Chicago-based vocalist G. Thomas Allen took top honours at the 10th annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.
Hosted by Christian McBride at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the Sassy Awards featured performances by the competition’s five finalists as well as a special appearance by Dianne Reeves.
Allen impressed the panel of judges with his rendition of Misty, a standard recorded by Sarah Vaughan in 1964. The finalists were Andrea Miller, April May Webb, Arta Jēkabsone and Vik Gečytė.
Allen, who is the first male vocalist to win the award, receives a $5,000 prize. Webb, the runner-up, was awarded $1,500, and in third place, Jēkabsone took home $500.
Allen is known for his vocal flexibility, warm timbre and cross-genre experimentation. He has worked with the late David Baker and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, performing Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts at the Strathmore Hall. As a bandleader, he released his debut self-titled album in 2020, which hit No. 1 on the iTunes jazz charts. He currently teaches at ChiArts and Columbia College Chicago.
The winners were selected out of more than 160 submissions from 25 countries by a panel of judges comprising pianist Renee Rosnes, vocalist Jazzmeia Horn, guitarist John Pizzarelli, vocalist Sheila Jordan and WBGO head Steven A. Williams.
Past winners of the Sassy Award include Cyrille Aimée, Jazzmeia Horn, Ashleigh Smith, Arianna Neikrug, Deelee Dubé, Quiana Lynell, Laurin Talese, Samara Joy, Gabrielle Cavassa and Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim.