REVIEW BY TRUDIE SQUIRES
AMERICAN pianist Logan Thomas (25) was winner of the Second Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition organised by Clement Pianos with assistance from Jazzsteps and held at Nottingham's Albert Hall. Thomas gave a dazzling recital in front of a large appreciative audience attended by the Sheriff of Nottingham, Coun. Penny Grigg and her daughter Laura, the Sheriff's Lady. The four finalists gave the judging panel of five eminent jazz pianists in their own right (Tim Richards, Robert Mitchell, David Newton, Zoe Rahman and Jonathan Gee) a formidable task with highly talented performances.
Canadian Chris Donnelly (27), who was a finalist in the 2008 competition, had the unenviable task of appearing first, followed by, at 15-years-old, the youngest contestant, Frenchman Mathis Picard. After the interval Logan Thomas took the stage with fellow American 21-year-old Jake Sherman the last to appear. The four finalists had been determined at semi-final rounds held at Clement Pianos Recital Hall over Friday and Saturday, where 12 contestants had campaigned for places in the final.
Each contestant, introduced by compere Tony Hoffman, played from their own selection of four numbers, lasting around 25 minutes. Judge Tim Richards then set each pianist a "mystery" tune from which each player produced an improvised piece lasting around three minutes based on a four-note phrase. The judges looked for originality, talent, presentation, variation, jazz approach and the application of groove and swing. Technical ability was not an issue, but there was plenty of it around.
Thomas' selection included an original, Abundance; a swinging tune which illustrated his awesome improvisational talents. Trombonist J. J. Johnson's Lament, played as a ballad and was beautifully constructed with crashing chords and shimmering cascades of notes. Pannancia, a tune by Thelonious Monk highlighted its composer's quirky style with amazing twists and turns. Fred Hersch's Aria completed Thomas' set with thoughtful phrasing and emphasising his neat, workman-like approach.
The first prize of a £17,500 Kawai grand piano and a commemorative plaque was presented to Thomas by the winner of the 2008 Piano Competition Dan Wheildon and Clement Pianos representatives Andy and Mick Wilson.