Acoustic bassist and composer Noriko Ueda has been named the winner of the third annual BMI Foundation/Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize for her piece, “Castle in the North.” The $3000 award, given to the writer of the best new work composed in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, was presented during the Workshop’s annual showcase concert at Merkin Hall in New York City on July 11. Ueda’s prize also included a commission to write another piece to be premiered at next year’s concert. The commission was named this year in memory of the late Manny Albam, one of the Workshop’s founding musical directors, who passed away last year.
Members of the Class of 2002 from the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop pose for a group photograph following the annual showcase concert at Merkin Hall in New York City
A native of Japan, Ueda has been a member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop since 1999 and is currently based in New York City performing and touring with the all-female big band DIVA. Her diverse musical background includes classical piano and voice, electric bass and acoustic bass, her main instrument since the age of 19. She studied classical voice at Osaka College of Music in Japan and jazz composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she was a B.E.S.T. scholarship recipient. Ueda is a former member of the all-Japanese female trio Groovin' Girls, who were featured on BET’s “Jazz Central” in 1998. She has performed with Nancy Wilson, Diane Schuur, Joe Chambers, Othello Molineaux, Makoto Ozone, Joe Hunt, Bob Moses, Sam Newsom, Joel Froam and many others. Ueda has also been featured on the soundtrack to the 1999 PBS short film, “Times Square Transfer”; the 1996 documentary film, “Jamming,” directed by John Kao (“Sex, Lies & Videotape”); and with the Terumasa Hino Quartet at the 1995 Naniwa Jazz Festival in Osaka.
Seen after the award presentation are Workshop Director Burt Korall; award judge Phil Schapp; Betty Albam, widow of Manny Albam; award judge Dan Morgenstern; winner Noriko Ueda; award judge Michael Mossman; and Workshop Musical Director Jim McNeely
Ueda conducts the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra as they perform her winning work “Castle In the North”
Ueda’s winning piece was selected from among three compositions by a panel of jazz experts including Dan Morgenstern, writer/critic and Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University; WKCR-FM’s Phil Schaap, New York radio’s legendary voice of jazz; and Michael Mossman, Associate Professor and Director of Jazz Studies at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College.
The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop is directed by noted jazz authority and author Burt Korall, with co-musical directors Jim McNeely and Michael Abene. It offers an environment where composers have the freedom to explore all avenues in the creative process with a focus on innovative large ensemble compositions in a collaborative environment. The BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra, an adjunct of the Workshop, is a 16-piece modern repertory ensemble featuring leading New York musicians who showcase new works regularly in concert and nightclub appearances. Applications for next year’s Workshop are now being accepted.
photos: Gary Gershoff