The last time the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute Competition focused on vocals was back in 2010. The three winners were Cécile McLorin Salvant, Charnée Wade, and Cyrille Aimée. All three of them are now having an international career, with Cécile just recently playing the Berlin Jazzfest. Among the judges five years ago were Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Al Jarreau, and Dianne Reeves.
So it was with much anticipation when the three winners of this year’s competition were announced during a gala concert in Los Angeles on Sunday. And this time around, Patti, Al and Dee Dee were on the judging panel again as well as Luciana Souza and Freddy Cole. And the first prize went to Jazzmeia Horn from Texas. Congratulations. She’ll get a guaranteed recording contract with the Concord Music Group. But it is a safe bet that we’re going to hear from all three of the singers in the years to come. Second prize went to Veronica Swift from Virginia and third prize to Vuyolwethu Sotashe from South Africa.
All three were backed by a great rhythm section: Reginald Thomas on piano, Rodney Whitaker on bass and Carl Allen on drums. The event at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood also included a gala concert and tribute to Quincy Jones who was honored for all his many contributions in the music world and beyond. Herbie Hancock presented him the Herbie Hancock Humanitarian Award and in his acceptance speech, Quincy said: ” I humbly accept this honor on behalf of my fellow Jazz musicians past, present and future, and I promise that I will be right there with you on the front lines as we continue to work to preserve and promote our music, so that it will always get the recognition that it deserves.”