Two Jersey Jazz Rising Stars – Joe Block of Philadelphia (photo above left) and Caelan Cardello (photo right) of Teaneck, NJ – are among the 11 semifinalists in the 2023 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition to be held October 14-15 at the Perelman Performing Arts Center in New York City.
The other semifinalists are: Alan Bartus, Lucenec, Slovakia; Esteban Castro, Hackensack, NJ; Paul Cornish, Houston; Brandon Goldberg, Miami; Connor Rohrer, Mechanicsburg, PA; Dabin Ryu, Seoul, South Korea; Jahari Stampley, Chicago; Jordan Isaiah Williams, Philadelphia; and Jenny Xu, Surrey and Vancouver, British Columbia.
All 11 pianists will compete in the semifinals, from 1-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 14, and three finalists will compete Sunday evening for the top prizes. The pianists will be accompanied by bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Carl Allen. The first place winner will receive $50,000; second place, $25,000; and third place, $10,000. Judges are pianists Bill Charlap, Orrin Evans, Herbie Hancock, Hiromi, and Danilo Perez.
The competition Sunday night will be followed by an All-Star Gala Concert featuring, among others, vocalists Dianne Reeves and Dee Dee Bridgewater, clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen, and pianist Helen Sung. Music Director is pianist/composer John Beasley. Architect Frank Gehry will receive the Institute’s Herbie Hancock Humanitarian Award for “his commitment to arts education, especially jazz and classical music training for young people.”
Block, a Rising Star in the January 2021 issue of Jersey Jazz, began taking classical piano lessons when he was two years old and became interested in jazz when he was in middle school. In December 2018, he served as Music Director and pianist for Wynton Marsalis’ annual holiday fundraiser. Marsalis, he said, has been “a great mentor.”
Cardello’s interest in jazz was initially inspired by the Vince Guaraldi tune, “Linus & Lucy.” He was featured as a Rising Star in the January 2022 Jersey Jazz. Among his mentors are pianists Allen Farnham, Harold Mabern, Bill Charlap, and Dave Kikoski. “Out of all my students and the young pianists I’ve heard in the last few years,” Kikoski said, “ Caelan Cardello is the brightest star.”
Proceeds from the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition and All-Star Gala Concert support the Institute’s free jazz education programs, which serve students from under-resourced public schools across the United States and around the world.