News: Dankworth Jazz Composition Prizes 2013 Awarded

Emily Dankworth presenting the 2013 Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition
(Small Group) to Tom Green

Dankworth Prize Concert
(Kings Place Hall Two, 16th February 2013. Report by Sebastian Scotney)

The two prizewinners in this fifth edition of the Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition were Tom Green, a postgraduate trombonist on the jazz course at the Royal Academy of Music, and Daniel Thorne, a saxophonist and composer originally from Western Australia.

Tom Green won the award for his composition for seven-piece band Equilibrium. A long, intricate piece, with echoes of the classically-inspired jazz ensemble style of Don Sebesky, it started with chorale writing, and then settled back rhythmically into a latin feel, but with interwoven contrapuntal writing of real intricacy - Green has a physics background we were told. The performance benefited from an impeccably tuned front four, from the crisp accuracy of Scott Chapman at the drum kit, and the supremely even bowing arm at key points of Tom McRedie on bass.

Jacqui Dankworth presenting the 2013 Dankworth Composition
Prize (Big Band) to Daniel Thorne

Daniel Thorne,a completely new name to me, graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2007. He was invited back there as composer-in-residence in 2009, and currently lives on Merseyside. His piece Neverever made extensive use of four-note descending patterns against an insistent 6/4 beat, gave the high brass opportunities to blaze. On a first hearing it felt concise, sculpted. It was an effective yet thoughtful piece, and certainly did not outstay its welcome.

The remainder of the programme, for which Nick Smart and Alec Dankworth shared conducting duties, had many highlights. If, as was hinted, rehearsal time had been tight, there was no sign of it from a band which played idiomatically and with panache throughout the evening. The stage re-configurations after every number were so slick as to be hardly if at all noticeable.

Dame Cleo Laine sang two classics from her late husband's catalogue, Shall I Compare Thee..., and It Was a Lover and his Lass from Shakespeare and All That Jazz. The impossibly long, held, controlled final note of Shall I justified and vindicated Cleo's boast, contrasting herself to Gwyneth Paltrow who merely recited this text: "As you can see, at the grand old age of 85, I'm still singing it. "

Other highlights were the two first-set vocal features, Easy Living from Emma Smith, with Owen Dawson a fast, fluent trombone soloist, and a supremely confident Too Marvellous for Words from Jacob Collier. 

This was an evening, above all, though, to celebrate, to appreciate, and to reward the art of the jazz composer. It was also an opportunity to remember the irreplaceable role which John Dankworth played in encouraging others in this country to develop as composers. As Nick Smart reminded the audience, JD had commissioned Kenny Wheeler to write Windmill Tilter when he was recoverting from dental surgery (John Kelman tells the story well HERE). Michael Gibbs, another Dankworth alumnus, was in the audience. And the concert came to a rousing close with Harvey's Festival, first performed at the late Eddie Harvey's 80th birthday in 2005.

The photographs are the best I've got so far. If anyone has anything better, yes please. The Dankworth Composition Prizes were instigated by Art Mead, and are funded by the Wavendon Foundation and the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Judges were Nikki Iles, Tim Garland and Frank Griffith. 

1 comment:

  1. What an excellent review! As an audience member, I would also like to commend Nick Smart's "management style" whilst on stage. Nick, the Band's MD, exhibited a warm manner of communications; drawing the audience in with his informed narrative of the programme. A truly excellent evening.

    Steve Plumb, Worshipful Company of Musicians.

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