(L-R: Tom Smith, Sheila Maurice-Grey, Alex Hitchcock)
Saxophonists Alex Hitchcock and Tom Smith, plus trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey receive £5,000, £3,000 and £2,000 respectively to bolster their careers
Help Musicians UK (HMUK) has announced Alex Hitchcock, Tom Smith and Sheila Maurice-Grey as the three winners of the prestigious Peter Whittingham Jazz Award 2018.
Now in its 28th year, The Peter Whittingham Jazz Award offers up to £5,000 for an emerging jazz musician or group to undertake a creative project of their choice that will support their professional development. The award can fund recording, filming, touring, performances, mentoring, collaboration and promotion.
London-born saxophonist and composer Alex Hitchcock took the prize of £5,000, which he will use for touring, professional mastering, album artwork and CD printing. The artist has been winning fans over globally for several years, having performed at festivals across Europe including Glastonbury and North Sea Jazz in the Netherlands. This year he released his quintet’s debut EP and completed a 15-date nationwide tour followed by a sold-out launch at Pizza Express Jazz Club in London. His talents have been recognised by a wealth of respected outlets, including BBC Radio 3 and JazzFM, while larger ensemble work includes the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the O2 Arena, the BBC Big Band and the Laurence Cottle Big Band.
Development awardee and Royal Academy of Music graduate Tom Smith is not content with being an accomplished saxophonist but also leads many of his own bands, including the Tom Smith Septet, Geko and LGBTQ+ ensemble Queertet. His £3,000 prize will go towards the recording of his album (studio time, mixing, mastering and artist costs), as well as filming and photography and tour costs. In his career so far, he has sold out Ronnie Scott’s twice, been listed as a finalist of the BBC Young Jazz Musician in 2014 and 2016, and performed with musicians such as Ian Shaw, Gwilym Simcock, Julian Siegel, Gareth Lockrane and Ian Thomas.
The second development awardee of 2018 is Sheila Maurice-Grey, a jazz trumpeter who has been perfecting her craft for 13 years. Having performed in Kano’s live band on The Jools Holland Show, the pro improviser and Trinity Laban graduate’s name is often referenced in articles about the new London jazz scene. She takes the title of bandleader in Afrobeat band Kokoroko and is a core member of the up-and-coming, Parliamentary Jazz Award winning, collective Nérija. She will use her £2,000 prize primarily towards artwork but also rehearsals, recording fees, mixing and mastering.
Alex Hitchcock said: “I'm delighted to win this award and very grateful to Help Musicians UK for the opportunity. I’m really excited to be able to work with three of my favourite musicians on this new project in Will Barry, Ferg Ireland, and Shane Forbes. This will allow us space to collaborate and create some really forward-thinking new music. I can’t wait to find out how Will, Ferg and Shane's unique and distinctive musical personalities combine with me in this project.”
Tom Smith said: "The Peter Whittingham Development Award will help fund Geko’s first album and the subsequent album launch tour - Geko’s music brings three longtime friends to craft intensely emotive and reactive sounds. Help Musicians UK is helping us record our debut album and tour by funding our studio time and touring costs, we are massively grateful for this as none of this would be possible without them.”
This year marks the 28th anniversary of the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award, which was launched in 1990. An expert in survival medicine, Peter Whittingham was also a pianist who enjoyed the music of Gershwin, Porter, Sondheim, Bernstein, Shearing and Peterson. After his death in 1987 his family set up this award in his memory and their connection with the award continues. Over the past 28 years the award has been given to many leading jazz musicians, including Help Musicians UK ambassador Soweto Kinch, Errollyn Wallen MBE, Dave O’Higgins, Gwilym Simcock and Roller Trio.
Claire Gevaux, Help Musicians UK Director of Programme, said: “The Peter Whittingham Jazz Award has been won by a rich tapestry of incredible British jazz talent over its 28 years, with this year being no exception. Help Musicians UK is delighted that this year’s Award goes to such a diverse array of exceptional emerging talent who are all working incredibly hard to create a long lasting career. The Peter Whittingham Jazz award is vital to artists like Alex Hitchcock, Tom Smith and Sheila Maurice-Grey and will be a welcome boost at this critical stage of their development.”