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Norwegian Lage Lund Wins 2005 Thelonious Monk Competition

Guitarist Lage Lund’s straightforward-style jazz performances won him the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition on Monday night at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater in Washington, D.C.

Lund, a 27-year-old Norwegian-born, Brooklyn-based musician, is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and was the first guitarist enrolled in the Julliard Institute for Jazz Studies. Lund was awarded the $20,000 first prize after being selected from three finalists and 10 semifinalists by a panel of jazz guitar heavyweights Pat Martino, John Pizzarelli, Earl Klugh, Bill Frisell, Stanley Jordan and Russell Malone.

Lund turned in strong performances of Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan” and Wayne Shorter’s “Pinocchio” during Monday night’s finals.

After the competition, panelist Russell Malone explained, “Some of the players were charismatic and played well enough. But for my taste there wasn’t a whole lot of musicality. Lage wasn’t flashy. He was just all music and soul – that’s what we all agreed upon. Great tone, great interpreter. One of the things I liked about him was that when he played these melodies he didn’t embellish them – he was true to them.”

Second prize and $10,000 was awarded to Seattle native Miles Okazaki and New Orleans native David Mooney received third prize and $5,000.

The competition, hosted by Herbie Hancock, Billy Dee Williams and Thelonious Monk Jr., was stacked with an array of jazz talent. After receiving the Monk Institute’s Maria Fisher Founder’s Award, guest of honor George Benson revived his scat-laced version of “On Broadway” and also traded choruses with Lund on “How High the Moon.”

Not surprisingly, all of the judges for the competition performed in one setting or another throughout the evening. Frisell, Martino, pianist Hancock and saxophonist Shorter performed an abstract rendering of “Footprints.” Seated on stools, Klugh and Malone casually sustained the radiant lyricism inherent in “Stella by Starlight,” while singer Dee Dee Bridgewater teamed up with 84-year-old trumpeter Clark Terry on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Pizzarelli’s swing guitar enhanced the pairing’s performance and Bridgewater later joined Jordan and New Orleans-born trumpeter Terence Blanchard for a moving Crescent City salute.

The annual Monk Institute of Jazz Competition, a showcase for aspiring vocalists, pianists, guitarists, saxophonists, bassists and other instrumentalists, has helped launch the careers of notable jazz artists like Marcus Roberts, Joshua Redman, Jacky Terrasson and Jane Monheit.

This year’s competition was sponsored by General Motors and was taped for a Feb. 26, 2006 documentary to air on BET.

Originally Published