BBC Jazz Awards 2008

The historic Mermaid Theater in London was the venue on 21 July for the BBC Jazz Awards 2008. Rather than being a gathering of a mutual-admiration society as so many awards ceremonies can be, the evening turned out to be a true celebration of jazz as an art-form and was declared a huge success by fans and critics alike.

Presenters at the BBC Jazz Awards included Jamie Cullum, Nigel Kennedy, Jeff Beck, Sir George Martin, Jazzie B, Colin Salmon, Barry Cryer and Mica Paris. Return to Forever picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to them by Sir George Martin (former Beatles producer). Led by pianist Chick Corea, the band entertained the audience with their song Romantic Warrior before they had to leave to perform at the O2 Arena as part of their Reunion Tour.

Humphrey Lyttelton was posthumously awarded BBC2 Jazz Artist of the Year as voted for by radio listeners. The long-time broadcaster and bandleader, who died earlier this year, is widely acknowledged as having had an indelible influence on the genre. His long list of achievements included the fact that in 1956 he recorded the first jazz record to make the UK singles chart. Previous Best Vocalist Award winner, Ian Shaw, performed Lyttelton’s Sad, Sweet Song for the first time ever at the awards evening.

Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine received the Gold Award, while the International Award went to legendary bassist, Charlie Haden. The quartet from Bristol, who call themselves The Blessing, received the Album Of The Year Award for their album, “All Is Yes”. The Blessing has proven their worth as musicians, having performed with the likes of Robert Plant, Portishead and The Super Furry Animals. The Rising Star Award went to pianist Kit Downes, who is currently a Royal College of Music Student and has appeared with Fraud, Acoustic Ladyland and Martin Speake.

Irish-born singer/songwriter Christine Tobin received the award for Best Vocalist, while the Best Instrumentalist Award went to saxophonist Tony Kofi. Tom Cawley’s Curios – Tom Cawley (keyboard), Sam Burgess (bassist), and Joshua Blackmore (drummer) – picked up the award for Jazz Line-Up Band of The Year. Following up on their nomination for 2007 Album of the Year, quintet Fraud walked away with the 2008 Jazz on 3 Innovation Award. Saxophonist Tommy Smith has enjoyed a successful music career from the age of 18 and now leads the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, as well as his own Youth Jazz Orchestra and his own quartet, so it came as no surprise to fans that he received the Heart of Jazz Award.

Other memorable performances at the BBC Jazz Awards 2008 included the finale featuring Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth along with Guy Barker’s big band, as well as a tribute by Jamie Cullum, Jeff Beck and Kyle Eastwood to Candid Record’s boss Alan Bates, who won the Services to Jazz In The UK Award.