22-year-old pianist Deschanel Gordon wins BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 award

23 November 2020
By Ellie Palmer
Gordon impressed the judging panel with a performance linking tradition to innovation

Hackney-born jazz pianist Deschanel Gordon has been announced as the the BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020. 

Gordon graduated from Trinity Laban in 2020 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 and with Mark Kavuma’s The Banger Factory among others, as well as appearances with his own trio.

Gordon impressed the judging panel (including some of the most celebrated British instrumentalists on the jazz scene: saxophonist Nubya Garcia; vibraphonist, multi-instrumentalist and music educator Orphy Robinson; and trumpeter and composer Guy Barker) with a performance linking tradition to innovation, with hints to various musical genres.

Backed by a rhythm section including siblings Michael Mondesir (bass) and Mark Mondesir (drums) of Nikki Yeoh’s Infinitum trio (led by British jazz composer and pianist Nikki Yeoh, the trio accompanied all Finalists in their performances), 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.

Gordon says: “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.” 

Of his performance at the Final, judge Orphy Robinson says: "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.”


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Deschanel Gordon performs at London's 606 Club back in 23 July. This show was filmed during lockdown for the Club's online streaming platform, 606 Online. Ferg Ireland is on bass and Jason Brown, drums.


 The socially-distanced BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 Final was held on Saturday 14 November at London’s Cadogan Hall without audience in attendance, in collaboration with the EFG London Jazz Festival and supported by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

Coverage of the final is available on BBC iPlayer for the next 12 months. BBC Radio 3 will also be broadcasting highlights of the Final in J to Z – a weekly programme exploring new sounds with classic recordings and exclusive sessions - on Saturday 28 November. 

Main image: © BBC

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