2015 Emerging Jazz Artist Award Recipient Justin Gray Invents New Instrument

In 2014, Toronto Arts Foundation proudly announced the launch of the Emerging Jazz Artist Award. Thanks to a generous donation by Cheryl and Manuel Buchwald, this award will be given out for the next ten years. A $10,000 cash prize will be awarded each year to an extraordinary emerging Jazz musician in support of the production and recording of their original compositions.

Bass player Justin Gray received the 2015 Emerging Jazz Artist Award. Justin is an acoustic and electric bass player, composer, teacher and bandleader based in Toronto. Justin is also the inventor and co-creator of the Bass Veena, an instrument designed for Indian classical and Indo-jazz music. Justin is now emerging as the first artist to perform traditional and original music on this instrument worldwide.

David Buchbinder, who nominated Justin for the award, stated that Justin “exemplifies the direction the music is heading, especially in its Toronto context. In this most diverse city on the planet, he has both the compositional and improvisational language of jazz well covered, while at the same time embodying the power of cross-cultural creation.”

We caught up with Justin to find out how he is doing since receiving the Emerging Jazz Artist Award, and what receiving this award has meant to him and his career.

TAF: How did winning the Emerging Jazz Artist Award help your career?

JG: To be considered for this award, among my fellow nominees and the talented community of young jazz artists in Toronto, was truly an amazing honour. Receiving the award continues to be helpful to my career, as it has provided me with a new platform to share my music with a wider range of listeners in Toronto. This generous support, provided by Toronto Arts Foundation and Cheryl and Manuel Buchwald, has helped me to pursue recording a new album, which is going to create further opportunities for my career.

TAF: Why do you think the Emerging Jazz Artist Award is important?

JG: Jazz music is a truly vast form that simultaneously embraces a deep rooted tradition and limitless possibilities. The artistic path of a jazz musician is therefore a lifelong journey, and one that can often take immense time and effort before it begins to blossom. For me, this award is important for two main reasons. The first is that it acknowledges younger jazz artists like myself, who in so many ways are just beginning our journey, and provides inspiration to continue going deeper into our music. The second reason that this award is integral to our community, in that it helps to draw attention to the next generation of musicians pursuing the art form.

TAF:  What’s next for you? Are there any exciting new projects you’re working on?

JG: I am happy to share that receiving this award inspired me to pursue recording a new album this year. The album will be released in the fall of 2016. It will feature original music written for my instrument (bass veena), and a collection of inspiring jazz and world music artists from around the world.

Justin and his ensemble Synthesis, an Indo-Jazz ensemble, explores a unique and captivating combination of creative jazz and Indian classical music. For upcoming concerts, visit www.justin-gray.com

Toronto Arts Foundation would like to thank sponsors Cheryl and Manuel Buchwald for their commitment to achieving a Creative City: Block by Block.

To find out how you can support us visit: http://www.torontoartsfoundation.org/support-us


2014 Emerging Jazz Artist Award Recipient

  • Chelsea McBride, 2014 recipient 

    Chelsea McBride is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, and band leader based out of Toronto, Ontario. After relocating to Toronto from Vancouver to obtain her B.Mus at Humber College, Chelsea now leads two of her own projects: Chelsea and the Cityscape and Chelsea McBride's Socialist Night School, both of which feature her original compositions and talents as a saxophonist. Her highly personal blend of modern jazz, pop-rock influences, and subtle, moody orchestrations has coalesced into a bright and fresh new sound that listeners of all stripes can enjoy.