2016 Freedman Jazz Fellowship Finalists Announced | The Music Trust


The Music Trust today announced the three finalists for the prestigious 2016 Freedman Jazz Fellowship, Australia’s premier award for excellence in jazz.

This year’s contenders for the annual scholarship are drummer James McLean and pianists Joe O’Connor and Luke Sweeting.

The finalists will now have the opportunity to compete for the $20,000 cash prize in a live performance ‘play-off’ at Freedman Jazz at the Sydney Opera House on Monday 1 August at 7:30pm.

The judges, distinguished jazz musician/composers Stu Hunter, Laurence Pike and Brendan Clarke selected the three finalists from a group of 16 national candidates. The finalists were judged in part on their proposed career enhancing project for which the prize money would be used.

Drummer James McLean has proposed to use the Fellowship award to establish five new duos with distinguished Australian artists. Their work will be compiled into an album and released. Collaborating artists would be Simon Barker (drums), Chris Hale (electric bass), Andrea Keller (piano), Gian Slater (vocal), and Scott Tinkler (trumpet).

National Jazz Award winner and Bell Young Artist of the Year recipient, pianist Joe O’Connor plans to develop a work titled Antique Dance as a collaboration between two contemporary dancers and his trio. The festival work would broaden the reach of O’Connor’s music, emphasizing hybrid art forms while providing an opportunity for O’Connor to develop as a producer.

Luke Sweeting, Dennis Griffin Masters of Music Scholar, plans on enhancing his career through the Fellowship by leading his Grey Wing Trio on a tour to Europe in 2017. The award would fund an international pathway for Sweeting, consolidating networks made over the previous two years.

Dr Letts says about Freedman Jazz “This year new developments will add to the already electrifying atmosphere of finals night. Laurence and Kathy Freedman of the Freedman Foundation have generously increased the prize money to $20,000 in 2016. And this year Freedman Jazz will include a special performance by 2003 Freedman Jazz Fellow, saxophonist Andrew Robson. The Freedman Fellows (listed below) are Australian jazz royalty.”

ABC Jazz is the media partner for the Freedman Jazz Fellowships and will be covering the event and will broadcast the concert. In addition to the cash prize, the winner will receive three days recording time in the superb ABC Jazz Studios. The addition of this recording package makes the Freedman Jazz Fellowship Australia’s most lucrative Jazz award. Tal Cohen, the winner of the 2015 Fellowship, is returning to Sydney in June to claim his award, recording a new project in the ABC Jazz Studios in Sydney.

The Jazz Fellowship is funded by the Freedman Foundation, a philanthropic foundation chaired by Laurence Freedman, which assists and supports young Australians in many areas including medical and scientific programs and the arts. In 2001, Laurence Freedman was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the community, to medical research, the arts, and to business and investment in Australia.


Freedman Jazz will be held at 7:30pm on Monday 1 of August

The Studio, Sydney Opera House Tickets: $45/$38/$25 Bookings: www.sydneyoperahouse.com


Past winners of the Freedman Jazz Fellowships are a Who’s Who of Australian jazz. They include guitarists Ben Hauptmann and James Muller, saxophonists Julien Wilson, Andrew Robson and Matt Keegan, pianists Andrea Keller, Matt McMahon, Marc Hannaford and Aaron Choulai, trumpeter Phil Slater, bassist Christopher Hale and vocalist Kristin Berardi.




James McLean is a drummer from Melbourne who works at the intersections of composed and improvised music. James has recorded with a diverse range of artists including Marc Hannaford, Eugene Ball, Joseph O’Connor and Paul Williamson.

He co-leads numerous ensembles, including All Talk, Blind Spot, and Dispositions – a duo with expatriate composer/percussionist Phil Treloar that toured the Australian east coast in late 2015. In 2015 James released his debut solo album Counter Clockwork – a suite of solo drum set music created as part of his PhD studies into contemporary Australian improvised music. James currently performs regularly with: The Eugene Ball Quartet, Andrea Keller’s Transients trios, Tamara Murphy’s Spirograph Studies and the Rob Burke Sextet amongst others. Career highlights in 2015 include performances and workshops in Perth as part of Tura New Music and Club and the ConVerge festival




Joe O’Connor is among Australia’s most accomplished jazz pianists and composers. He was the 2013 winner of the National Jazz Award held annually at Wangaratta Jazz Festival, and was the 2014 recipient of the Bell Award for young Australian jazz artist of the Year. He is the 2016 recipient of the PBS Young Elder of Jazz commission and is currently preparing a set of music to be performed by the Joe O’Connor Trio with Scott Tinkler at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. His Trio was commissioned by ABC Jazztrack in 2014 to record an album of original music. The subsequent debut album Praxis was released in March 2015. Joe also directs a number of projects that develop and present ambitious music for improvisers.



Luke Sweeting is an improvising pianist and composer known for the strength of his composing, such as in his 2012 jazz album ‘People and Lightbulbs’ and also with the Grey Wing Trio who released their debut album ‘Amoroso’ on Jazzhead records in 2015. Luke received an Australia Council grant for the composition of new material and recording of ‘Amoroso’. In 2015 Luke toured Germany, Sweden and Australia with Svelia, Australia with The Grey Wing Trio, and New Zealand and Australia with a collaborative band Antipode comprising New Zealand and Australian artists. He also toured in April with Vulkan Quintet (members from Denmark and Australia) whilst performing with other projects.



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