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Celebrating Kiwi jazz success with Best Artist and Composition announcement

Story Published Sunday 31 July 2022
Lauren Ellis, Myele Manzanza, and Darren Pickering are finalists for the 2022 APRA Best Jazz Composition

As the local scene continues to develop and grow, today we celebrate the talented finalists for Recorded Music New Zealand Te Kaipuoro Tautito Toa | Best Jazz Artist and APRA Best Jazz Composition awards.

Aotearoa-born, London-based jazz musician Myele Manzanza leads the nominations as a finalist for both awards for his album Crisis & Opportunity Vol.1 and composition ‘Brixton Blues’.

Joining Myele as finalists for Best Jazz Artist are Pōneke-based septet Devil’s Gate Outfit for Jazz From The Underground Nightclubs Of Aotearoa Volume 5 and Kiwi duo Jake Baxendale & Jasmine Lovell-Smith for Sanctuary.

And for the APRA Best Jazz Composition awards, drummer and composer Lauren Ellis for her composition ‘Papatūānuku’ and Darren Pickering for his composition ‘TA2’ round out the 2022 finalists.

Recorded Music New Zealand Te Kaipuoro Tautito Toa | Best Jazz Artist

As a drummer and composer, Myele Manzanza has earned himself a reputation as a visionary musician who is not afraid to experiment.

His album Crisis and Opportunity Vol.1 was born out of the necessity to direct his creative energy in a productive direction and maintain his growth as an artist during the 2020 Covid 19 lockdown - a reflection of the times.

For the last three years, Devil’s Gate Outfit have been thrilling audiences with their unique blend of jazz composition, sonic exploration, improvisation and deep grooves.

The group’s album Jazz From The Underground Nightclubs Of Aotearoa Volume 5 was recorded live in concert at Meow in September 2021, directly after New Zealand’s second Covid lockdown and features compositions inspired by Wellington’s rugged and volatile South coast.

Finally, Sanctuary is a collaborative album featuring works by New Zealand jazz composers Jake Baxendale and Jasmine Lovell-Smith. Developed for an eleven-piece ensemble, the musicians featured on the album are a multi-generational cast of favourite collaborators from the Wellington jazz scene.

With the inclusion of flute and bass clarinet along with traditional winds, brass and rhythm, the ensemble has a rich, chamber-like texture, yet maintains the fluidity and agility that are typical of small group jazz, allowing space for the improvising voices of each musician.

Recorded Music NZ Kaiwhakahaere o Ngā Tohu Puoro o Aotearoa Sarah Owen said the finalists for this year’s Tūī were all deserving of celebration for their craft.

“There is no denying that the last few years have been a challenge for our musicians, but from these challenges experimental and exceptional recordings have been born. The calibre of the finalists for 2022’s Te Kaipuroro Tautito Toa make me very excited for the future”

APRA Best Jazz Composition

Before relocating to the United States, Lauren Ellis made her mark on the Wellington jazz scene, leading and playing for a number of well-known groups, including Richter City Rebels, The Presidents of Funk, and Gold Nugget Pawn Shop.

Now a finalist for Best Jazz Composition for ‘Papatūānuku’, Lauren is an active and busy member of the Los Angeles music community as educator, performer and composer - working on film and documentary scores, as well as creating commissioned works for ensembles in both the US and Aotearoa.

Darren is a jazz pianist, composer, educator, modular synthesist and session musician based in Christchurch who is nominated for Best Jazz Composition this year for his composition ‘TA2’.

His quartet - Darren Pickering Small Worlds - focuses on the original compositions of Darren’s and re-imagined cover versions of selected works from other genres. He has also recorded several solo electronic ambient works, and performs with Bits of Beck, Swim Against the Tide, and Wulfie.

And after being nominated for Best Jazz Composition in 2020, Myele Myzanza is once again a finalist for the award with his composition ‘Brixton Blues’. Alongside collaborators Ashley Henry, Mark de Clive-Lowe, James Copus, Benjamin Muralt, George Crowley, Myele takes us on a sonic journey of people watching while taking a trip around Brixton.

APRA Head of NZ Operations Anthony Healey says: “The music is exciting, its fresh and reflects everything going on in the world right now. These composers are each on the global stage but firmly drawing on the uniqueness of Aotearoa's place in it. We are thrilled to celebrate them all.”

The winners of each award will be announced live on Radio New Zealand’s Music 101 on Saturday 13th August 2022.

Finalists for Recorded Music NZ Te Kaipuoro Tautito Toa | Best Jazz Music Artist

  • Devil’s Gate Outfit - Jazz From The Underground Nightclubs Of Aotearoa Volume 5
  • Jake Baxendale & Jasmine Lovell-Smith - Sanctuary
  • Myele Manzanza - Crisis & Opportunity Vol.1

Finalists for APRA Best Jazz Composition