Second Prize: Alex Weitz
Third Prize: Artem Badenko
First Prize: $12,500 / Second Prize: $7,500 / Third Prize: $2,500
The Michael Brecker International Saxophone Competition is delighted to announce that Alex Hahn has won first prize in the inaugural competition with Alex Weitz and Artem Badenko coming in second and third, respectively. The final rounds took place at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, Israel on Monday, August 26, 2019.
The semi-final round was judged by Dan Gottfried (first artistic director of the Red Sea Jazz Festival), Marquis Hill, Donny McCaslin, and Marcus Ratka (founder of JAM Music Lab in Vienna, Austria). The four judges selected Hahn, Weitz and Badenko to compete in the final round at the main stage of the Red Sea Jazz Festival’s second day. The final round was judged by Ron Carter, Eli Degibri, Kenny Garrett, and Donny McCaslin.
By virtue of their selection, each of the semi-finalists — Artem Badenko, Niall Cade, Nathan Bellott, Alex Hahn, Sheridan Hitchcock, Sean Payne, Daniel Varga, and Alex Weitz — embodied the spirit and influence that Michael Brecker’s artistry will impact for generations to come. Hailed by The New York Times as “among the most influential musicians in jazz since the 1960s,” Brecker passed away in 2007 at 57 years old after a battle with leukemia.
As a result of his stylistic and harmonic innovations, the 15-time GRAMMY® Award-winner will forever be regarded as one of the most eminent saxophonists of this or any generation. Brecker’s discography of more than 900 albums features work with his brother Randy, as well as Frank Zappa, Herbie Hancock, Aerosmith, James Brown, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, John Lennon, Elton John, Chick Corea, and Pat Metheny — among others.
Michael loved the company of musicians and especially aspiring young saxophonists. He would listen to the unsolicited tapes received, would return with feedback, and would always take time to speak to young musicians following his gigs. In his characteristically humble way, Michael had an uncanny ability to make everyone feel special. In recognition of Michael’s generosity, and to assist in providing ballast to deserving careers, The Michael Brecker International Saxophone Competition was created — with the assistance of lead donor Herb Alpert.
Susan Brecker, Michael’s widow and a co-founder of the competition said, “Michael was always supportive of young saxophonists and would have been delighted and humbled by this competition in his honor.” Added her co-founder Darryl Pitt — Michael’s former manager who encouraged Michael to appear at the inaugural Red Sea Jazz Festival to help the Festival get started thirty-three years ago, “Mike was an astounding musician and an even better man; I miss him dearly — as does everyone who was blessed to have him in their lives.”
The preliminary judges for the competition were critically acclaimed saxophonists Melissa Aldana, Marcus Strickland and Ben Wendel, who made their decisions solely based on the recorded performances provided. The promotion of the competition and its preliminary round was run through Pitt’s office with judges only being provided an identification number assigned to each competitor. No other information was provided. Pitt brought in the world’s foremost expert in running jazz competitions, Jeff Levenson, to help to create this competition’s structure. Said Susan, “We are so fortunate to have had Jeff’s participation.”