Jaymz Bee has won the grand prize in the jazz category of the 2022 John Lennon Songwriting Competition.
The musician, producer, promoter and JAZZ.FM91 host was announced as one of the 12 winners of the first of two sessions of the annual international contest, which began in 1997.
Bee’s winning composition Nails began as a poem, then became a performance art piece on the streets of Zurich. It has been recorded many times over the year, but the version submitted was arranged by Jono Grant and Richard Underhill.
“Aside from bragging rights, there are some incredible prizes — like really incredible — so I’m going to share the spoils with Jono, Richard and Great Bob Scott, who performed it with me on the streets of Europe in the late ’80s,” Bee said.
The John Lennon Songwriting Competition features 12 categories: rock, pop, hip hop, country, jazz, R&B, children’s, folk, world, electronic, and gospel/inspirational. In total, there are 72 finalists, 24 grand prize winners, 12 Lennon Award winners, and one entry declared “song of the year.”
Bee and the other grand prize winners each receive nearly $10,000 in studio equipment.
Previous winners include fellow Canadian jazz musicians Denielle Bassels and Caity Gyorgy.
Bee said when he entered the contest, he never expected to win.
“I decided to give them a version of Nails because as a judge of various things, I know how much music they must hear. I thought, ‘Why not give ‘em a laugh — I’m not gonna win anyway,'” he said. “The fact that a lighthearted jazz-art song won an award — it’s so promising! It means some people still prefer their jazz a little bit wild.”
The executive committee of 36 judges includes George Clinton, Prince Royce, Flea, Jimmy Cliff, Ben Jaffe, Bob Weir, Sean Paul, Natasha Bedingfield, Bootsy Collins, Nathan East and more.
Proceeds from the contest help support the not-for-profit John Lennon Educational Tour Bus mobile recording studio, which is dedicated to providing young people with opportunities to create original music and digital media.