If you're a jazz fan and a viewer of TV singing competitions like American Idol, The Voice, or the X Factor you may have wondered to yourself what a similar contest for jazz musicians might look like. Well, the Monk contest might be the closest thing to a "Jazz American Idol." Granted, it's not quite as glamorous, but for young jazz musicians, it holds a similar appeal: an opportunity to gain significant exposure and career opportunities based [ostensibly] on your musical abilities alone and not on the puzzling and sometimes overwhelming maze of the music business. Past winners and finalists include such big jazz names as Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Jane Monheit, Gretchen Parlato, Marcus Strickland, Jacky Terrasson, Ambrose Akinmusire, Aaron Parks, Marcus Roberts and many more.
The contest focuses on a different instrument each year. This year's contest, which was held in September, was for saxophone. A panel of judges that included Jane Ira Bloom, Jimmy Heath, Branford Marsalis, Wayne Shorter and Bobby Watson made history by crowning 24-year-old Melissa Aldana the first female instrumentalist winner. Aldana was awarded a recording contract with Concord Music Group and $25,000 in scholarships.
Emerging Voices is now featuring Aldana's music (she has already released two albums on Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music label) as well as that of recent winners and finalists who fit the Emerging Voices channel's "young musician" description. Many of the recent winners and finalists haven't released any commercial recordings, so we're a little limited in whose music we can play, but there's still plenty of great music to include. Here's a list of all of the Monk folks that we're featuring on the channel (of course, the channel is still playing its usual broad playlist which includes hundreds of young musicians who weren't involved in the Monk competition):
Melissa Aldana - 2013 saxophone winner
Colin Stranahan - 2012 drums finalist
Emmet Cohen - 2011 piano winner
Cecile McLorin Salvant - 2010 vocals winner
Cyrille Aimee - 2010 vocals finalist
Ben Williams - 2009 bass winner
Joe Sanders - 2009 bass finalist
Jon Irabagon - 2008 saxophone winner
Tim Green - 2008 saxophone finalist
Quamon Fowler - 2008 saxophone finalist
Ambrose Akinmusire - 2007 trumpet winner
Jean Caze - 2007 trumpet finalist
Michael Rodriguez - 2007 trumpet finalist
Tigran Hamasyan - 2006 piano winner
Gerald Clayton - 2006 piano finalist
Aaron Parks - 2006 piano finalist
Lage Lund - 2005 guitar winner
David Mooney - 2005 guitar finalist
Gretchen Parlato - 2004 vocals winner
Kellylee Evans - 2004 vocals finalist
Start listening now! For a complete list of all winners and finalists since 1987, go here.