NEWS: Tom Barford wins 2017 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize

Tom Barford, the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize winner for 2017

Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon spreads the news.

Saxophonist and composer Tom Barford has been named the seventh Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize winner. His success was announced today by the Royal Academy of Music and Edition Records, co-promoters of the award. It is given each year for “a young artist who demonstrates excellence in both performance and composition, selected from all graduating jazz musicians at the Royal Academy”.

Tom Barford joins previous winners Josh Arcoleo, Reuben Fowler, Lauren Kinsella, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Ralph Wyld and Rob Luft.

Evan Parker, one of the judges along with the Academy’s head of jazz Nick Smart and Edition boss Dave Stapleton, 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.”

Barford reacted to the win thus: “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.”

The young saxophonist took up the instrument at the age of nine and joined the Junior Jazz Course at the Royal Academy of Music before gaining a place on the Academy’s undergraduate course. He writes and plays with his own band ASTEROPE and for a quartet he co-leads, and has also played with the Barry Green Sextet and the Gareth Lockrane Big Band as well as many other groups. 

As a winner of this prize, Barford will get to make his debut album for release on Edition Records.

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