Pianist Tal Cohen winner of this year’s Freedman Fellowship for jazz is the first winner from WA.

The judges commented : “Tal  showed a maturity beyond his years, a virtuosity that he does not flaunt but places at the service of the music. He demonstrated an ability to integrate various influences to produce a well-structured set that maintains intense audience interest. He will spend his prize money on a most ambitious recording project with one of the jazz world greats, Terence Blanchard, and his performance displayed the level of musical accomplishment that will make this a success.

And they paid tribute to all four finalists, Peter Farrar, Gian Slater and Mike Rivett. “Each was strong in a distinctive way. The program as a whole was absorbing, a succession of surprises.”

At the Sydney Opera House concert described by MC, Tim Ritchie as jazz of today and of the future, audiences experienced a range of musical styles from Mike Rivett’s saxophone and laptop soundscapes, to Gian Slater’s haunting and commanding vocals through to the eco friendly masked musicians in Peter Farrar’s band who roamed the stage to Ethiopian influenced grooves. Tal’s playing owes its roots to the Jewish folk songs and classical music he played in his formative years growing up in Israel.

His band comprised long time musical mentor Jamie Oehlers on sax, with Cameron Undy on bass and Tim Firth on drums.

Peter Farrar by Shane Rozario- 352 Image Peter Farrar by Shane Rozario

The winner receives a cash prize and three days studio time with the ABC Jazz . Tal Cohen will join other past winners who are a who’s who of Australia jazz: Ben Hauptmann, James Muller, saxophonists Julien Wilson, Andrew Robinson and Matt Keegan, pianists and composers such as Andrea Keller, Aaron Choulai, Matt McMahon, and Marc Hannaford, trumpeter Phil Slater, bassist Christopher Hall and vocalist Kristin Berardi.

As Richard Letts of The Music Trust says, “Every time, the candidates for the Freedman Jazz Fellowship bowl us over with their brilliant performances and originality. This year is no different with amazing finalists confirming that we are fortunate with the huge range of talent we have in the Australian Jazz world”.

“This was one of the best of the annual concerts given for the Freedman Jazz Fellowship. Finalists – the saxophonist Mike Rivett, singer Gian Slater, saxophonist Peter Farrar and pianist Tal Cohen – each had a highly distinctive musical style and presentation. Each has his or her own following in various cities but in the Freedman Jazz concert, the audience has the opportunity to hear them all in one concert and marvel at the rich diversity of jazz in our age – and the superlative quality of Australian jazz. Tal Cohen, in a field of high flyers, is a brilliant, subtle and expressive winner.”

The Jazz Fellowship of $15,000 is funded by the Freedman Foundation, managed by The Music Trust and administered by SIMA (Sydney improvised Music Association. This year ABC Jazz is the media partner for the Freedman Jazz Concert.

Thanks to Shane Rozario for images