Jury North American Edition
George Benson (chairman of the jury)
10 time Grammy Award winning American artist, guitarist and singer George Benson is the chairman of the 2019 ‘LetterOne Rising Stars Jazz Award’ jury. Benson’s recording career began at the age of twenty-one as a jazz guitarist after which he went on and gained more recognition being a pop, R&B and scat singer as well. His triple-platinum album Breezin’ topped the Billboard 200 in 1976 and in 1996, Benson was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Brian Michel Bacchus was an A&R man for Verve, Antilles, RCA and Blue Note before moving into production and doing stellar work with Randy Weston, Patricia Barber and Gregory Porter. His A&R work with Norah Jones contributed mightily to her debut, one of the biggest selling albums in history” writes Michael Jarrett from Pressed For All Time.
Bacchus was producer for Gregory Porter’s ‘Liquid Spirit’, which was awarded with a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album 2013.
In addition to presenting regular commentaries on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’, Michelle Mercer is the author of ‘Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter ‘, ‘Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period’, and the ghostwriter of other books, including a The New York Times best seller. She’s the first woman to become a featured DownBeat Magazine Hot Box critic, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. Michelle has won numerous international residencies, and has presented and reported on art, music, and culture in 20 countries. Her MFA is from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and she has extensive experience teaching nonfiction writing at colleges and in public workshops.
Mikhail Fridman is an international businessman and philanthropist – and founder of the International Jazz Festival in Lvov, where he was born. Born into a Jewish family, Mikhail loves opera, theatre, literature and music, and especially jazz. It has been a part of his life from a very young age and the Lvov Jazz Festival is a gift to his native city that has a rich tradition of European music and culture. Besides a yearly visit to the Lvov festival Mikhail travels around the world and visits various jazz festivals and venues. In his spare time he also plays piano.
Previous Jury Members
André Ménard numbers among the most influential figures in the Quebec artistic community, having greatly contributed to the cultural life of Montreal. Working in the domain of live show and concert production since 1975, he founded L’Équipe Spectra with Alain Simard almost 40 years ago and remains vice-president of the company. He is also the cofounder of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and he oversaw the operations of Montréal venues Le Spectrum and Métropolis (MTELUS) for 25 years. Driven by his insatiable cultural curiosity, André Ménard travels to more than 300 artistic events every year throughout the world.
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Over the course of a multifaceted career spanning four decades, Grammy and Tony Award-winning Jazz giant Dee Dee Bridgewater has ascended to the upper echelon of vocalists, putting her unique spin on standards, as well as taking intrepid leaps of faith in re-envisioning jazz classics. Bridgewater’s career has always bridged musical genres. She earned her first professional experience as a member of the legendary Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, and throughout the 70’s she performed with such jazz notables as Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Dizzy Gillespie. After a foray into the pop world during the 1980s, she relocated to Paris and began to turn her attention back to Jazz. Bridgewater began self-producing with her 1993 album Keeping Tradition (Polydor/Verve) and created DDB Records in 2006 when she signed with the Universal Music Group as a producer.