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.