2023 SASSY Finalists

September 16, 2023

The five finalists in the 12th annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition have been announced by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. They are:

  • Daryann Dean, Los Angeles. Dean earned a master’s degree in music from the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz at UCLA. She has performed at such venues as the Hollywood Bowl, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and The Kennedy Center.
  • Bianca Love, New Orleans. Love’s professional debut took place at the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where she performed with Jesse McBride and The Next Generation. She has shared the stage with bassist Ben Williams, trumpeter Maurice Brown, and drummer Marcus Gilmore, among others.
  • Tyreek McDole, St. Cloud FL. McDole was named an Outstanding Vocalist at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington competition. Among those he has performed with are NEA Jazz Master saxophonist Gary Bartz, bassist Rodney Whitaker, and trumpeter Nicholas Payton.
  • Ekep Nkwelle, Washington, DC. Nkwelle has trained at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Howard University, and Juilliard. She has worked alongside such veteran jazz artists as guitarist Russell Malone, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, and bassist Peter Washington.
  • Emma Smith, London, UK. London Jazz News,in a review of Smith’s 2022 Wingor Castle album, Meshuga Baby, described her as “a well-seasoned jazz singer with an abundance of chops.” AllAboutJazz’s Bruce Lindsay called her, “one of the most stylish and original interpreters of Songbook classics on the scene .. . an imaginative and talented performer.

The SASSY Award winner will be selected on Sunday afternoon, November 19, as part of NJPAC’s TD James Moody Jazz Festival. Judges include: vocalists Jane Monheit Madeleine Peyroux, and Lizz Wright; bassist and NJPAC Jazz Advisor Christian McBride; and Mack Avenue Records President Al Pryor. The awards will be hosted by WBGO on-air personality Pat Prescott and will include a performance by 2021 Sarah Vaughan winner G. Thomas Allen.

The first-prize winner will receive $5,000; second-place, $1,500; and third-place, $500. The winner will perform with past winners and special guests at the Sarah Vaughan Centennial Concert, hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater on April 19-20, 2024 at JALC.

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