’s attendees were generally on their best behaviour and stylishly dressed (a nod, here, to the event’s Twitter hashtag of #onlythesharpest). Strong live performances from winners Laura Mvula, Georgie Fame and saxophonist Donny McCaslin all demonstrated that their awards were well deserved. Mvula sang The Man I Love, accompanied by pianist Oli Rockberger. McCaslin and Fame each performed with the “house band” of trumpeter Guy Barker, bassist Alec Dankworth, pianist Jim Watson and drummer James Powell.

The full list of winners was:

Breakthrough Act Of The Year (Sponsored by Yamaha)
Yussef Kamaal

International Jazz Artist Of The Year (Sponsored by Oris Watches)
Donny McCaslin

Vocalist Of The Year (Sponsored by PRS for Music)
Norma Winstone

Instrumentalist Of The Year (Sponsored by Rathbones)
Nikki Yeoh

Blues Artist Of The Year (Sponsored by The Piano Bar Soho)
Rolling Stones

Soul Artist Of The Year (Sponsored by RCS)
Laura Mvula

Jazz Innovation Of The Year (Sponsored by Mishcon de Reya)
Jaimeo Brown

Digital Initiative Of The Year (Sponsored by Pollitt & Partners)
Gilles Peterson - Worldwide FM

Album Of The Year (Public Vote) (Sponsored by Arqiva)
Rolling Stones - Blue & Lonesome

UK Jazz Act Of The Year (Public Vote) (Sponsored by Grange Hotels)
Shabaka Hutchings

Live Experience Of The Year (Public Vote)
Orphy Robinson All Stars – The Bobby Hutcherson Songbook

PPL Lifetime Achievement Award
Georgie Fame

Impact Award
Damien Chazelle

The Gold Award
Charlie Watts

Photos by Hannah Young

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