BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018 winner

Twenty-two-year-old saxophonist Xhosa Cole is the winner of the BBC Young Jazz Musician award for 2018 after a final at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

In Saturday night’s grand final (broadcast on BBC Four on the following Sunday evening) each musician played a 16-minute set, which included at least one piece they had written or arranged themselves. Xhosa Cole (pictured right by Jai Jethwa) played his own Moving Ladywood, Johnny Green’s I Cover The Waterfront and John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice. All contestants were backed by Paula Gardiner (bass), Asaf Sirkis (drums), and leader Gwilym Simcock (piano).

Cole emerged as the winner of the competition and said: “It’s been amazing to represent and have been represented at this prestigious celebration of jazz music in the UK. The calibre of musicianship and passion for jazz music displayed on the stage today has been incredibly inspiring to be a part of". Handsworth-born Cole has played saxophone in the Jazzlines Ensemble, Birmingham Schools Symphony Orchestra and Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra among others. While studying in sixth form, he attended courses with the National Youth Jazz Collective and National Youth Wind Orchestra. He performs and teaches regularly around Birmingham.

On the evening, all five finalists performed for a judging panel consisting of Monty Alexander, Zoe Rahman, Gary Crosby, Zara McFarlane and Iain Ballamy. Of the winner, judge 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. All five finalists were brilliant – I’d be happy to share the stage with any one of them – and hope to do so!”

The BBC Young Jazz Musician finalists were: Xhosa Cole – saxophone – 22 years old; Reuben Goldmark – piano – 18 years old; Fergus McCreadie – piano – 21 years old; James Owston – bass – 22 years old; Seth Tackaberry – bass – 20 years old.

Jan Younghusband, Commissioning Editor, BBC Music & Events, said: “Every time we run BBC Young Jazz Musician, we see a wealth of young talent coming through for the future which is so exciting and we are delighted to be bringing their talents to our mainstream audience on BBC Four and through BBC Radio 3". Past winner Alexandra Ridout was also present and performed on the night. She said of her time as BBC Young Jazz Musician: “Being named BBC Young Jazz Musician in 2016 was inspiring and so enjoyable. The whole competition made such an impact on my life because my playing improved and I gained more confidence as a musician and a person. I’m really excited for what the future holds for Xhosa". Since winning the 2016 final, Ridout has performed around the country and has had her music played on various BBC Radio 3 shows and Jazz FM. She began studying at the Royal Academy of Music in September 2017.

This year, for the first time, the final was held at the EFG London Jazz Festival, as part of a new relationship with the festival. The final took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at London’s Southbank Centre, the event supported by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. In addition to the television coverage on BBC Four (available on iPlayer for 30 days), BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting highlights of the final in J to Z on Saturday 1 December.

Bruce Lindsay

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