Top talents take Peter Whittingham Jazz Awards 2015

With the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award marking 25 years at the forefront of nurturing creative jazz talent, the latest round of auditions saw two young bands each receive a £5,000 funding boost.

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra, from London, and Glasgow quartet Square One gave outstanding performances in front of a panel of jazz stars including Issie Barratt, Julian Joseph, Claire Martin OBE and Dave O’Higgins. It is the first time the award has gone to two recipients since 2000. Patchwork Jazz Orchestra will use the funding to develop a series of large-scale events showcasing the big band and other creative artists, while Square One will be focusing on a new recording project and developing their national profile. 

Square One guitarist Joe Williamson, a final-year student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “We're delighted to have been chosen for the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award 2015. The award will give us the opportunity to develop Square One as a band and reach new audiences at this exciting stage in our careers.”

Bass player Misha Mullov-Abbado said: “All of us in the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra are very excited about our plans in the coming months and we are extremely grateful and lucky to have been offered the 2015 Peter Whittingham Award.”

With an array of talent from around the UK reaching the shortlist of ten acts, the panel had a difficult task picking the winners. In addition to the main awards, special Help Musicians UK Development Awards worth £2,500 each were offered to Come Back Stronger led by drummer JJ Wheeler, and fellow Royal Academy of Music graduates Big Bad Wolf.

Composer Issie Barratt, joining the panel for the first time, said: “It was a real thrill hearing so many great players performing such a wealth of wonderfully diverse and highly creative original music. I'll certainly be following the future of all ten shortlisted projects with great interest.”

With an ethos of innovation, the award aims to kick-start ambitious creative projects, and its legacy includes World Service Project’s acclaimed Match & Fuse Festival and Phil Meadows’ Engines Orchestra, which won Ensemble of the Year at the 2015 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. Other previous winners include Empirical, Soweto Kinch and Roller Trio.

Peter Whittingham was an expert in survival medicine and was a pianist himself. After his death, his family set up the award – and their involvement continues today, with Whittingham’s son-in-law Clive Shelton chairing the panel. It remains a key strand of Help Musicians UK’s wider programme of talent development initiatives across all genres of music.

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Panelist Julian Joseph highlighted the importance of the award: “All the bands set and maintained a staggeringly high standard of musicianship for an award that continues to identify and support gifted young jazz musicians at a critical point in their burgeoning careers. My congratulations go to the magnificent Patchwork Jazz Orchestra; a co-operative big band plugged into the spirit of the current London jazz scene, littered with talented writers and players unafraid of thinking big and the Scottish Quartet Square One who are a soulful and empathetic band with an irresistible charisma. I certainly left the auditions feeling optimistic about the future of British music and am proud that this level of creativity is pouring out of our jazz scene with our winners demonstrating just how relevant and vibrant British Jazz is.”

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