Thursday, April 12, 2007

Canadian National Jazz Awards Winners

Don Thompson capped off his recent Juno for traditional jazz album Ask Me Laterm with three wins at the fifth annual National Jazz Awards.

“He's just an extraordinary musician,” said pianist-publisher Bill King, organizer of the event attended by about 500 at the Old Mill Inn last night. Thompson led the field with awards for top composer, instrumentalist and musician, while several annual favourites picked up two awards apiece

Rob McConnell won in the trombone category while his all-star Tentet was chosen top big band. Singer Diana Krall was named international musician of the year and jazz vocalist of the year. Bassist Dave Young won for both his instrument and his quintet, which was acoustic group of the year. Also with two honours, for keyboards and for best jazz album for his collaboration with Ranee Lee on Just You, Just Me, was first-time winner Oliver Jones.

“It's been a long 67 years of playing since my first concert,” said the stately Montreal resident, who lauded public school music programs in his acceptance speech.

Another noted first-time recipient was the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival as jazz festival of the year, which ended the Montreal festival's four-year sweep.

Several special awards were handed out The Ken Page Memorial Trust award for lifetime achievement went to Lothar and Brigitte Lang, owners of the Montreal Bistro & Jazz Club and the now-closed Cafe des Copains, while veteran bandleader Phil Nimmons (who also won in the clarinet category) received Jazz.FM91's artist of distinction award.

Pianist David Virelles was given the CBC's Galaxie Rising Stars prize and 84-year-old, New York-based percussionist Candido Camero was honoured with an NJA Pioneer award. Camero recalled learning to play bongos by practising on an empty condensed milk tin when he was 4 years old.

The winners were chosen online from among 194 nominees in 27 categories by 3,000 jazz fans across the country. The new Latin jazz category was reflected in last night's theme which featured songs from several Latin jazz acts, including bassist Roberto Occhipinti, trumpeter Alexis Barro, singer Eliana Cuevas and pianist Hilario Duran.

The latter scooped only one of his six nominations--Latin Jazz artist of the year--but enthralled the jovial crowd with a bombastic performance by his 18-piece Latin Jazz Orchestra.

“This community has come into its own,” said King. “Wherever you go to festivals now, a great component is Latin jazz and that's because of immigration, the people resettling here for the last 15 to 20 years. And the musicians are tremendous.”

Other awards went to Terry Clarke (drums), Kevin Turcotte (trumpet), Mike Murley (sax), Reg Schwager (guitar), Phil Nimmons (clarinet) and Ed Vokura (violinist).

Media awards went to Star columnist Geoff Chapman, Jazz FM's Larry Green and photographer Don Vickery.
Byline: Ashante Infantry
Source: Toronto Star

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