The Jazz Composers Alliance has put out a call for entries in the ninth annual Julius Hemphill Composition Awards. Works scored for large (8+ instruments) and small (1-7 instruments) ensembles will be accepted until December 15, 2001. The winning large-ensemble composition will be performed by the JCA Orchestra. In both categories, $1500 in award money will be split between the top three composers and six music software prizes donated by Mark Of The Unicorn will be awarded to the six semifinalists.
The goal of the competition is to promote the art of jazz composition while honoring the role alto saxophonist Julius Hemphill played in the jazz world. JCA Director Darrell Katz explained that Hemphill was much admired among the JCA’s founders and had appeared as a guest at several concerts. “He contributed a composition (The Hard Blues) to our first album, Flux (and played on that track) and a live track, featuring him with the JCA Orchestra, on Dreamland,” says Katz. “When he died, it seemed that naming this event after him would be a great way to honor his memory, and set a tone for the goals of having such a competition.”
All composers are eligible to enter, except cash prize winners from last year (2000). Compositions will be judged for originality, execution and clarity of conception. The competition is funded in part by Mark Of The Unicorn, Inc., Accurate Records, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
The contest typically attracts between 140 and 175 entries a year from around the globe. Katz says the judges are looking for music that is both unique and well realized. “What doesn’t work for us, usually, is music that can easily be immediately ‘categorized,’ that sounds like an obvious imitation of something else, or that has interesting ideas that aren’t successfully implemented.”
“Our guidelines mention clarity of conception, and that’s very important,” Katz adds. “I’d like to think that what we ask of every piece of music is: Does the work display inventiveness, avoid clichÈ, and show intelligence or deep intuition in exploring the territory it stakes out for itself?”
Katz notes that when judging the entries, “we are very interested in creative development of form, in new ways for improvisation to be developed as part of the compositional process, and in music that finds ways to combine the traditions of jazz with new elements.”
Composers who feel their work meets these standards are encouraged to submit a recording, score, and resume to the competition. Further guidelines are available by writing to Katz at JCAComp@aol.com.
Four composers founded the JCA in 1985 as a composer’s collective, establishing the JCA Orchestra and a concert series in the process. “We mostly produce our own concerts, but have performed at the Boston Globe Jazz & Blues Festival, and IAJE, and at a number of clubs in the Boston area,” explains Katz. “We’ve had an illustrious series of guest artists at our concerts, including Sam Rivers, Julius Hemphill, Fred Ho (who was an award winner), Dave Holland, Maria Schneider, Muhal Richard Abrams, and a number of others.” In addition to running the composition contest for the past nine years, they’ve also released several recordings, established a saxophone quartet and commissioned new work from Muhal Richard Abrams, Marty Ehrlich, and Wayne Horvitz.