Laurin Talese is the winner of the 7th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, also known as the SASSY Awards. At the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC)’s Victoria Theater on Nov. 18, Talese took home the contest’s top honors over four other finalists. The five singers had been selected from more than 600 submissions through three public rounds of online voting.
For the final round, Talese and the other four singers—Russia’s Oleg Akkuratov; Hartford, Conn. native Toscha Comeaux; Californian Gabrielle Cavassa; and Australia’s Olivia Chindamo—performed in front of a live audience and a panel of judges including vibraphonist/composer/educator and NJPAC artistic advisor Stefon Harris, vocalist Nnenna Freelon, trumpeter/composer Jon Faddis, WBGO radio personality Sheila Anderson, and Mary Ann Topper, president of the Jazz Tree, Inc. artist management company. Contestants were judged on vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation, and the ability to swing.