|Xhosa Cole with presenter Josie Darby
Photo Credit: BBC/Mark Allan
The winner of BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018 is saxophonist Xhosa Cole, from Handsworth in Birmingham.
The judges admitted it had not been an easy decision. Speaking on their behalf, Zara McFarlane introduced the announcement of the winner with this statement: “It has been a pleasure to witness such a high quality gig by such exceptional jazz musicians. We have been moved, inspired and impressed by each and every one of the performers here tonight. It has honestly been the hardest competition to date.”
Xhosa Cole was charismatic and attracted a loud and appreciative response, not least from a substantial Birmingham contingent in the room. He paid tribute to the inspiration and legacy of Andy Hamilton, and the tireless work of John and Nichola Ruddick at the Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra.
Speaking to LondonJazz News this afternoon he said: “I had the time of my life last night! The level of musicianship, love and support in the room was unparalleled. I’ve been so fortunate to have reached this stage with loads of hard work and investment, some from me, but so much from an amazing community of people who are so genuinely and fiercely devoted to the progress of young people. I can’t thank everyone enough for making what I genuinely thought the impossible to become a reality! It was the greatest honour to represent and be represented on such a huge platform. Can’t put into words how proud I am!”
Commenting on Cole’s performance, Iain Ballamy said: “Xhosa’s performance was so heartfelt, sincere and communicative. It’s easy to see he has such a deep and genuine love of the tradition that gave us such a convincing performance on the night.”
Tony Dudley-Evans, adviser to Jazzlines, the jazz programme at Town Hall Symphony Hall, Birmingham, told LondonJazz News: “I have been impressed with Xhosa Cole ever since he started attending Jazzlines’ education programmes. He’s a great player, but we also discovered at the Ideas of Noise Festival this summer that he is a fine composer. His Greek Suite for string quartet and himself on flute was excellent.”
|Co-presenter YolanDa Brown and the jury
L-R: Monty Alexander, Zara McFarlane, Iain Ballamy
Sophia Rahman and Gary Crosby
Seth Tackaberry on electric bass, (see this review) gave an astonishingly impressive performance, notably in Pat Metheny’s tune James. And Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie elicited touching praise from Monty Alexander, clearly from the heart: ” I have just heard a humble spirit.”
The full list of finalists was: Xhosa Cole, Reuben Goldmark, Fergus McCreadie, James Owston and Seth Tackaberry.
The judges were: Monty Alexander, Zoe Rahman, Gary Crosby, Zara McFarlane and Iain Ballamy
|Xhosa Cole with Gwilym Simcock (L)
and Paula Gardiner (R)
BIOGRAPHY OF XHOSA COLE: Handsworth-born Xhosa Cole is an embodiment of the success of numerous community arts programmes, including the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra and Jazzlines Ensemble. Having first played the tenor at Andy Hamilton’s Ladywood Community Music School, he’s among a long legacy of Birmingham saxophonists. While studying in sixth form, Xhosa attended courses with the National Youth Jazz Collective and National Youth Wind Orchestra. With help from mentors including Sid Peacock, Mike Williams, Jim Bashford and David Austin-Grey, Xhosa now regularly performs, writes and teaches around Birmingham.