At 21, Sasha Berliner is already an accomplished vibraphonist, composer, bandleader, and performer. In 2018 she won the first Letter One Rising Stars Jazz Award competition to be held in North America, beating out 230 other artists. The prize included a tour of seven major jazz festivals in North America and Canada, and one of her stops in June was at SFJAZZ, where she’d once been a member of the San Francisco-based nonprofit’s High School All-Stars Orchestra. SFJAZZ founder Randall Kline introduced Berliner with heartfelt pride and praise.
Berliner says she applied for the Letter One award on a whim and was thrilled when she won. “It’s been amazing,” she said by telephone from San Francisco, a few hours before the SFJAZZ gig. “I played a couple of festivals before, but this is a whole other level, and it certainly was an incentive to up my professionalism, work on some new original music, and start working on my album.” That album, Azalea, is her second full-length recording, slated to be released in September on Unseen Rain Records; it will include all original compositions.