Academic Partners – Blues Alley is revolutionizing our approach to the jazz vocal pedagogy by rotating judges affiliated with major academic institutions, music schools, and conservatories. Each year the competition will include noted vocal academicians to critique and judge those vocal submissions that may not otherwise have exposure to veteran industry professionals. Past judges have represented Howard, Syracuse, George Washington, SUNY-Purchase, George Mason and Towson State Universities. The 2022-23 faculty will be comprised of Darden Purcell (George Mason University), and Peter Eldridge (Berklee College). Our celebrity judge will be award-winning vocalist Jane Monheit.
Action Dates – The commencement for all registrants will occur on November 1, 2022 and conclude on January 31, 2023. Judges will review and arbitrate all vocal submissions with their subsequent deadline to decide and to reduce our audio submissions to five finalists no later than February 28th. Each registrant shall receive a confirmation upon receipt of registry.
Deadline – All registrant submissions shall be aggregated by our third party Program Coordinator; processed and distributed to our three independent judges who shall then adjudicate each submission according to a codified list of vocal protocols. This process will commence on February 28th and the results released the first week of March, 2023.
Darden Purcell is an active featured soloist with symphony orchestras, big bands and small ensembles, band leader and vocal instructor. Ms. Purcell has shared the stage with many top jazz artists including Eric Alexander, Terell Stafford, Jim Pugh, Chip McNeill, Jim Pugh, Alan Baylock, Byron Stripling, Bobby Floyd, Darmon Meader, Jim Carroll Charlie Young, Chris Vadala, Glenn Wilson, Shawn Purcell, the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, US Navy Band Commodores, USAF Airmen of Note, US Army Blues and the American Festival Pops Orchestra, performing at concert halls and clubs nationally and internationally, including Blues Alley (DC), Club Bonafide (NYC), Bop Stop, JazzB (Sao Paulo, Brazil), The Jazz Kitchen, The Blue Wisp, The Kitchen Cafe, Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts (NSO) and The Kennedy Center (back-up vocals for Mr. George Benson, Ben Folds, Sara Bareilles and Caroline Shaw). Dr. Purcell is the Director of Jazz Studies at George Mason University.
Blessed with “a voice of phenomenal beauty” (Stephen Holden, New York Times), Jane Monheit has had plenty of milestone moments in establishing herself as one of today’s best and most important vocalist-musicians.
With her new album, The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald—the first to be released on her own Emerald City Records—the Long Island native has surprised even herself with her artistic leap. Jane had thought about recording an Ella tribute for a long time. Fitzgerald’s beloved songbook albums held “Biblical” importance for her when she was growing up andhave never lost their hold on her.
On this new offering, Monheit pays joyous tribute to Ella while sharing a definitive portrait of herself, guided by her producer, arranger, and trumpet great, Nicholas Payton. Once she decided to make the dream project a reality, she had no trouble choosing titles. She jotted down a list of 25 titles “almost immediately.” She and Payton each narrowed the choices to a dozen and settled on the final list together.
“We met in the middle in a lot of ways,” Monheit says. “It all came down to trust. I had no idea what to expect from Nicholas because we had never worked together, but it was evident from the start that he is a sensitive soul and his knowledge and understanding of history was beyond compare. I felt an instant trust in him I had never felt before with any other producer.”
“This record is really different,” she adds. “It’s the first I’ve made a recording without a label and so I was able to make all the decisions myself. Honestly, when I listened back to the takes, I heard a different singer than I’ve heard before—a more mature one. It was a little scary because there’s a certain raw quality to some of the vocals but we gave no thought to fixing them. These were the vocals of a 38-year-old woman with a lot of life experience. These tracks really express who I am.”
For years Peter Eldridge has remained at the forefront of both the singer-songwriter and jazz realms as a vocalist, pianist, composer, and arranger. He has four critically acclaimed albums: Stranger in Town, Fool No More, Decorum, and Mad Heaven. His latest studio project, Disappearing Day, was released in July 2016 on Sunnyside Records and called “an out and out masterpiece” by allaboutjazz. Disappearing Day made many ‘best of the year’ lists, including Downbeat, Jazziz, and NPR. Some of Peter’s current projects include his first full-fledged musical with the working title of ‘The Woman in Question’, co-written with Chicago playwright Cheryl Coons about the life, loves, and art of Austrian painter, Gustav Klimt; an upcoming recording of ballads with string orchestra and jazz trio, featuring pianist/arranger Kenny Werner and cellist Eugene Friesen, and Foolish Hearts, an acoustic duo featuring Peter with bassist Matt Aronoff.
Eldridge is also a founding member of internationally acclaimed vocal group, New York Voices. The group continues to tour internationally and has performed in some of the world’s most preeminent venues and festivals, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and the Kennedy Center, and has been involved in two Grammy-award winning projects with Paquito D’Rivera and the Count Basie Orchestra. New York Voices has completed two new collaborative albums to be released in 2018, one with the Bob Mintzer Big Band and the other with Brazilian singer/songwriter Ivan Lins and the Danish Radio Big Band. On the more contemporary side, Peter is also a member of the vocal group MOSS, alongside Kate McGarry, Theo Bleckmann, Lauren Kinhan and Luciana Souza (and now vocalist Jo Lawry). Some of Peter’s notable collaborations include Bobby McFerrin, Fred Hersch, Becca Stevens, Chanticleer, George Benson, Michael Brecker, David Byrne, Jonatha Brooke, Kurt Elling, the New West Guitar Trio, Jane Monheit, the Swingles, Anat Cohen, Betty Buckley, Janis Siegel, Paula Cole, Jon Hendricks, and Mark Murphy. Peter’s music is featured in Zach Galifianakis’ recorded stand-up performance ‘Live at the Purple Onion’, and his original songs or collaborations have been covered by artists such as Nancy Wilson, Paquito D’Rivera, and Jane Monheit. This past Spring, Peter was commissioned by the Boston choral group Coro Allegro to write a piece for its 25th anniversary (‘to be nobody’, text by e e cummings). In addition, Peter was head of the Manhattan School of Music’s jazz voice department for eighteen years and is now part of the voice faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He is regularly in demand for workshops and masterclasses both domestically and internationally, in topics ranging from vocal technique and song interpretation to songwriting and arranging.