‘International Artist of 2020’ will be awarded to a remarkable jazz-orientated figure or group, whose musical influence and contribution has transcended international borders.
Here is our list of nominees below...
Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Having long had their established mark on the music industry in various guises, 2020 has seen Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad launch their new Jazz Is Dead label.
Amassing and leading a series of music legends including Roy Ayers, Doug Carn, Azymuth and Marcos Valle, the LA-based pair have used their tremendous talents to capture both past and contemporary vibes to create a series of sizzling sounds.
Ally J Steel
The Virginia-based quintet Butcher Brown have had an incredible year. They released their first LP on legendary label Concord Jazz, titled #KingButch, as well as continually providing enjoyment through lockdown with their YouTube covers series ‘#MothershipMondays’. Having been commissioned to create a new version of Little Richard’s ‘Rip It Up’ for ESPN’s Monday Night Football coverage in the US too, they have really pushed themselves over the past year in taking the opportunity to establish themselves as one of the most dynamic and progressive artists in the jazz world. The past year is just the tip of the iceberg after years of astounding releases and great online presence.
I discovered Joel Ross in 2019 and with that came my love for the vibraphone as a lead voice in jazz. ‘Touched By An Angel’ is a hauntingly beautiful tune which sticks with me, taken from the album Kingmaker. His new album Who Are You? carries on where he left off: voicing such a characteristic instrument into the territories of modern jazz.
Beat scientist, producer and drummer Makaya McCraven has continued to blow me away this year. His versatility, particularly the way in which he is able to manipulate beats and sounds, to create such vivid works is astounding. Continuing to represent the thriving Chicago creative scene with International Anthem, his reimagining of Gil-Scott-Heron’s We’re New Again utterly took my breath away and has become a cornerstone of my year.
Ally J Steel
Maria Chiara Argirò
Maria Chiara Argirò career’s a gripping novel, chapter by chapter, more and more exciting. The Italian-born UK-based pianist and composer took the UK scene by storm with release Hidden Seas and following tour last year. This year’s collaboration with guitarist Jamie Leeming revealed a complexity to her music we haven’t heard before. Her individuality and drive is remarkable. In a difficult year, she’s proved her diverse depth of talent.
Nduduzo Makhathini has been on the jazz radar for several years now. I’d heard some of his earlier albums and noticed his playing with Shabaka Hutchings as one of the Ancestors. He’s got everything exciting from the South African musical tradition, paired with spacey jazz trickles. Modes of Communication the album that came out this year on Blue Note Records, needs to be listened to with big speakers. It’s such an expansive album from a great musician.
The Johannesburg collective SPAZA have no permanent personnel, with each lineup assembled for the purpose of recording improvised music. The spirit of making improvised music with new musicians each time is inspirational, but particularly so when in the context of their latest release, their soundtrack to the documentary UPRIZE!. The film is about the June 16, 1976 protests in the South African township Soweto against the racist apartheid government, with the mournful, spiritual tone of the music coming out of a three-day improvised workshop. This music is powerful, evocative, poignant, moving and emotional to match the historical importance of the documentary’s subject matter. An important and defining release of the past year which has made me sit up and take note of their work, but I request you to watch the documentary to understand the message of the music in its entirety.
Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange
Aussie drummer Ziggy Zeitgeist’s band’s album’s licks and grooves have not left my head (and want others’) since their album dropped this April. ZFEX Vol. II echoes an acid trip. A prismatic, uncertain, exciting experience. A spectrum of flutes and synths warp through cosmic frequencies, grounded by Zeitgeist’s infectious drumming. Zaney, fresh, new, fun, and going places. We love 'em.