For immediate release – 22nd June 2017
Edition Records and the Royal Academy of Music are pleased to announce that the 2017 winner of the seventh Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize is the outstanding saxophonist and composer Tom Barford
The Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize is awarded each year to a young artist who demonstrates excellence in both performance and composition, selected from all graduating jazz musicians at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London. The prize includes release of the artist’s proposed recording on the Edition record label: Tom Barford, the seventh recipient of this major award will release his album in 2018. He follows in the footsteps of the highly acclaimed previous winners saxophonist Josh Arcoleo in 2011, trumpeter Reuben Fowler in 2012, vocalist Lauren Kinsella in 2013, bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado in 2014, Ralph Wyld in 2015, and Rob Luft in 2016 – whose album is due for release later this year.
The judging panel – Edition Records boss Dave Stapleton, the Academy’s Head of Jazz, Nick Smart, and Evan Parker, saxophonist and lifelong collaborator of the late Wheeler – met in June to decide the winner.
Evan Parker 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.’
Edition Records boss Dave Stapleton commented: ‘It’s hard to believe we’re now announcing the seventh recipient of this wonderful scheme, and it’s astonishing that the standard of playing and musicianship among the people we listen to just seems to get better and better. All the entries we heard gave us great hope and confidence for the future of the jazz scene, especially at this time when the recording industry continues to evolve so dynamically. It’s always a difficult decision, but Tom Barford shone out for the completeness of his musicianship as a saxophonist, composer, improviser and band leader. Tom presented a clear vision that was particularly coherent with both the legacy of Kenny’s own aesthetic, and with Edition’s artistic direction, and we look forward to sharing Tom’s journey on releasing his debut album.’
Kenny’s son, Mark Wheeler, said: ‘I have heard Tom a few times over the years at various Academy concerts and was always impressed by his maturity and skill, so to get the news that he had won the prize this year was wonderful. I know my Dad would have loved Tom’s playing and been excited to see how he flourishes, and it remains a source of joy for all the family that Dad’s name and legacy lives on through this fantastic prize.’
ABOUT TOM BARFORD
Tom Barford said: ‘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. I am also very excited to be releasing my debut album with Edition Records especially as I am not only a fan of many Edition artists but I also feel strongly that my artistic vision matches up entirely with them as a label.’
Raised in a musical family, Tom grew up surrounded by great music, from Frank Sinatra to Louis Armstrong. He started the saxophone at the age of 9 but it wasn’t until a few years later that Will Osborne’s inspiring lessons led Tom to a specific interest in Jazz.
Tom joined the Junior Jazz Course at the Royal Academy of Music aged 16, before going on to gain a place on the Undergraduate Jazz Programme at the Academy in 2013. During his time at the Academy, Tom has slowly become recognised as one of the most exciting young players emerging on the scene. He has regularly been writing music and performing across Britain with his band ASTEROPE, as well as co-leading and writing for a quartet involving James Maddren, Alex Hitchcock and Ferg Ireland. Previous performances have included Ronnie Scott’s, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Brecon Jazz Festival, The Jazz Nursery, The Vortex, The 606 Club, and the Pizza Express Jazz Club among others.
Aside from leading his own groups, Tom also takes pride in fulfilling a sideman role in such groups as The Barry Green Sextet, The Billy Marrows Octet, The Olli Martin Quintet and Mark Trounson’s Disquiet as well as playing occasionally in the Gareth Lockrane Big Band and The London Super Sax Project alongside Alex Garnett, Nigel Hitchcock, Graeme Blevins and Sammy Maine. Tom is also looking forward to a UK tour later this year with Bill Mchenry, Jeff Williams, Tom Ollendorff and Mark Trounson.
‘A future star of the UK Jazz scene’ – Jazzwise Magazine
‘A wonderful young player. It’s so exciting to hear him grow!’ – Stan Sulzmann
For more information visit www.editionrecords.com
ROYAL ACADEMY OF MUSIC – Jazz Department
For more information visit www.ram.ac.uk/jazz