NEWS: James Davison wins 2018 Musicians’ Company Young Jazz Musician Competition

James Davison receiving the WCOM medal from Lady Tessa Brewer
Photo credit: Melody McClaren

Sebastian writes:

The six finalists for this year’s Musicians’ Company Young Jazz Musician Competition were saxophonist Alex Hitchcock (Helena Kay had originally been announced but was unable to attend), trumpeter James Davison, trombonist Nathaniel Cross, pianist David Swan, bassist Joe Downard and drummer Will Glaser. The winner in a close-run contest, pictured above receiving his medal, was James Davison.

The competition, which has been running in this format since 1992, obliges the six finalists to form a band together on the day, to perform two sets as a sextet, and to entertain an audience…while also trying to leave their mark as individuals, because the audience will vote for a winner at the end. It is not an easy ask for the musicians, and it always impressive, year by year, to see how a new cohort rises to the challenge.

Other groups in the past have adopted more of a JATP jam session approach. This year, with some extremely able arrangers in the group, they worked extremely effectively as a band of contrasting players to bring a series of arrangements to life. Their programme also had a more convincing shape and dramaturgy to it than sets which have had a lot more planning and thought than the hour or so that they are allotted to assemble and rehearse their show.

This really was a band without a weak link: James Davison was a worthy winner. His energetic and fluent soloing was highly persuasive, and he also has a great line in witty repartee. I thought that drummer Will Glaser could just as easily have won it. His constantly lively and creative presence kept the energy simmering throughout. Trombonist Nathaniel Cross is a skilful arranger who has a massive list of credits to his name and thinks clearly and constructively as he solos. Alex Hitchcock has an astonishingly unflinching eloquence as jazz soloist. Bassist Joe Downard is a wonderfully strong player who uses variation of dynamics and intensity to great effect. Pianist David Swan has a great capacity to spring (agreeable) surprises. Collectively through their ingenuity they made the unusual form of this competition work in a new way. All six finalists deserve praise for that. As was said quite a few times last night: “They are all winners.   

James Davison
Photo credit: Melody McClaren

Will Glaser and Lady Tessa Brewer
Photo credit: Melody McClaren

The six finalists
Photo credit: Melody McClaren

A feeling of camaraderie and a job very well done
Photo credit: Melody McClaren

Categories: News

1 reply »

  1. It was indeed a marvellous evening of super music by any criteria, so I'm glad to see a review which properly recognises the unique merits of this very special event.

    In view of some FB comments about the lack of female participants I'm glad you mention that Helena Kay was originally meant to be a Finalist but had to pull out for understandable reasons ( she got a place to study at the Manhattan School of Music – well done her). Another female was asked to be a Finalist but also had to decline. What goes on behind the scenes is often more complex than commentators realise.

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