Monk Competition 2008: Saxophones
As the first finalist to appear, alto saxophonist Irabagon opted for an avant-garde interpretation of Jerome Kern's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" that allowed his notes to bend and scrape in a manner recalling the early impression Ornette Coleman made on the modern jazz scene. Next, he traded eights with Bridgewater at a breakneck tempo while she alternated vocalese with lyrics to complete an uplifting performance. Green followed on alto with another nod to Thelonious Monk, followed by "There Is No Greater Love" with Bridgewater, who lifted the pace and the intensity each time she appeared. Fowler followed with a blues on tenor that recalled Dexter Gordon: smooth, comfortable and rock-solid. As he and Bridgewater did "All of Me," the room came alive with the thrill of mainstream memories.
Later, after the judges convened in private and came to a decision, Irabagon was announced as the winner, joining B.B. King and others on stage for a welcome round of "Let the Good Times Roll." Green was ranked second and Fowler was ranked third; but all three garnered prestigious honors for new talent on the jazz scene. On this special weekend, all twelve saxophonists were winners for their courage and dedication to the art of jazz.