This past weekend, several pianists performed in the 2006 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition (its 20th anniversary). About a month ago, twelve semi-finalists were announced, three of whom are Los Angeles-based: Gerald Clayton, son of bassist/composer John Clayton and a talented keyboardist in his own right, currently studying at USC's Thornton School of Music; Josh Nelson, a sure-footed talent born and bred in SoCal; and Tigran Hamasyan hailing from Armenia and currently studying at USC (though not in the Monk Institute or Thornton). These players performed in Washington D.C. for an all-star panel which included Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill, Renee Rosnes, Danilo Perez, Randy Weston and Billy Taylor. The finalists were:
1) Tigran Hamasyan
2) Gerald Clayton
3) Aaron Parks
L.A. was obviously very well represented, and, of course, I hope we'll hear from all the competitors in the future. Read more at eJazzNews, but also read Ben Ratliff's account of the event in the NY Times. He offers some thoughtful points on what happens when jazz and mainstream cultural media -- not to mention politics -- collide (certainly not an unfamiliar occurence this year).
Kudos to all the competitors. Let's keep an ear out for them.
You can, however, already hear plenty of Aaron Parks on the following albums:
Terence Blanchard: Bounce and Flow
Gretchen Parlato's self-titled indie
Daisuke Abe: On My Way Back Home
Walter Smith III: Casually Introducing Walter Smith III
You'll find Josh Nelson here:
The Cross Hart Jazz Experience
Sara Gazarek: Yours
Jeff Kaye: Just Like Me
His own releases: First Stories and Anticipation (available at his website).