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2016 Parliamentary Jazz Awards | reviews, news & interviews

2016 Parliamentary Jazz Awards

2016 Parliamentary Jazz Awards

Freesheets to free jazz celebrated at the House of Commons

Jazz Vocalist of the Year: Emilia MårtenssonChris Hyson

Compered by Jazzwise magazine’s gregarious editor-in-chief, Jon Newey, the winners of this year's Parliamentary Jazz Awards were announced last night in the Terrace Pavilion at the House of Commons.

Now in their twelfth year, the Awards, organised by the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) and sponsored by the music licensing company PPL, are one of the most important dates in the UK jazz calendar.

In his opening speech, Newey cited both the ups and downs of the previous year, with the former including “more excellent young jazz musicians emerging and carving out spaces at clubs and collectives. Established jazz names making some of their strongest work in years. Vinyl LPs continuing their much-welcomed and much-needed comeback. Big jazz festivals attracting record audiences. New jazz festivals launching. Jazz FM returning to a nationwide DAB platform and significantly improving their jazz programming. And, on BBC Radio 3, saxophonist Soweto Kinch has recently made his debut as a broadcaster on the brand new Monday night show, Jazz Now. So, plenty of reasons to be cheerful, as Ian Dury once said.”

To loud applause, Newey concluded: “In a week when tax avoidance is being discussed at the highest possible level, quite simply what we need is more funds for arts and culture and less of the art and culture of offshore funds.”

Presented by John Smith, chair of PPL and the General Secretary of the Musicians' Union, the first award of the evening – Jazz Album of the Year – went to Julian Argüelles for his second collaboration with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, Let It Be Told (Basho Records). Following their brace of awards at last month’s Jazz FM awards, the sax-and-drums duo Binker and Moses scooped the Jazz Newcomer of the Year award, presented by Jacqui Dankworth.

Presenting the Jazz Vocalist of the Year award to the strains of “Isn’t She Lovely”, courtesy of James Pearson and The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars – featuring Pearson (piano), Freddie Gavita (trumpet), Alex Garnett (sax), Sam Burgess (bass) and Chris Higginbottom (drums) – vocalist Claire Martin commented that the event was “a great reflection of our beloved jazz scene, coming together as a supportive and inclusive community, something I’m really proud to be part of and something we really should treasure – because we’re standing so very close to a place where community seems to be rapidly being dismantled.” The award went to the Swedish-born, London-based vocalist, Emilia Mårtensson.

Having produced the Jazz in London freesheet for the past four decades, Mary Greig was a popular winner of the Services to Jazz award. Accepting it on her behalf, Paul Pace (Ronnie Scott’s, The Spice of Life) read a letter from Greig in which she paid tribute to the small promoters, often musicians themselves, who present live jazz all over the UK. “These are the people who really keep jazz alive and flourishing at grassroots level. Their names will probably never be in the spotlight, and they may only be known to their local audiences, but they deserve the heartfelt thanks of all here tonight. It has been my privilege, for 43 years, to work with such people. For me, they are the real heroes of the UK jazz world.”

The first of two special APPJAG awards went to the former MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, jazz fan and supporter, and co-chair of Parliament’s Jazz Appreciation Group, Michael Connarty. The second went to saxophonist Evan Parker who, after an absolutely glowing introduction which referred to him as “the greatest living exponent of free improvisation” and a “mesmerising presence on stage performing astonishing feats of respiratory endurance and technical multitasking”, joked that he needed a copy of the text “for my new bio”.

The full list of winners:

Jazz Album of the Year: Julian Argüelles, Let It Be Told

Jazz Education Award: Dr Tommy Smith

Jazz Newcomer of the Year: Binker and Moses

Jazz Venue of the Year Jazz: Seven Jazz Leeds

Jazz Vocalist of the Year: Emilia Mårtensson

Jazz Media Award: Jez Nelson, BBC Jazz on 3

Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year: Alexander Hawkins

Jazz Ensemble of the Year: Empirical

Services to Jazz Award: Mary Greig

APPJAG Special Awards: Michael Connarty and Evan Parker

What we need is more funds for arts and culture and less of the art and culture of offshore funds

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