Recipients of the Australian Jazz Bell Awards 2017 were announced at a ceremony hosted by Birds Basement in Melbourne on Monday night. Guests were treated to Birds’ impeccable service, a lavish three-course meal and live performances from award recipients past and present.
Named after Graeme Bell (MBE, AO), the Bell Awards were established in 2003 to recognise and encourage excellence in the performance, creativity, recording and presentation of jazz in Australia, with a $5000 prize for each sponsored award category.
Stu Hunter’s The Migration was nominated in all five open voting categories and took out two awards. Congratulations to all the nominees and award recipients:
Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album (TarraWarra Estate)
Nominations: Kristin Berardi Just As You Are; Michelle Nicolle Quartet A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; Stu Hunter The Migration.
Awarded to: Michelle Nicolle Quartet
Best Australian Instrumental Jazz Album (Brand Partners)
Nominations: Jeremy Rose and The Earshift Orchestra, Iron In The Blood; Andrea Keller & Tim Wilson Duo, Consider This; Stu Hunter, The Migration.
Awarded to: Andrea Keller & Tim Wilson Duo.
Best Produced Album (Alfie Records)
Nominations: Jeremy Rose and The Earshift Orchestra, Iron In The Blood; The Vampires, The Vampires Meet Lionel Louke; Stu Hunter, The Migration.
Awarded to: Jeremy Rose and The Earshift Orchestra
Best Australian Jazz Song/Composition of the Year (APRA/AMCOS)
Nominations: Eugene Ball 4tet, Hi(gh) Curious song Es Muss Sein; Andrea Keller & Time Wilson Duo, song Consider This; Stu Hunter, The Migration song Eagle Fish.
Awarded to: Stu Hunter
Best Australian Jazz Ensemble of the Year (Monash University)
Nominations: Michelle Nicolle Quartet A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; Stu Hunter The Migration; The Vampires, The Vampires Meet Lionel Louke.
Awarded to: Stu Hunter
Can an album be nominated for both Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album and Best Australian Instrumental Jazz Album? According to the guidelines published on the Bell Awards website, the selection criteria for a vocal album nomination must be “an album led by or featuring a vocalist”. To qualify for nomination in the instrumental album category, “the recording must be free of lyrics” – unless it has only one or two tracks out of 10 with lyrics. Hunter’s The Migration has two vocal tracks.
Keeping it loose, the Best Australian Jazz Ensemble criteria specifies “the minimum size of the band must be 7 members”, yet a quartet was nominated in this category. So how do nominations work for the Bell Awards and who votes?
The nomination and voting process was opened up to members of the Australian Jazz Awards Academy last year to make it “transparent and more democratic”. Academy membership is open to all jazz enthusiasts, with a $10 joining fee each year.
In his opening presentation, Bell Awards founder and Chairman Albert Dadon (Albare) commented that the number of Academy members exceeded 250 this year.
Members can nominate then vote for their top three preferences in all award categories excluding the Graeme Bell Hall of Fame award – this one is determined only by the panel of judges. The Hall of Fame award recognises outstanding artistic achievement and contribution to Australian jazz by a living artist, with this year’s honour going to drummer Ted Vining.
The Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year, this year sponsored by Fender Katsalidis Architects, was awarded to West Australian pianist Harry Mitchell.
The 2017 judging panel comprised Albare, Adrian Jackson, Martin Jackson, John McBeath, Gerry Koster and Carl Griffin. At the risk of banging the Boys Club drum a little loud, one has to raise the issue of gender imbalance here. Surely there are plenty of women who could be – and should be – part of the judging panel every year.
How about Dr Louise Denson, or ABC Jazz broadcaster and journalist Jessica Nicholas? If previous Bell Award recipients aren’t excluded from judging, how about international vocalist and composer Chris McNulty (her prestigious career includes a DownBeat readers poll top 11 album of the year)? Or Judy Jacques, Andrea Keller, Judy Bailey? C’mon fellas, it’s time to move Australian jazz into the 21st century.
© May 2017 Kaye Blum
This article was first published by Jazz and Beyond