The winner of the 2019 Freedman Jazz Fellowship is pianist:
Photo: Anthony Browell
The 2019 Freedman Jazz Fellowship Final at The Studio in the Sydney Opera House once again proved an enthralling and inspirational event. Each of the three finalists delivered exceptional sets, making the three judges’ final decision most difficult. Novak Manojlovic played a superb suite of original music utilizing both piano and synthesiser. Elly Hoyt’s set was a brave, audacious and poignant musical statement focusing on the plight of refugees to this country. Harry Sutherland provided a beautifully understated and subtle interchange with trumpeter Tom Avgenicos. Whilst the judges deliberated the audience was treated to a unique ‘family’ set from 2010 Freedman Fellow, guitarist Ben Hauptmann along with siblings Zoe and James.
MC for the evening James Valentine from ABC 702 introduced the Music Trust’s Dr Richard Letts who recalled the enormous contribution that the Freedman Fellowships have made to young musicians since their inception in 2001. Judge Mike Nock commented on the lofty heights that jazz in Australia had now reached and then announced the 2019 winner Novak Manojlovic.
Novak plans to use the $20,000 Freedman Fellowship to take his longstanding piano trio HEKKA (featuring Jacques Emery on bass and Tully Ryan on drums) on a 10-date national and international tour of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, where they will collaborate with a projection artist residing in each city. A new, one hour set of music will be composed specifically for the trio and visuals.
Comments from Dr Richard Letts and the Judges:
Dr Richard Letts:
The Freedman Fellowship has enabled jazz in Australia, and some of our best players, to progress by funding big, imaginative projects that normally would not be possible for them. When more is feasible, you can dream bigger. There was some unusual consistency among this year’s finalists. While they hatched their plans independently, each one produced a single suite of pieces to fill the entire half hour of performance time – unusual in jazz where concerts usually put together a set of separate songs. The suites require a bigger vision. Each of the three performers planned to include visual art as an important element of their projects. Novak is composing a one-hour musical suite. A projection artist in each of the ten cities will be invited to create a visual work to be performed with the suite – and so each city will have ‘personal’ part ownership of the work. Elly Hoyt would commission an Iranian asylum seeker to produce cartoons for her musical condemnation of the Manus Island regime. Harry Sutherland wants to produce a high quality video to help achieve an international tour. Even if they did not win the Fellowship, each of the 17 nominees will have been encouraged to plan beyond the usual boundaries, normally constrained by lack of money. This in itself expands the boundaries of Australian jazz.
Novak Manojlovic and his group HEKKA have created something unique and beautiful. Novak’s rhythmically dense compositions provide a perfect base for the sonic layering of synthesiser and acoustic piano trio. The result is music that is both sophisticated and singular. Having the privilege of learning about the seventeen contestants through their music and projects for the Freedman Fellowship this year gave me the sense that jazz is at an exciting point in Australia. All the projects presented were interesting, varied, pushed boundaries and were of high quality. That these musicians are already achieving so much is remarkable given the current work circumstances for the arts practitioners in Australia. The Freedman Fellowship is so important. Australia has limited funding available for jazz activities and little philanthropy in this area. The Freedman Fellowship gives musicians an opportunity and financial support to realise a major project, to think big. The work produced as a result of the Freedman Fellowship is substantial with the quality of the projects continues to rise each year.
Judging by this year’s crop of Freedman Jazz contenders, today’s Australian Jazz scene is in extraordinarily robust health. We saw strong evidence of this on Sunday night from all three finalists, but particularly in the stunning set played by winner, pianist/composer, Novak Manojlovic’s trio. Their uncompromising music displayed the highest artistic standards, together with contemporary awareness and very strong audience appeal. Much credit for the high level of creative talent emerging in Australia today must be given to organisations such as the Freedman Foundation, who provide younger artists with meaningful goals to aspire to, along with powerful career possibilities.
The Freedman Fellowship holds a uniquely important role in the development of jazz in Australia. Each year seventeen musicians are provided an opportunity to focus on their big picture career goals and asked to think clearly about what it may take in reality to achieve them. The diversity of concepts and quality of music within this year’s applications is testament to the collective progress of the national jazz scene. The Freedman Fellowship provides a fantastic platform for Australian musicians to inspire each other to greater musical feats. This year’s winner, Novak Manojlovic, is poised to take full advantage of this opportunity. His fantastic music and wonderful band are ready to represent the world class standard of music currently being made in Australia today on the international stage.
About the Winner – Novak Manojlovic:
Sydney-based pianist, Novak Manojlovic first began playing piano at age eight. He went on to study at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music from 2012-2016 where he honed his craft as an improviser and composer, studying under pianists Mike Nock and Matt McMahon (Freedman Jazz Fellow 2005). Novak has led his own diverse projects and collaborated extensively in the pop music scene, acting as a musical director, arranger and touring musician for Ngaiire, Sampa the Great, Wallace and Martha Marlow. Novak has been quickly gaining recognition for his expressive approach, and since finishing his studies has been composing and performing with his subversive piano trio ‘HEKKA’, electro-acoustic outfit Colourfields and his large ensemble Grown Ocean throughout Australia.
About the Freedman Jazz Fellowships:
The Jazz Fellowship is funded by the Freedman Foundation, a philanthropic foundation chaired by Laurence Freedman, which assists young Australians in music and visual arts as well as providing support to medical and scientific programs. 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.
Past winners of the Freedman Jazz Fellowships read like 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, Aaron Choulai and Tal Cohen, trumpeters Nick Garbett and Phil Slater, bassist Christopher Hale, vocalist Kristin Berardi and drummer James McLean. The Fellowships are managed by The Music Trust and administered by the Sydney Improvised Music Association.
Further info at: https://sima.org.au/freedman-music-fellowships/
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 a recording package to produce a recording in the superb ABC Jazz Studios. The addition of this recording package makes the Freedman Jazz Fellowship Australia’s most lucrative Jazz award.
Press reviews of the Freedman Jazz concert
Freedman Jazz: worthy winner plays with electric tension
By John Shand – Sydney Morning Herald, September 9, 2019
FREEDMAN JAZZ ★★★★
The Studio, September 8
The standard of musical excellence in Australia is only going north. This was the strongest of 17 editions of Freedman Jazz, the annual concert partly determining the winner of the $20,000 Freedman Jazz Fellowship. Standing out was not just the musicianship, but the artistry: the ideas and creativity in play. Sydney pianist Novak Manojlovic opened the concert and ended up a worthy winner.
HEKKA, Manojlovic’s band with bassist Jacques Emery and drummer Tully Ryan, was thrillingly distinctive, helped no end by the leader’s compositions. Although others have traversed related musical territory (the Bad Plus, Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Phronesis, Triosk) and one can hear faint echoes of Thelonious Monk and Sun Ra in Manojlovic’s own playing, this trio’s improvising language is all its own. While Emery acted as a minimalist pivot, the pianist used electronics to frost the band’s sound and Ryan’s jagged drumming made the undercurrent of tension electric.
At one point Manojlovic incorporated a spoken-word loop of a female voice repeating, “I was trying to slow down; make it all last”. I felt like that: wanting time to take in the sheer eccentricity of the compositional, textural, melodic and rhythmic ideas, which piled surprise upon surprise, as though one had stumbled into a benign musical minefield.
London-based Tasmanian singer Elly Hoyt came very close to matching this standard. The words (sung or spoken) to her opening suite condemned the misery suffered by asylum seekers in Australia’s offshore camps, while her wordless improvising ranged from soaring operatic ethereality to roaring earthiness. She was less compelling when settling for prettiness, although even then the inspired combination of Matt McMahon (piano), Phil Stack (bass) and James Waples (drums) shook off any creeping complacency.
The final contender was Sydney pianist/composer Harry Sutherland, who, like Manojlovic, had Ryan on drums and used electronics, but Sutherland’s music wore its heart more overtly on its sleeve, partly thanks to Tom Avgenicos’s slicing, electronically treated trumpet.
Manojlovic will use his fellowship to write new music, tour his trio and collaborate with projection artists.
Freedman Jazz Fellowship Concert
By Eric Myers
Published in The Australian, September 10, 2019
he Studio, Sydney Opera House September 8
A large audience in the 300-seater Opera House Studio was treated to an evening of unusually innovative jazz on Sunday night, when three finalists competed for the lucrative $20,000 Music Trust Freedman Jazz Fellowship.
They were vocalist Elly Hoyt and pianists Novak Manojlovic and Harry Sutherland, each performing for about half-an-hour with their own small ensembles. With the exception of Hoyt’s version of the Charlie Chaplin standard Smile, all music was composed by the three contestants.
Manojlovic opened with a suite of three works, accompanied by Jacques Emery (bass) and Tully Ryan (drums). He was able to take the listener on an enthralling trip, courtesy of an obvious virtuosity at the piano and synthesiser keyboards.
The awarding of the fellowship to Manojlovic, at the conclusion of the concert, was no surprise.
While political protest is not unknown in American jazz – think Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit in 1939– a didactic work such as Elly Hoyt’s Eaten Fish Suite, a trenchant criticism of current Australian government policy on asylum seekers, has rarely been attempted before in Australian jazz, as far as I know.
Hoyt has a slender voice that can lose presence in the sound mix. While she was backed by splendid players Matt McMahon (piano), Phil Stack (bass) and James Waples (drums), more care was needed to ensure that her voice projected strongly, particularly when she reverted to the spoken monologues that contained her political message.
Harry Sutherland, on keyboards, presented a suite of his own compositions, performing with Thomas Avgenicos (trumpet) and again Tully Ryan (drums). Sutherland expertly played keyboard bass on his synthesiser, compensating for the absence of an orthodox bassist.
His music, full of lyrical beauty, and more redolent of the jazz tradition than the other finalists, brought the concert to a brilliant conclusion.
With the Freedman Foundation, the Music Trust, ABC Jazz, the Sydney Improvised Music Association, and ABC radio’s James Valentine all committed to excellence at this iconic event, it is a pity that the sound, while good overall, was often short of excellent.
In a concert hall with a high ceiling such as The Studio, more co-ordination between musicians and sound technicians would be helpful in relation to the sound level of the acoustic piano, and also in relation to counselling drummers, such as Waples and Ryan, to play at a whisper in such venues.
In relation to achieving good sound balance, visiting American jazz artists have recently shown the way. When will the penny drop in Sydney?
While the three judges, Mike Nock, Gai Bryant and Matt Keegan, were considering their verdict, a delightful half-hour set of straight-ahead modern jazz was played by the Hauptmann siblings, Zoe (double bass), Ben (guitar) and James (drums). The sound balance was excellent here, given that there was no acoustic piano to amplify; the lead instrument (guitar) was strongly amplified and therefore clear as a bell; and James provided an object lesson in how to play the drums in such a venue. He often used brushes rather than sticks, and was wholly sensitive as to how his sound would be received out in the audience.
The Freedman Classical Fellowship
Nominations have been received from nominees, and assessed, and three finalists have been chosen. This is how things will go from now.
Nominees for the Freedman Classical Fellowship 2019
There were fourteen nominees for the Fellowship. See their names below.
Each nominee accepting the invitation to participate must send a video of their musical performance and the description of a project they would undertake should they win, paid for with their $20,000 prize money. Broadly speaking, the project is intended to advance their career and contribute to the art form or its situation in Australia.
The judges take into account both the musical achievement and the project design in choosing the three finalists and the winner.
The judges have selected the three finalists for the Freedman Classical Fellowship 2019. They are
Rohan Dasika, double bass
Jonathan Heilbron, double bass
Katy Yap, baroque viola
This is an extremely unusual final list. In the sixteen iterations of the Fellowship to date, there has not previously been a double bass player selected as a finalist, let alone two, nor have we ever had a violist, let alone a baroque violist.
But the Freedman is that kind of competition.
Rohan Dasika, double bass
BIO. Born Vancouver, raised in Melbourne. Graduate of ANU, Australian National Academy of Music, studied in US, Austria, Germany. Performed with the Frankfurter Opern-und-Museumsorchester, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Association with James Crabb has led to engagements at festivals including the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Four Winds Festival, and the Canberra International Music Festival. Passionate about contemporary music.
PROJECT. …beginning a process that will hopefully create the possibility of new and meaningful collaborations well into the future. There are two main components to it:
Commissioning: I propose to commission two of the most experienced musicians who work between the Carnatic and Western music traditions, namely Sandy Evans and Adrian Sherriff, to write Carnatic-inspired notated pieces of music for solo double bass. This will serve a few purposes – firstly, it will give me personally meaningful music that I can use as professional “calling cards” …Secondly, the relationships I develop with Ms. Evans and Mr. Sherriff will be very valuable…as they are major figures within the intercultural music community…Thirdly, the pieces will add sorely needed new Australian repertoire to the double bass literature.
Touring: I propose to then present a recital including these two newly-written pieces of music in Chennai, the centre of Carnatic music. …I would use both the commissioning and touring aspects of the Fellowship to begin the much longer-term process of adapting Carnatic techniques to the double bass, and learning to perform the music. In time I aim to be able to perform alongside Carnatic musicians (including members of my own extended family) as a complement to my orchestral and chamber music career.
Jonathan Heilbron, double bass
BIO. Completed studies at Australian National Academy in 2012. As soloist, assisted composing and gave premiere performances of works by Australian and European composers. As ensemble musician, has worked with leading European ensembles for contemporary music in presenting works by leading composers. Foundation of professional life is work with leading orchestras. He is a composer with performances of his works in Australia, Europe, North America, Middle East. Has released two CDs of his works, performed by himself and by a quartet. Founded and leads the Phonetic Orchestra, with an idiosyncratic and innovative practice and repertoire.
PROJECT. Over the next two years, I would like to build on the strong foundation that I have developed for myself as a solo double bassist as well as a composer, artistic director and researcher. I will do this by investing the funding granted to me by the Freedman Fellowship into two very different large-scale projects of international scope that cut across disciplines, media and practices.
The first outcome will be the commissioning, development, composition, performance and recording of a new concert-length piece for double bass, light and electronics by the Berlin-based American composer Catherine Lamb. This new commission will be a major new addition to the repertoire of the double bass, something I am constantly striving to expand. The work will be developed together in Berlin, and performed at New Music festivals in several cities in Europe, such as Berlin (Vibrant Matter), Tallinn, (Sound Plasma festival), Portugal (Serralves em Festa), Oslo (Only Connect Festival), Aarhus (Spor Festival), and others. The piece will be documented professionally with the assistance of a videographer, and an audio recording will be released via the renowned Spanish record label, Nueni.
The second major project I will pursue will take the form of an intensive period of research and development, culminating in a series of 8-hour, overnight performances given to a sleeping audience by my group, The Phonetic Orchestra. I will also produce a limited-edition release of an 8-hour recording, presented on four discs in a carefully designed box set with accompanying text reflecting my research…[It will be toured all over Australia.]
Katy Yap, baroque and modern viola
BIO. University Medal, University of Queensland, then Professional Performance Program, Australian National Academy of Music, 2012-14. Principal Viola, Bach Akademie Australia, Van Dieman’s Band, Melbourne Baroque; Tutti Viola, Academy of Ancient Music, Australian World Orchestra, ABO, ACO, MSO, Camerata, others. Concerto soloist, performances at festivals etc.
PROJECT. My project’s overarching theme of ‘Home’ contains three main elements: an Australian tour, a recording, and an Italian tour. Through these elements, I want to explore the theme of ‘Home’ from three different angles:
1) Broadening the perception of the baroque viola’s musical home…
2) Speaking to a wide audience demographic through the universal but varied idea of ‘Home’…
3) Broadening my own performing home… I want to share my idea of ‘Home’ firstly with my fellow Australians through a national tour, then with the wider community through recording the concert program to release as an album, and finally to European audiences through an Italian tour…
As a new initiative in 2019, the finalists are provided with the services of a mentor to further develop their projects. The finalists can choose mentors from a list provided, or propose their own.
Both Jonathan and Katy chose the extraordinary Genevieve Lacey, virtuoso recorder player, festival director, innovator at large.
Rohan chose international virtuoso accordionist and festival director, James Crabb.
The revised projects are taken into account in subsequent considerations for the selection of the winner.
The Finalists’ concert
It is at the concert that the winner is chosen.
The Freedman Jazz Concert has been held each year in The Studio of the Sydney Opera House.
This year for the first time, the classical concert will also be held at the Opera House – but in the wonderful Utzon Room. It seats only 200, so is very intimate, and has an extraordinary background of a full length window behind the stage and looking out onto the harbour stretching out to the Heads.
Each finalist will perform for a half hour. Then, while the judges retire to discuss what they have heard and select the winner, there will be a guest performance from guitarist Karin Schaupp, second winner of the Fellowship way back in 2002.
The concert is at 3.00pm on Sunday October 20.
Tickets can be purchased in advance from the Opera House box office.
Finalists’ names are in bold
- Harry Bennetts, violin
- Andrew Blanch, guitar
- Rohan Dasika, double bass
- Anna Freer, violin
- Jonathan Heilbron, double bass
- Callum Henshaw, guitar
- William Hewer, cello
- Madeline Jevons, violin
- Miles Johnston, guitar
- Erin Royer, saxophone
- Freya Schack-Arnott, cello
- Lloyd Van’t Hoff, clarinet
- Euphina Yap, percussion
- Katy Yap, baroque viola