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Hat-trick of honours for jazz saxophonist Matt Carmichael

He is the first student on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland jazz course to win all three end-of-year awards.

Saxophonist Matt Carmichael has become the first student on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland jazz course to win all three of the awards that the course presents at the end of the academic year.

Carmichael, aged 22, who released his first album, Where Will the River Flow, to glowing reviews in March, has come out top in Jazz Improvisation, for which he wins the Fog Arts prize.

He has also won the George Duncan Prize for Jazz Composition, with the title track of his album, and the Joe Temperley Prize for Jazz Arranging, which is sponsored by writer Mark McKergow, with his orchestration of the jazz classic Stompin’ at the Savoy, made famous by clarinettist and big band leader Benny Goodman.

The RCS jazz course founder, saxophonist Tommy Smith said: “It being the first time this has happened, it’s obviously rare to find a student with such outstanding talent across all three disciplines. 

“It also says a lot about Matt’s jazz capabilities that he has won both the composition award with a piece that’s contemporary and very much in his own style and the arranging prize for his take on a composition that comes from an entirely different era and originated in the 1930s.”

Carmichael, who graduates from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland this summer, will receive £300 cash for each prize. 

His success in these awards coincides with another accolade that is likely to enhance his reputation internationally.

Following an enthusiastic reception for his debut album from the European media, the WDR Big Band in Cologne has commissioned the leading American saxophonist-arranger Bob Mintzer to orchestrate Where Will the River Flow in its entirety. 

Carmichael has been invited to appear as lead soloist when the new arrangement of his work is broadcast by WDR next March.

RCS jazz course leader and founder Tommy Smith
RCS jazz course leader and founder Tommy Smith

“I was amazed when WDR got in touch and absolutely delighted to hear that Bob Mintzer is going to arrange Where Will the River Flow for one of Europe’s leading big bands,” says Carmichael, who won a Peter Whittingham Development Award for up-and-coming jazz musicians in 2019 and appeared in the BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 final, which was broadcast on BBC Four in November.

It also says a lot about Matt’s jazz capabilities that he has won both the composition award with a piece that’s contemporary and very much in his own style and the arranging prize for his take on a composition that comes from an entirely different era and originated in the 1930s

Tommy Smith

“Bob Mintzer is a hero as a saxophonist, for his work with the band Yellowjackets,” adds Carmichael. 

“I can’t wait to hear his arrangement of the album and I’m really looking forward to playing it with the WDR Big Band.” 

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