Saxophonist wins Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize

-Posted on 22.06.2017

The 2017 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize has been awarded to saxophonist and composer Tom Barford

The prize is awarded annually by Edition Records and the Academy to a graduating Academy jazz student who demonstrates excellence in both performance and composition.

The prize includes a CD release on the Edition record label and Barford, the seventh recipient, will release his album in 2018. He follows in the footsteps of previous winners saxophonist Josh Arcoleo in 2011, trumpeter Reuben Fowler in 2012, vocalist Lauren Kinsella in 2013, bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado in 2014, Ralph Wyld in 2015 and Rob Luft – whose album is due for release later this year in 2016.

The judging panel consisted of Edition Records founder Dave Stapleton, the Academy’s Head of Jazz, Nick Smart, and Evan Parker, saxophonist and lifelong collaborator of the late Wheeler. Evan Parker said: ‘Even by the high standards set by previous winners of the Kenny Wheeler Prize, Tom is something else. He has that precious combination of strong technique and an inexhaustible flow of ideas which mark him out as a very special soloist. His writing is wonderfully intricate and demanding and yet is exuberantly listenable. We are witnessing the birth of a new star in the jazz firmament. Needless to say, our decision was unanimous.’

Dave Stapleton commented: ‘It’s always a difficult decision, but Tom Barford shone out for the completeness of his musicianship as a saxophonist, composer, improviser and band leader. He presented a clear vision that was particularly coherent with both the legacy of Kenny’s own aesthetic, and with Edition’s artistic direction, and we look forward to sharing Tom’s journey on releasing his debut album.’

Kenny’s son, Mark Wheeler, said: ‘I have heard Tom a few times over the years at various Academy concerts and was always impressed by his maturity and skill, so to get the news that he had won the prize this year was wonderful. I know my Dad would have loved Tom’s playing and been excited to see how he flourishes, and it remains a source of joy for all the family that Dad’s name and legacy lives on through this fantastic prize.’

Tom Barford joined the Junior Jazz Course at the Royal Academy of Music aged 16, and went on to the Undergraduate Jazz Programme at the Academy in 2013. He performs regularly across the UK with his band, ASTEROPE, as well as co-leading and writing for a quartet involving James Maddren, Alex Hitchcock and Ferg Ireland. He said: ‘I am overwhelmed and delighted to have been chosen to be the recipient of the 2017 Kenny Wheeler Prize, especially considering how much Kenny’s music means to me and has affected everything I play and write today. I was lucky enough to meet Kenny Wheeler while studying on the Junior Jazz course at the Academy when, as he was Patron of the course, Kenny kindly came in to lend some words of advice to the young musicians. To play next to him and to hear first-hand the sheer emotiveness, power and ability to instantly connect with the listener was one of the most inspiring experiences I have had to date and is a memory that has left a lasting imprint on me as a musician.’



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