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Review from The Scotsman

27th Jun 2007

Kenny Mathieson

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Three-parts jazz convention to one part true innovation

Two of the finalists in the inaugural BBC Radio Scotland Young Jazz Musician Award, pianist Tom Gibbs and drummer Doug Hough, were involved with bands in the Homegrown concert, but were heard in more exposed conditions in the competition. I’m no great fan of the plethora of media-driven awards and competitions that have sprung up in jazz and folk, but they are clearly here to stay, and the healthy attendance on Monday night demonstrated that they do have pulling power (although tickets were free).

The judges nominated six finalists, adding pianist Alan Benzie, saxophonists Joseph Wright and Leah Gough-Cooper, and singer Jonathan Carr to the two already mentioned. All of them turned in performances of a high standard with the “house” trio of Brian Kellock, Andrew Sharkey and Alyn Cosker, in an impressive intimation of things to come.

Benzie and Gough-Cooper stood out, and Dave Batchelor, the chairman of the judges, explained that it had come down to the narrowest of margins between them. I confess I felt Gough-Cooper was the most creative and adventurous player on a night when convention rather ruled, but the award went to local boy Benzie, an exceptionally talented 17 year old and a worthy inaugural holder of the title. I expect to hear much more from all of them.

Review from THE HERALD

27th Jun 2007

Glasgow Jazz Festival

ROB ADAMS – June 27 2007

BBC Radio Scotland Young Jazz Musician 2007, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

One winner, no losers was the result of the inaugural competition to find Scotland’s top young jazz musician. In the end, the judges had to make a decision – and, as he prepared to name 17-year-old pianist Alan Benzie as their choice, chairman of the panel Dave Batchelor expressed his sense of awe at the overall standard and stressed the honour he’d felt listening to all six finalists.

No-one, surely, would disagree with such enthusiasm. Just in terms of a concert, these young musicians put on a great show. Me? I had it down to a dead heat between all six. From the cool, relaxed style of tenor saxophonist Joseph Wright onwards, here were a remarkably self-possessed set of soloists each with his or her own voice, each performing in different styles.

Alto saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper received a special commendation. A tremendous prospect, she fully engaged with the house band on her own composition, a forward-looking The Last Parabola. Jonathan Carr sang with real maturity. Doug Hough played drums with a flowing, easy command, and Tom Gibbs’s piano playing had admirable clarity and imagination, plus a sense of completeness.

Alan Benzie displayed all these qualities, too. His touch on Here’s That Rainy Day was superbly delicate, and his assurance as he nodded the rhythm section through his accomplished arrangement of Alone Together was remarkable for one so young. He took home a cheque for £500 and, among other prizes, the guarantee of a gig at next year’s Glasgow Jazz Festival. What he might be producing by then is quite a thought.

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