Louise Balkwill wins Riga Jazz Stage 2022

Louise Balkwill at the moment of winning the 2022 Riga Jazz Stage. Photo Santa Šillere

The results of the Vocal Jazz Competition at the 2022 Riga Jazz Stage are announced today

1st Prize Louise Balkwill (UK)

2nd Prize Valentina Fin (Italy)

3rd Prize Paula Saija (Latvia)

The other finalists were Karīna Laugale and Katrīna Kabiņecka from Latvia, Amanda Becker from Germany and Eylul Ergul from Turkey.

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In the drum competition the winner was Domo Branch (USA). 2nd was Pauls Pokratnieks (Latvia) and 3rd Yannick Ballmann (Belgium)

LOUISE BALKWILL WRITES: ” I’m absolutely over the moon – the whole experience has been deeply nurturing and wonderful, and I have made so many incredibly talented friends from all over the world, whose careers I can’t wait to watch take off over the coming years.

I’d like to express my infinite gratitude to Māris Briežkalns and the whole Riga Jazz Stage team for putting on such an incredible contest, and to Paul Pace for putting me forward for it. I’m honoured to have been in the company of such incredible contestants, organisers, staff and artists this week – Jamison Ross and his band blew my mind into another dimension with their music, words and generosity!

I can’t wait to see what’s next for my career, but I know that whatever it is, I will go forth with a whole new level of self assurance and joy, having been a part of such an incredible experience.”

The official photo. Credit: Jānis Škapars / Riga Jazz Stage

UPDATE 10 April from Martin Longley who attended the event:

Riga Jazz Stage 2022

Riga Jazz Stage 2022 has just concluded, with London singer Louise Balkwill (originally from Oadby, Leicester, and a graduate of Trinity Laban) winning the first prize in this long-running competition/festival. Usually RJS is an annual event, but this edition marks its reappearance following the lockdown era. The Latvian contest is divided into a pair of categories, with singers always in place, and the instrumentalist focus changing each year. In 2022 it was time for the drums, with New Yorker Domo Branch taking the first place position in that category.

The competition took place over two nights at the grand old Splendid Palace cinema, with the results being announced just prior to a third-night set by the US singer and drummer Jamison Ross, who was also part of the jury.

Best jazz vocalist award:

1st place: Louise Balkwill (UK)…invitations from Rīgas Ritmi Festival (Latvia), Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and Nardis Jazz Club in Istanbul, €1200, Shure microphone from sponsor Best Music/AT.

2nd place: Valentina Fin (Italy)…invitations from Rīgas Ritmi Festival (Latvia), Visioon Festival in Tallinn (Estonia) and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, €1000.

3rd place: Paula Saija (Latvia)…invitations from Rīgas Ritmi Festival (Latvia) and Kaunas Jazz Festival (Lithuania), €700.

Best jazz drummer award:

1st place: Domo Branch (USA)…invitation from Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, €1200, Sigu wood hoops, Tama drum pedal.

2nd place: Pauls Pokratnieks (Latvia)…invitations from Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and Nardis Jazz Club in Istanbul, €1000, Sigu wood hoops.

3rd place: Yannick Ballman (Belgium)…€700, Sigu wood hoops.

International jazz journalists award:

Domo Branch (USA)…10 hours of recording time at Latvian Radio Studio 1.

Audience award:

(voted online at Katrīna Kabiņecka (Latvia)…a last generation smartphone from mobile operator sponsor Tele2 Latvia

Riga Jazz Stage 2023 will take place in April next year, and the competitors will be vocalists and saxophonists.

Martin Longley

LINKS: Feature by Nicky Schrire about Louise Balkwill’s 2022 debut album First Class

Riga Jazz Stage website

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