The DC Jazz Festival has announced the three finalists for its annual DCJazzPrix Competition: Akua Allrich & the Tribe, the Jalen Baker Quartet, and the Julieta Eugenio Trio. The three groups will perform during the festival at Union Stage at the Wharf on Saturday, September 3, 2022, an appearance that will constitute the final round for the competition. Unlike many contests, the judging panel is anonymous and includes a small group of noted musicians, journalists, record producers, educators, artist managers, and publicists. The winning group receives a $15,000 cash prize, as well as a year-long association with the DC Jazz Festival for “professional development consultation and business support,” according to the competition’s website. In addition, the winners receive a paid 2023 engagement for a show on the DC Jazz Festival mainstage. Past winners have included Cornerstone; New Century Jazz Quintet; Amp Trio + Tahira Clayton; Elijah Jamal Balbed Quartet; Ernest Turner Trio; Dayramir Gonzalez & Habana enTRANCE/Giveton Gelin Quintet (a tie in 2021).
One of the only jazz competitions that is focused on bands as opposed to soloists, JazzPrix was created in 2015 by Willard Jenkins, the artistic director for the DC Jazz Festival. Jenkins told JazzTimes that the festival decided to focus on bands because of the importance in jazz of interaction between the bandmembers. “While we appreciate solo expressions of jazz, the band and the (goal of) democratic interactions between members of the band remain the signature expression of jazz,” he explained. “The great majority of jazz in particular and music in general young artist competitions are in the solo realm, including the most renowned jazz-oriented competitions. We decided we wanted to honor and encourage the development of jazz bands through DCJazzPrix.”
Jenkins said that there have been some challenges for the competition’s unique focus, mostly having to do with the more fluid nature of jazz bands. “Jazz musicians are a relatively transient lot who change bands, move on, with the resulting shifting personnel,” he said. “For example, between the competition entry deadline and the Finals is a matter of months, and we know all too well about the shifting sands of jazz band personnel.”
For more information about the DCJazzPrix Competition and the finalists, visit the festival’s website.