Cup Weekend 2024

The 2023 National Jazz Awards will feature the bass.

The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues is excited to announce the 2023 National Jazz Award Finalists:

Blakely McLean Davies

Blakely McLean Davies is an improvising bassist and composer from Melbourne, Australia. He is a graduate of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (VCA), with his honours year focussing on composition for electro-acoustic small ensemble. Blakely is a freelance musician in a wide variety of styles, and has performed with luminaries such as Barney McAll, Andrea Keller, Mat Jodrell, Carl Mackey and Paul Williamson. He has been a member of Australian pop icon, Tina Arena’s band since 2021.

Anton Schulz

Anton Schulz is Melbourne-based. He has played alongside luminaries such as Tony Gould, Mark Fitzgibbon, Julien Wilson, Carl Mackey and Scott Tinkler. Anton relocated to Mount Gambier, South Australia in 2019, to complete a Bachelor of Music at the James Morrison Academy of Music. His trajectory has continued since his return, playing regularly around his hometown and beyond, with a variety of ensembles, mentors and colleagues. Anton continues to explore his instrument and develop across a variety of genres with a focus on Australian Jazz.

Jordan Tarento

Originally hailing from Canberra, Jordan Tarento is a Melbourne based double bassist, bass guitarist and composer. Jordan performs an eclectic variety of contemporary, jazz and improvised music, with artists such as Phil Turcio’s ‘Oddities Trio’, the Darryn Farrugia Project, and 11-piece salsa band ‘La Influencia’. Jordan’s debut album as a bandleader, entitled ‘Lattices’ is due for release in early 2024 via Earshift Music.

Alistair Peel

Alistair Peel grew up in Fremantle WA, and found the electric bass at age 12. Throughout school he studied bass and French horn, and went on to pick up double bass during his first year of university, under the tutorship of Pete Jeavons at WAAPA. Since graduating in 2016, Alistair has gone on to learn from and perform with great musicians in both the local and international scene.

Noel Mason

Noel Mason is one of Australia’s most versatile and sought-after bassists. He has performed with many Australian Jazz luminaries including James Morrison, Dale Barlow and the late Bernie Megann. In 2015 he moved to New York to pursue a Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music and had the privilege of studying and performing alongside many distinguished American artists including Jason Moran, Mark Turner, Ari Hoenig, Frank Lacy and the late Ralph Peterson. Upon returning to Australia he joined Jessica Mauboy’s live band until 2023 and was featured on Australian Jazz outfit ‘the Vampire’s’ latest ARIA-nominated release ‘Nightjar’.

Wangaratta Jazz & Blues congratulates the 30 applicants on putting together a terrific set of entries for the 2023 National Jazz Awards – feature instrument Bass.

With careful deliberation from our three wonderful judges, Andrea Keller, Chris Hale and Brendan Clarke, we are pleased to announce the five finalists for this year.

The Awards have been a cornerstone for young jazz musicians for over 30 years. They are a celebration of younger, emerging artists doing great things in the local Jazz industry.

The first prize winner will receive $7,000 supported by the Rural City of Wangaratta and a recording session with Pughouse Studios. Second place winner will receive $4,000 and third place $2,000.

Previous winners of the NJA on Bass include Sam Anning in 2015, Phil Stack in 2008 and Brendan Clarke in 2001.

High-level Australian bass players (upright or electric) aged 36 or younger are invited to submit their applications by midnight on Friday 15th September. Applicants must submit three recordings – one piece by an Australian composer, another ballad and also a blues standard or original. Full details of the Awards and how to enter are available on the Festival website

Previous winners include Peter Koopman (guitar), Matthew Thomson (piano), Lauren Henderson (vocals), Alex Hirlian (Drums), Kristin Berardi (vocals), James Macauley (Brass), Sam Anning (Bass), Carl Morgan (Guitar), Zac Hurren (Saxophone), Phil Stack (Bass), Julien Wilson (Saxophone), Scott Tinkler (Brass), Michelle Nicolle (Vocals) and Barney McAll (Piano).

Festival Chair, Dave Fuller remarked “launching these awards is the first step towards our 2023 programming, and while we are looking at a reduced festival this year, the awards are a highlight, and the support they offer emerging artists is a proud factor for me”.

Competition Rules

1. The National Jazz Awards are organised as integral part of the 2023 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues – the finals will be held in Wangaratta on the weekend of November 3rd – 5th 2023.

2. The competition is open to high-level musicians who are Australian citizens. The age limit is 36 inclusive (i.e. if you are 36 or younger on or before December 31st, 2023 you are eligible).

3. To enter the competition, contestants must submit recordings of three pieces, one of each from the categories below (not necessarily in this order):

(a) a piece by an Australian composer
(b) a ballad (standard or original)
(c) a blues (standard or original).

The blues need not strictly follow the standard 12 bar form. It must, however, clearly reference the fundamental harmonic structure of the blues; the relationship between the I7, IV7, and V7 chords. If you are in doubt of the suitability of a piece, please contact the Festival artistic directors.

Where the piece in category (a) is a ballad or a blues, the contestant may elect to complete the program with an original piece (ie, composed by the contestant) in any style.

The piece submitted for category a) must not be composed by the applicant. This requirement is in place to ensure that the contestant demonstrates an engagement with the community and history of Australian jazz, and is aware of the music composed by current and past Australian jazz musicians.

One of these pieces must be played by the contestant with a band including one brass/ woodwind/ vocalist, bass (electric or double) and drums. The other two pieces can use any combination of these instruments, from solo to quartet.


  • Total time of the recording is not to exceed 25 minutes; no one piece may exceed 10 minutes. A total duration of approximately 15-20 minutes is recommended.
  • You will provide a link to the submission that will be downloaded (i.e. a link to Dropbox, Google drive, etc.).
  • Submissions are to be in mp3 format and no larger than 10mb per song. Failure to submit in the required format may render the application ineligible.
  • Contestants are urged to submit recordings that display their ability to meet a range of challenges, at a variety of tempi.
  • Contestants will not be judged on the basis of the other players in the ensemble. However, they should assume responsibility for the overall shape of the performance, including choice of material, arrangement of ensemble passages, sequence and duration of solos, etc.
  • Recordings need not be of professional quality, but contestants are reminded that a clear sound will make it easier for the judges to evaluate submissions.
  • The contestant’s name must not be announced on the recording.

4. Contestants must complete the online application form and include links to their recordings. Receipt of all entries will be acknowledged in writing.

Note: Acceptance of entries, and nomination of finalists, is at the discretion of the judges of the competition. Their decisions are final, and no correspondence will be entered into regarding their decisions.

5. Closing date for entries is 11:59 pm Friday, September 15th 2023. Entries submitted after this date will not be forwarded to the judges for consideration.

6. Entries will be de-identified before being disseminated to the judging panel. The panel will assess entries on a range of criteria including:

  • Technique, including sound production and control
  • Time feel
  • Improvisation, including melodic line, harmony, rhythm, structure
  • Originality/strength of concept/adventurousness

7. A total of five contestants will be selected to perform in the finals as part of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.

Applicants will be advised by email of their invitation to participate in the semi-finals. This notification will be sent in late September 2023. Contestants selected for the finals must confirm their participation within seven (7) days of receiving the invitation. Failure to do so will lead to disqualification, and allow the next rated candidate to participate. All applicants will be notified if they are successful or not.

8. Contestants must be prepared to play in the finals in Wangaratta from Friday, November 3rd to Sunday, November 5th 2023, as per agreed schedule between finalists, and the Festival.

9. The requirements for the finals are the same as for the initial application, i.e., the repertoire performed must comprise:

(a) a piece by an Australian composer
(b) a ballad (standard or original)
(c) a blues (standard or original).

Where the piece in category (a) is a ballad or a blues, the finalist may elect to complete the program with an original piece (i.e., composed by the finalist) in any style.

One of these pieces must be played by the contestant with a band including one brass/ woodwind/ vocalist, guitar or piano, and drums. The other two pieces can use any combination of these instruments, from solo to quartet.

Finalists may play these pieces in any order.

Total performance time is not to exceed 25 minutes; no one item may exceed 10 minutes. (A total duration of approximately 20 minutes is recommended).

Finalists are urged to display their ability to meet a range of challenges, at a variety of tempi

Finalists must assume responsibility for the overall shape of the performance: choice and arrangements of material, arrangement of ensemble passages, sequence and duration of solos, etc.

The judges will assess performances on the criteria outlined in section 6 above.

10. Finalists must respect the specified time limits; failure to do so will affect the judging panel’s ratings.

11. Finalists must appear in the order and at the times specified by the organisers.

12. All performances as part of the competition will be open to the public. In the event that the NJA finals are broadcast on radio or streamed the finalists waive their right to request a fee for this but retain ownership of the recorded performance.

13. No fees of any kind will be paid to finalists.

14. Finalists may use written charts if they desire. Charts must be provided for the band two weeks prior to the Festival.

15. A brief rehearsal with the band will be available during the afternoon of Friday, November 3. Rehearsal times will be advised by the organisers.

16. The organisers reserve the right not to award all of the prizes.

17. In the event of a tie, the Chairperson of the judging panel will exercise a casting vote.

18. Finalists will travel to Wangaratta at their own expense. Accommodation for finalists will be provided by the organisers (this excludes meals, telephone calls and other miscellaneous expenses), for the nights Friday, November 3rd and Saturday, November 4th.

19. The Festival reserves the right to cancel the National Jazz Awards for any reason, and shall not be liable for compensation to any contestant or finalist.

20. The prizes for the 2023 National Jazz Awards are as follows:

1st Prize $7,000 and a recording session at Pughouse Studios (Melbourne)

2nd Prize $4,000

3rd Prize $2,000

NJA 2023 entries have now closed

With thanks to Pughouse Studios

The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues would like to thank Pughouse Studios for their continued support of the National Jazz Awards.

Pughouse Studios have been a proud sponsor of the National Jazz Awards since 2013 and now they are delighted to present a studio recording session as part of the first prize in 2023. Since its inception in 2012 more than 150 albums have been produced at Pughouse Studios including by many of Australia’s outstanding jazz, contemporary and classical musicians. Owner/engineer, Nikolaus Schauble is also a composer, music producer and has worked as a jazz drummer for over 40 years. He has been nominated for many awards including the APRA AMCOS Art Music Awards (for recording).