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Trinity Laban Alum wins BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020

Sun 22 November 2020

Pianist Deschanel Gordon has claimed the prestigious title in a final broadcast on BBC Four

A biennial celebration of the most talented up-and-coming instrumentalists and singers on the British jazz scene, this year’s BBC Young Jazz Musician final saw twenty-two-year-old Hackney-born jazz pianist Deschanel Gordon revealed as BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020.

Filmed at Cadogan Hall, the socially-distanced event was broadcast on BBC Four on Sunday 22 November in collaboration with the EFG London Jazz Festival, presented by award-winning saxophonist and composer YolanDa Brown.

Backed by Nikki Yeoh’s Infinitum trio, Trinity Laban alum Deschanel presented his own arrangement of Kenny Garrett’s Haynes Here, a solo piano rendition of Monk’s classic Round Midnight and his own reggae-infused composition Awaiting. The pianist impressed the judging panel – including celebrated saxophonist and fellow TL alum Nubya Garcia – with a performance linking tradition to innovation, with hints to various musical genres.

Deschanel comments –

“I had an amazing time playing and hearing the other musicians in the finals. Especially in a year where live music has been stifled, any opportunity to play is very special to me.  Being able to share the stage with Nikki Yeoh’s band Infinitum was definitely a highlight.”

Judge Orphy Robinson commented –

“Deschanel displayed a wonderful mature sound and approach. He possesses an assured command of different styles, while at the same time adding his own individual touch, flair and technical competence. He conveyed a quiet confidence with some beautiful and fluent dialogue brought to the musical rapport between himself and the first-class rhythm section of Mark and Michael Mondesir. It will be interesting to watch Deschanel’s progress as he builds what looks like a very promising future.”

Deschanel follows in the footsteps of saxophonist and Trinity Laban fourth-year student Xhosa Cole, who won the Competition in 2018 and went on to win Breakthrough Act of the Year at the 2020 Jazz FM Awards, with a performing schedule that has taken him to the most prestigious venues across the UK. Xhosa made a guest appearance on Sunday night to perform a special set for BBC Four audiences.

Deschanel graduated from Trinity Laban this summer with first class honours and is already a steady presence on the city’s jazz scene, thanks to collaborations with Mercury Prize-nominated SEED ensemble – led by TL alum Cassie Kinoshi – and with Mark Kavuma’s The Banger Factory among others, as well as appearances with his own trio.

Also performing in the 2020 final was Trinity Laban first-year bass student Kielan Sheard.

Trinity Laban Director of Music Havilland Willshire comments –

“Congratulations to Deschanel on being named the 2020 winner of BBC Young Jazz Musician. I am incredibly proud to see so many Trinity Laban musicians involved in the final of this prestigious competition, from the performers to the panel. It is an incredible testament to Trinity Laban’s innovative training and role in nurturing exciting artists who are taking the UK music industry by storm. I look forward to seeing how these young musicians’ careers continue to develop.”

Head of Jazz Hans Holler comments –

Congratulations Deschanel! You know the spirit of the music, old and new, you have the artistry and presence of mind to invoke it, through the individualism of your sound, you share it, reinvent it in the rhythmic milieu of playing together, and alone together, in real time, because you can hear it – because you listened and because you keep listening – you lift the bandstand, you stay true, and you sing the perpetual song of surprise.”

In addition to the television coverage on BBC Four, available iPlayer for 12 months, BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting highlights of the Final in J to Z on Saturday 28 November.

Image: Deschanel Gordon (credit Doug Peters / PA Wire, courtesy BBC)