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by Daniel Bingham
posted 06/09/2022

Tom Avgenicos Wins Freedman Jazz Fellowship

Finalists compete in three-way playoff for $21,000 award

Sydney trumpeter, composer and innovator Tom Avgenicos was awarded the 2022 Freedman Jazz Fellowship in an exciting final playoff at the Sydney Opera House on Saturday 3 September. The sold-out crowd enjoyed the return to the Studio, after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.

Tom Avgenicos won the 2022 Freedman Jazz Fellowship in a three-way playoff at the Sydney Opera House. Image: Supplied

The three finalists Flora Carbo, Holly Conner and Tom Avgenicos delivered distinctively different, highly impressive and creative performances.

James Valentine from ABC 702 and ABC Jazz compered the evening which also featured a superb duo set from pianist Mike Nock and saxophonist Julien Wilson whilst the judges made their final deliberation.

Tom Avgenicos has established himself as a creative force in the Australian jazz scene with his cutting-edge improvisational approach, that’s at the forefront of his project Delay 45. Tom’s compositions flow seamlessly through structure and spontaneity, creating an engrossing experience for the listener.

Tom intends to use the $21,000 award to develop two multidisciplinary works for his long-standing quartet Delay 45, while collaborating with Ensemble Apex String Quartet, contemporary dancer/choreographer Reina Takeuchi and motion graphics artist Jordan East.

The distinguished judges for this year’s fellowship were Dr. Steve Barry (Associate Lecturer in Jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music), Virna Sanzone (Vocal Lecturer in the Jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music) and Dr. Andrew Robson (Lecturer in Music Studies at Macquarie University). They summed up this year’s highly competitive final by stating:

“The three finalists each presented incredibly sophisticated programs of original music which they performed with conviction and creativity. Each finalist displayed a highly developed musical language that is pushing the music in new and exciting directions. Selecting a winner from such a rich pool of talent is always going to be difficult and we would like to extend our congratulations and thanks to all three musicians.”

Dr Richard Letts from the Music Trust commented:

“Each Freedman finalist in very different ways produced interesting, complex music. All performed on traditional instruments but also included modern contributionsfrom computer-generated music with live triggers. It was intriguing that each of the finalistschose to include other art forms – visual arts, dance, film, animation in their imaginative project proposals.”

The Freedman Jazz Fellowship is one the most sought-after awards for Australian Jazz musicians. Image: Sydney Opera House

The Freedman Jazz Fellowship is amongst the most prestigious awards in Australia for a jazz musician. Candidates apply with a recording or their performances and the description of a project they will carry through with the prize money of $21,000 should they win. Based upon the recordings and the imaginativeness of the projects the judges choose three finalists among the 16 musicians nominated by leading jazz people from around Australia. It is already an honour to be nominated. The winner is decided at a concert of the finalists at the Sydney Opera House.

The Jazz Fellowship is funded by the Freedman Foundation, a philanthropic foundation chaired by Laurence Freedman, which assists young Australians in music and visual arts, as well as providing support to medical and scientific programs. Laurence and Kathy Freedman were made Members of the Order of Australia for service to the community, to medical research, the arts, and to business and investment in Australia. The Fellowships are managed by The Music Trust and administered by the Sydney Improvised Music Association.

Past winners of the Freedman Jazz Fellowships include guitarists Ben Hauptmann, Hilary Geddes and James Muller, saxophonists Julien Wilson, Andrew Robson and Matt Keegan, pianists Andrea Keller, Matt McMahon, Marc Hannaford, Aaron Choulai, Tal Cohen and Novak Manojlovic, trumpeters Nick Garbett and Phil Slater, bassists Christopher Hale and Helen Svoboda, vocalist Kristin Berardi and drummer James McLean.