|The other WCoM finalists congratulating Moses Boyd (second from right)|
The Worshipful Company of Musicians, a 500 year-old City Livery Company, gave out its two annual jazz awards at a completely sold-out Pizza Express Jazz Club tonight.
The medal for lifetime achievement, decided in advance of the evening, went to Dave Green, the first bassist to be chosen in over two decades of the award's existence. In accepting it at the beginning of the second set, Green merely took the opportunity to praise the young musicians: "while there's playing like that going on, the music can keep going forever."
The Young Musician Award followed its now traditional procedure of letting the audience pick a winner by secret ballot from the six finalists, who perform in a band which is normally assembled for just one night - but see below for an extra gig this year.
Drummer Moses Boyd was a deserved winner, playing alertly, responsively, and according to one of his fellow band-members/contestants "the most unselfish person on stage all evening." He even took some persuading to go onto the stage once he'd won. When he spoke, and thanked everyone there for the award, he also remembered poignantly that his first appearance at the club had been as a member of Abram Wilson's band.
The six finalists were a well contrasted group, and all dealt with the particular challenges of the gig well. That was perhaps the least surprising for one member/contestant, the fluent and powerful tenor saxophonist Nadim Teimoori, who had also been a finalist in 2013. The programme was mainly of standards, although Misha Mullov-Abbado brought his lively tune Lock Stock and Shuffle, in a new arrangement specially for the evening, with a prominent role for Moses Boyd,which he took with panache. Trombonist Tom Green brought along a new arrangement of But Beautiful, a lovely trombone feature - why not? - with a beautifully voiced arrangement of the closing statement of the tune. In pianist Sam James' playing, there are always pleasant surprises to be gleaned - he was, after all, taught in his student time by those two masters of joyous subterfuge, Liam Noble and John Taylor.
The loss of Kenny Wheeler, so deeply felt at the moment, did not go by unnoticed. Saxophonist Phil Meadows remembered a time he had been obsessively "living in the world of Kenny Wheeler's beautiful music." He had brought along a subtle and unusual arrangement of Dave Brubeck's In Your Own Sweet Way which did not give up all of its secrets at a first hearing.
The WCoM Young Musician Award is a gig like no other, combining an activity demanding the ultimate in teamwork and mutual respect, with preening for attention, and an element of the gladiatorial contest. It also requires the players to breathe their own new life into the standards repertoire. But, somehow, it always works, and has produced another deserving winner this year.
This year the sextet of finalists will have an additional gig in the London Jazz festival - augmented by two previous winners Andy Panayi (winner in 1994) and Tom Cawley (in 2000) at 229 the Venue on 20th November