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Announcing The Finalists For The 2020 Best Jazz Artist And Composition

The 2020 finalists for the Recorded Music NZ Te Kaipuoro Tautito Toa | Best Jazz Artist and APRA Best Jazz Composition were announced today, showcasing a hugely talented and diverse pool of Aotearoa musicians.

The creativity of New Zealand’s jazz scene is exemplified by this year’s finalists for the Best Jazz Artist, with ALCHEMY, Dixon Nacey and Michal Martyniuk up for the Tui this year.

It was another impressive year for composers as well with three top finalists for the Best Jazz Composition. Callum Allardice is in the running for ‘Phobos and Deimos’, Jake Baxendale for ‘Tui’, and Myele Manzanza for ‘Mortality’.

The winners will be announced live on Radio New Zealand’s Music 101 on Saturday 6 June.

Recorded Music NZ Best Jazz Artist

ALCHEMY was created with one goal in mind: the reinvention of iconic Kiwi pop songs as leading-edge jazz.

Featuring six of New Zealand’s finest jazz vocalists – Allana Goldsmith, Bex Peterson, Caitlin Smith, Chelsea Prastiti, Lou’ana Whitney, and Marjan Nelson – and six of New Zealand’s most accomplished jazz instrumentalists – Kevin Field (piano), Richard Hammond (bass), Roger Manins (tenor saxophone), Ron Samsom and Stephen Thomas (drums), and Michael Howell (guitar) - the talent on display is formidable.

The eponymous ALCHEMY album was released on 13 December 2019 to critical acclaim and remarkable sales results, reaching Number 11 on the Official New Zealand Top Twenty Albums Chart.

During a 27-year long career, Dixon Nacey has worked with some of the finest local and international musicians across a wide range of genres. He is in high demand as a session musician and sideman, and has been the Musical Director for the “Coca- Cola Christmas in the Park” since 2016.

His 2019 album The Edge of Chaos was his debut as bandleader, featuring seven superb compositions and a raft of talented musicians including Dixon on guitar, Roger Manins (saxophone), Kevin Field (piano), Olivier Holland (bass), Andy Keegan (drums), and Jonathan Leung & Chelsea Prastiti as vocals on ‘Taupo’.

Polish-born, New Zealand-based Michał Martyniuk is the third finalist for this year’s Recorded Music NZ Best Jazz Artist award for his album Resonate.

Dividing his time between Poland and New Zealand, Michal is a pianist, composer and a music producer whose jazz career skyrocketed after placing second at the prestigious “Made In New York” Jazz Competition in New York City in May 2018.

After performing his own compositions on stage alongside judges and jazz legends Randy Brecker, John Pattitucci, Mike Stern and Francisco Mela, he went on to release his first solo album Nothing To Prove later that year.

Recorded Music NZ CEO Damian Vaughan said the Best Jazz Artist Tui always brings an exciting collection of skilled musicians crafting unique compositions and 2020 is no different.

“Over the last 12 months there have been a wealth of technically impressive, emotionally charged jazz recordings released in Aotearoa. It’s a remarkable music scene, which is consistently among the best in the world.”

APRA Best Jazz Composition

Alongside Recorded Music NZ Best Jazz Artist, we recognise and celebrate the finalists for the APRA Best Jazz Composition.

After winning APRA Best Jazz Composition for the third time last year for his composition Chugin’, Callum Allardice is back for the fourth consecutive year with his song ‘Phobos & Deimos’.

In 2016 Callum’s Sons of Thunder took home the inaugural Best Jazz Composition Award at the NZ Jazz Awards, and he followed that up by winning the same award in 2017 for Deep Thought.

As part of the group Antipodes, Jake Baxendale is no stranger to the Jazz Awards. In 2018 the group released their debut album Good Winter and went on to be a finalist for Best Jazz Artist at the 2019 awards.

Regularly touring both New Zealand and Australia, Jake has released the composition ‘Tui’, which is up for APRA Best Jazz Composition at this year’s awards.

Born in New Zealand to a Congolese master percussionist, Myele Manzanza is a drummer and composer who has since established himself on the world stage, collaborating with artists like Theo Parrish, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Amp Fiddler, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Jordan Rakei.

In June 2019, Myele released his eagerly anticipated third album A Love Requited, and his song ‘Mortality’ is up for APRA Best Composition this year.

APRA Head of NZ Operations Anthony Healey says: “The quality and inventiveness of Aotearoa’s jazz composers continues to impress and delight us. While we’re disappointed that we’re unable to present these awards at the Wellington Jazz Festival as we normally would, these works all deserve celebration and recognition.”

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