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Soweto Kinch Wins White Foundation Competition

Since 1999, when the Monk Competition stopped handing out recording contracts to its winners, up and coming jazz musicians have had their ears perked up, looking for new competitions where they can score a contract. One such musician is Soweto Kinch (pictured), who not only found such a competition but cashed in as well.

Kinch was recently named the winner of the first White Foundation International Saxophone Competition, which was held from July 16 to 19 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and among his prizes was a recording deal. The competition, which was the creation of White Foundation president Jeremy White, had 60 entrants from 17 different countries, including the U.S., England, Germany, Russia, France, Switzerland and Australia. Judges for the event included saxophonist Lee Konitz, BBC 3 radio host and London Times Jazz Critic Alyn Shipton, Jazz Messengers alum and Guildhall School of Music saxophone professor Jean Toussaint, and Radio Swiss Romand Jazz broadcaster Yvan Ischer. Guest judges included David Sanborn and Kirk Whalum.

Kinch, who was born in England, was one of 15 semi-finalists and was declared winner from four finalists, among them Jamie Oehlers (Australia), Mark Small and Walter Smith (USA). All contestants had to be under the age of 30, and were required to play a blues, a solo piece, and a tune of their choice in the finals with a rhythm section including Lynne Arriale on piano. For placing first, Kinch was awarded a Selmer Reference 54 saxophone, gigs at Ronnie Scott’s in London, the Radio 3 London Jazz Festival, Highlights of Jazz in New York, the IAJE festival in Toronto, the 2003 Montreux Jazz Festival and a recording deal. Second prize went to Oehlers and consisted of a cash award in the amount of 3,000 Swiss Francs (approximately 2,043 U.S. dollars). The third prize of 2000 Swiss Francs (1,362 U.S. Dollars) was split between Small and Smith, and the audience prize of 1,000 Swiss Francs (680 U.S. dollars) went to Smith.

Kinch is a graduate of Oxford University with a B.A. Honors in History, and is a self-taught musician. He is currently one of the nominees for “Rising Star” at the BBC Radio Jazz Awards, to be held July 31st in London. Currently he can be heard with “Tomorrow’s Warriors”, who play on Sundays from midday until 4pm at London’s Camden Jazz Café’s jazz jam where, according to, “he is becoming something of a star attraction.” Kinch, along with Troy Miller on drums, and Michael Olatuja on bass, will appear on the Pizza Express Freestage at the Royal Festival Hall, on November 14th at 6:15 p.m. as part of the London Jazz Festival. Next year Kinch plans to make his first album as a leader, and until then he can be heard on the new Jazz Jamaica Big Band CD Massive (Dune).

The Jeremy & Kim White Foundation is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote jazz as an art form and classical ballet with a special emphasis on young artists and young audiences. For more information, go to

Originally Published