Aotearoa’s premiere jazz musicians have been celebrated following the announcement of this year’s finalists for the Recorded Music New Zealand Te Kaipuoro Tautito Toa | Best Jazz Artist and APRA Best Jazz Composition awards.

The NZ jazz scene continues to innovate and thrive, exemplified by this year’s finalists for Best Jazz Artist – including The Jac, Lucien Johnson and Unwind nominated for the 2021 Tūī.

Alongside these nods, the three finalists for APRA’s Best Jazz Composition are Anita Schwabe for ‘August Augmentation’, Callum Allardice for ‘Dark Love’ and Lucien Johnson for ‘Blue Rain’.

Recorded Music New Zealand Best Jazz Artist

Local jazz octet The Jac have been performing original music since 2011, including tours in New Zealand, Australia and South Korea and have featured in the Wellington Jazz Festival, National Jazz and Blues Festival, and Jarasum International Jazz Festival.

Their debut album Nerve was nominated for Best Jazz Album in 2014. And now A Gathering marks a decade of making music together – showcasing their intricate and immersive compositions, tight ensemble playing and assertive, individual improvising voices.

Nominated for both Best Jazz Artist and Best Jazz Composition in 2021, Lucien Johnson is a well-known name in the Aotearoa jazz scene.

Described as “a saxophonist and composer of rare excellence and mettle”, Lucien has played or collaborated with a hugely diverse number of artists including Mulatu Astatke, Alan Silva, the NZSO, New Zealand Dance Company and Borderline Arts Ensemble.

He’s nominated for Best Jazz Artist for his album Wax//Wane and Best Jazz Composition for his piece ‘Blue Rain’.

Made up of renowned jazz musicians Hayden Chisholm (saxophone, sruti box, throat singing), Norman Meehan (piano), Paul Dyne (bass) and Julien Dyne (drums), jazz quartet Unwind are the third finalist for the Best Jazz Artist Tūī for their album Saffron.

All four members of the group are respected musicians with long and fruitful careers, as well as composers, educators, musicologists, broadcasters, and passionate advocates for New Zealand jazz.

Recorded Music NZ Kaiwhakahaere o Ngā Tohu Puoro o Aotearoa Sarah Owen said the ever-evolving jazz scene in Aotearoa was one of experimentation, with each year bringing new and exciting compositions to experience.

“It’s great to see the local jazz scene thriving and we’re proud to acknowledge the efforts of the talented ringapuoro that compose and create such compelling music.”

APRA Best Jazz Composition

Alongside Recorded Music NZ Best Jazz Artist, we recognise and celebrate the finalists for the APRA Best Jazz Composition.

As a professional musician, composer and teacher, Anita Schwabe is no stranger to Aotearoa’s jazz circles.

She is currently a member of the Rodger Fox Big Band, which has recorded at Capitol, United and Bunker studios with performances at Monterey Jazz Festival, and the Jazz Educators Conference New Orleans.

In 2018 she won the APRA Best Jazz Composition for ‘Springtide’ and is back this year with her new composition ‘August Augmentation’.

Two-time APRA Composition winner Callum Allardice is back with his new composition ‘Dark Love’ after previously winning in 2017 for his composition piece ‘Deep Thought’ written for Antipodes and in 2019 for ‘Chungin’’.

He is also in the running for Recorded Music NZ Best Jazz Artist as part of the group The Jac.

The third finalist is Lucien Johnson for his composition ‘Blue Rain’, as well as being a finalist for Best Jazz Artist for his album Wax/Wane.

APRA Head of NZ Operations Anthony Healey says: “It takes a lot of imagination and skill to compose captivating compositions. The three finalists we have this year are truly masters of their craft.”

The winners of each award will be announced as part of the Wellington Jazz Festival opening event on 8th June.

Hot on the heels of its rescheduled 2020 Festival in November, Wellington Jazz Festival returns this winter with its 2021 edition, bringing some of New Zealand’s most legendary jazz artists alongside emerging talents.

Spanning five days (9th to 13th June), this much anticipated festival will showcase the best jazz talent in venues across the city.

Finalists for Recorded Music NZ Te Kaipuoro Tautito Toa | Best Jazz Music Artist

  • The Jac – A Gathering
  • Lucien Johnson – Wax//Wane
  • Unwind – Saffron


Finalists for APRA Best Jazz Composition

  • Anita Schwabe – ‘August Augmentation’
  • Callum Allardice – ‘Dark Love’
  • Lucien Johnson – ‘Blue Rain’