Downbeat Magazine Awards UMass Jazz Students with National Honors
Friday, April 26, 2019
Friday, April 26, 2019
AMHERST (MA) – Two solo artists – Grace McKay and Matt Twaddle – and a jazz combo – the UMass Odd Meters Combo – from the Jazz & African-American Music Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Music & Dance received awards in Downbeat Magazine’s 2019 Student Music Awards (SMA’s). Recognized as the top publication devoted to “Jazz, Blues, and Beyond” since its inception in 1934, Downbeat publishes the SMA winners each year in its June issue. Institutions across the nation submit recordings to be judged by panels of respected jazz musicians. They then pick winners and award outstanding performances. UMass Amherst ranks among other premier music institutions including Berklee College of Music, University of North Texas, University of Miami, Manhattan School of Music, and University of Northern Colorado.
Grace McKay won the award for Outstanding Performance, Undergraduate College Vocal Jazz Soloist. A native of Arlington, MA, McKay earned her undergraduate degree in Jazz and African-American Music Studies (vocal concentration) from UMass in December. The works submitted to Downbeat were Bobby Timmons’ Moanin’ and Cole Porter’s It’s All Right With Me, material also performed in her Senior Recital. Prof. Catherine Jensen-Hole is McKay’s instructor, and also helped with recording the music for Downbeat.
The award for Outstanding Performance, Undergraduate College Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist went to pianist Matt Twaddle. From York, PA, Twaddle will graduate this spring with an undergraduate degree in Jazz and African-American Music Studies (piano concentration). Downbeat awarded Twaddle for his solos on Jeffrey Holmes' arrangement of Snarky Puppy's Lingus as performed by the UMass Jazz Ensemble I, as well as his take on the Brecker Brothers’ classic Creature of Many Faces with the UMass Brecker Brothers combo. Twaddle’s instructor is Prof. Jeffrey W. Holmes.
The award for Outstanding Performance, Graduate College Blues/Pop/Rock Group went to the Odd Meters Combo, consisting of Jeff Gertler, saxophone; Yuval Rosen, guitar; Charles Vadala, piano; Grace McKay, vocals; Chris Robinson, bass; and Rashaad Greene, drums. Coached by Prof. Fumi Tomita, the group’s award-winning performance featured arrangements and compositions of songs in odd meters by the students: Pokemon Theme by Rashaad Greene, Chaka Khan's Ain't Nobody by Grace McKay, and the Beatles' I Will by Yuval Rosen.
This year’s winners are part of a proud tradition of UMass Music & Dance Department students that have been recognized with Downbeat Student Music Awards in the past. "Individual students and ensembles related to the Jazz and African-American Music Studies Program at UMass Amherst have won in virtually every performance and writing category over the years, with over 50 Downbeat awards to date," an impressive statistic added by jazz program director Jeffrey W. Holmes.