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3 August 2016

Drummer James McLean the 2016 Freedman Jazz Fellow

James McLean Image: James McLean  

Drummer and composer James McLean has been named the 2016 Freedman Jazz Fellow. McLean succeeded in claiming the $20,000 cash prize against pianists Joseph O'Connor and Luke Sweeting, following a play-off at the Freedman Jazz concert at the Sydney Opera House on Monday 1 August. McLean was joined onstage by bassist (and 2012 Freedman Jazz Fellow) Christopher Hale and guitarist Alistair McLean.

Pianist and composer Stu Hunter spoke on behalf of the panel which also included bassist Brendan Clarke and drummer Laurence Pike:

'The Freedman Jazz Fellowship is a significant prize - it offers resources and the opportunity for artists to advance their careers and to explore a big idea. But it's much more than that. The Fellowship is also a message to all jazz musicians in Australia that your job is important, it is needed and it has value. It's saying, "Work on your craft, fight for your ideas and realise your vision". The judges unanimously believe that James thoroughly deserves this opportunity', Hunter said.

James McLean's winning set and an interview on SoundCloud.

McLean is the first drummer to be named a Freedman Jazz Fellow. In an unusual, colloquial twist, McLean also performed as the drummer in fellow finalist Joseph O'Connor's trio before leading his own winning performance.

McLean cites his influences as Australian jazz drummers Phil Treloar and Simon Barker. He intends to use his Fellowship to develop and record five new duo works with Andrea Keller, Gian Slater, Simon Barker, Christopher Hale and Scott Tinkler. The Fellowship includes a three-day recording package at the ABC studios courtesy of ABC Jazz.

Dr Richard Letts, Director of the Music Trust, said: 'The Freedman Jazz Fellowship process encourages each candidate to present their own music, with no rules imposed. As a result, the Fellowships trace the recent history of jazz development in Australia. We can see that Australian jazz musicians welcome influences from other musical genres. Often they are non-Western - for instance, we have heard Indian, Korean, Ethiopian, Flamenco in recent years. This year, if there has been one external influence, it probably is new classical music. Jazz is alive and growing in Australia and James McLean is new-generation proof.'

The Fellowship recognises excellence in the field of jazz and is awarded to a candidate 35 years or younger who demonstrates exceptional artistic achievement. Candidates are nominated by jazz leaders from around the country. Each candidate must submit a career-enhancing creative project on which their award money would be spent.

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