Freedman Jazz, the concert which decides the winner of the 2014 Freedman Jazz Fellowship, took place at The Studio of the Sydney Opera House on Wednesday August 20, 2014.

The 16 candidates for the Freedman Classical Fellowship were nominated by distinguished jazz musicians from around Australia. From the 16, the judging panel of three chooses four finalists to perform at the Freedman Jazz playoff concert.

The judges have announced the finalists:

Shannon Barnett, trombonist, who will return from Cologne, Germany.

Aaron Choulai, pianist, back from Tokyo.

Gian Slater, singer, who will travel from Melbourne.

Matthew Sheens, pianist, who will fly from New York  City.

Shannon Barnett is a much-awarded trombonist currently establishing herself on the international jazz scene. She is a member of the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany, and has been a regular member of the resident big band at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City. Her quartet was support for the Ahmad Jamal Quartet tour of Australia and she has performed at many major festivals in Australia, the USA and Europe. Shannon was nominated for the Freedman by Freedman Jazz Fellow Kristin Berardi.

Shannon Barnett. Photo by Karen Steains

Shannon Barnett. Photo by Karen Steains

The purpose of the Fellowship is to assist the winner in a career-building project. If she wins, Shannon will use the Fellowship award funds to make four CDs: one with her own band, the Shannon Barnett Quartet, performing her own compositions; the second with Australian quartet U.lock, recording in New York where two members are currently living; the third, with European musicians recording New Orleans traditional jazz in Cologne; the fourth, recording with a Scandinavian band Shannon’s original compositions paying homage to musicians from the 1960s – Ellington, Coltrane, Horace Silver. This is a very ambitious program – four recordings in different styles, with different bands, recorded in four cities on three continents.

Aaron Choulai has been Musical Director for the Queensland Music Festival production We Don’t Dance for No Reason involving singers and films from Papua New Guinea, Musical Co-Director for the Black Arm Band and Musical Director for Kate Cerberano. He has received a number of awards, made many recordings and given festival performances in Australia, Japan and Italy. He has a Master’s in Music degree from Tokyo College of the Arts. Aaron was nominated by inaugural Freedman Jazz Fellow Andrea Keller.

Pianist Aaron Choulai

Pianist Aaron Choulai

Aaron’s project would use the award funds to set up a recording studio and then embark on an innovative recording program which combines regular online releases of new, free tracks and the less frequent production and online sale of albums.

Gian Slater is a vocalist and composer known for her great musicality and her vision for vocal music. She has been a Freedman finalist in 2004 and 2010. To be nominated is already an honour and each time she has been nominated she has been selected as a finalist. She has released eight albums of her original music as well as appearing on other recordings and film soundtracks. Her large vocal ensemble, Invenio, has performed for major festivals and civic and industry events. Gian was also nominated by Andrea Keller.

Singer Gian Slater

Singer Gian Slater

If she wins the Fellowship, Gian will set in train a very unusual strategy for establishing herself as a touring artist in Europe. She will tour her trio (comprising herself, bass guitarist, husband and 2012 Freedman Fellow Chris Hale, and guitarist and brother Nathan Slater) to  four key European cities, inviting musical friends in each city to join them for performances. Building on these musical relationships, she will expand her circle and return regularly to an ever-widening touring circuit.

Matthew Sheens is a graduate of the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide and has a Master’s from the New England Conservatory in Boston. He is the Fellowship’s first finalist from Adelaide. He has received high academic awards in Australia and the USA, performed in international festivals in Australia, USA and Europe, made radio and television appearances. He is currently living in New York City. Matthew was nominated by Lydon Gray of the Adelaide organisation COMA.

Pianist Matthew Sheens

Pianist Matthew Sheens

Matthew’s project begins with a series of lessons with Sophia Rosoff, the most important exponent of the Abbey Whiteside method of piano technique. He envisages later being able to bring this teaching to Australia. The second phase of the project is to apply what he has learnt from Rosoff, as well as discoveries in the music of composers such as Ives, Stravinsky and Muhly, to the production of a recording. He also will fulfil an ambition to write for singers and an ensemble of six singers will be included on the disc. The other instrumentalists will be the famed bassist John Patitucci and drummer Rogerio Baccato. The lyrics will be drawn from Australian poetry.

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