BMI presented the Composer’s Prize at the annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, at Washington’s Kennedy Center last weekend, continuing a 19-year partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. BMI president and CEO Del Bryant presented the prize to talented young Japanese composer/artist Yusuke Nakamura. Nakamura, who grew up in Japan and the United States and studied jazz in California, now resides in Tokyo where he leads his own jazz quartet. Following his receipt of the $10,000 prize from Bryant, Nakamura performed the winning work on the stage of the Kennedy Center during the annual Monk gala. His winning composition, Heavenly Seven, won wide praise from an expert panel of judges headed by jazz composer and piano virtuoso Jim McNeely. McNeely is the Musical Director of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop.
More than two dozen members of the BMI jazz community performed at the All-Star Gala concert, which followed the competition. Hosting the evening were BMI Jazz icons TS Monk Jr. and Herbie Hancock. A highlight of the evening was a performance by Aretha Franklin, who received standing ovations for her rendition of jazz standard My Funny Valentine, and her signature audience favorite Respect.
In speaking to the audience at the Kennedy Ctr., Bryant said: “The work of the Institute in supporting and developing the next generation of jazz professionals is a mission that we truly understand at BMI…because jazz is imbedded deep in our DNA. BMI began its history supporting the careers of so many of the icons of American jazz, starting with Thelonious Monk, Mingus, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and today representing the world’s most respected and acclaimed jazz composers including The Institute’s Chairman Herbie Hancock, Board chairman T.S Monk Jr. and fellow trustees Jimmy Heath and Wayne Shorter.”