Xhosa Cole announced as BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018

by Sophia Alexandra Hall

Five fantastic young jazz musicians competed in the BBC Young Jazz Musician Final last night (recorded November 24th, broadcast at 9pm on BBC4 November 25th) however, the title of BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018 was awarded to saxophonist Xhosa Cole. The final took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at London’s Southbank Centre, event supported by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. This year, for the first time, the Final was held at the EFG London Jazz Festival, as part of a new relationship designed to further the competition’s aim of showcasing the most talented young jazz performers to audiences across the UK.

In the grand final, each performer was tasked with playing a sixteen-minute set, which included at least one piece written or arranged by themselves. Xhosa played “Moving Ladywood” (Xhosa Cole), “I Cover The Waterfront” (Johnny Green) and “Moment’s Notice” (John Coltrane). Each of the contestants were backed by an outstanding band, consisting of Paula Gardiner (bass), Asaf Sirkis (drums), and led by Gwilym Simcock (piano).

Following his victory, Xhosa said:

“It’s been amazing to represent and have been represented at this prestigious celebration of jazz music in the UK. The calibre of musicianship and passion for jazz music displayed on the stage today has been incredibly inspiring to be a part of.”

This year’s judging panel was made up of Monty Alexander, Zoe Rahman, Gary Crosby, Zara McFarlane and Iain Ballamy.

Of the winner, judge Iain Ballamy said:

“Xhosa’s performance was so heartfelt, sincere and communicative. It’s easy to see he has such a deep and genuine love of the tradition that gave us such a convincing performance on the night. All five finalists were brilliant – I’d be happy to share the stage with any one of them – and hope to do so!”

The full line-up of BBC Young Jazz Musician finalists included:

  • Xhosa Cole – saxophone – 22 years old
  • Reuben Goldmark – piano – 18 years old
  • Fergus McCreadie – piano – 21 years old
  • James Owston – bass – 22 years old
  • Seth Tackaberry – bass – 20 years old

2016 winner Alexandra Ridout also performed at the final and said of her time as BBC Young Jazz Musician:

“Being named BBC Young Jazz Musician in 2016 was inspiring and so enjoyable. The whole competition made such an impact on my life because my playing improved and I gained more confidence as a musician and a person. I’m really excited for what the future holds for Xhosa.”

Since winning the 2016 final, Alexandra has performed around the country in festivals, concert halls, arts centres, music societies and major jazz clubs, and has had her music played on various BBC Radio 3 shows, Jazz FM and Jazz London Radio (listen to Ridout on the JLR interview series). She began studying at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in September 2017.

In addition to the television coverage on BBC Four and iPlayer for 30 days, BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting highlights of the Final in J to Z – a weekly programme exploring new sounds with classic recordings and exclusive sessions – on Saturday 1st December.

BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018