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Sorin Zlat winner at Jacksonville Jazz

Sorin Zlat winner at the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition

The Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition, an event with a tradition of over 30 years, kicked off the Jacksonville Jazz Festival with exquisite performances. Over 200 applications have been received this year from all over the world, but only five accomplished jazz pianists were selected to gather in Jacksonville at the Florida Theatre and compete for the honor of winning this competition.

The competition featured the nationally recognized UNC Lab performer Tom Amend; Loyola University of Chicago Summa Cum Laude graduate, Steven Denny; winner of the Umbria Jazz Competition and jazz pianist under the tutelage of the world renowned musician Arturo Sandoval, Kemuel Roig; St. Louis native Matt Villinger; and jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, winner of multiple national and international competitions, Sorin Georgian Zlat.

Each of the five finalists was required to play three songs, including at least one solo number. They were accompanied on stage by stand-up bass player Dennis Marks of the UNF jazz program and drummer Clyde Conner, who plays with the St. Johns River City Band.

The reputable judging panel for the competition included “Longineu Parsons, a jazz trumpeter and vocalist and a 2006 Jacksonville Jazz Hall of Fame inductee; Joyce Hellmann Bizot, who conceived and created the Great American Jazz Piano Competition and is a 2009 Jacksonville Jazz Hall of Fame inductee; and Elisha Atlas Parris, a jazz pianist and songwriter based in Jacksonville.

Each competitor had a distinctive style. Villinger’s hands were a blur during his take on “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Amend poured his emotions into one of his slower pieces, while Denny was less flashy than the others but technically solid. Roig played a flurry of notes in each of his three pieces.” (Tom Szaroleta – Florida Times-Union)

Sorin distinguished himself by choosing to play two personal compositions along with a stunning rendition of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”. He captured the audience with “Roxane”, a melody he composed while his younger sister battled cancer and in which he masterfully weaved elements of the Romanian folklore with the deep and detailed sounds of jazz.

A testament to the beauty of our Romanian doinas which can erase the lines between music genres to yield mesmerizing original compositions, Sorin’s exquisite performance won him the much coveted trophy, making him not only the first Romanian but also the first international pianist to win the competition. It also enabled him to earn a spot on stage at the festival, an honor that he was humbled to receive. Over the years, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival has featured such notable artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Al Jarreau, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Branford Marsalis, Spyro Gyra, just to name a few, many of them being among those whom Sorin studied and drew inspiration from to become the accomplished jazz pianist that he is today. Kemuel Roig placed second and Tom Amend third.

This summer, Sorin launched his first album, entitled “Endurance”, an album centered on the power of love and family and which is an attestation to his progression as an artist and to his creative capabilities. With influences from the Latin, flamenco, and classical music styles combined with jazz, each song reaches new harmonic and rhythmic depths that leave a lasting impression with the audience.

“Sorin Zlat – an offspring of the Romanian jazz community, fully recognized on the international stage and rewarded with numerous prestigious awards. Without a doubt, his evident technical virtuosity and ability to improvise, based on the competence achieved under the renowned professor Mircea Tiberian, happily compliment his undeniable natural talent as a composer. Sorin Zlat – a true artist, fully described by his commitment, hard work, passion, creativity, and authenticity. May this first album be the first in a series of recordings meant to mark through the years the irrevocable progression to the peak of his artistic prominence.”

Florian Lungu – Producer and Host of Romanian Jazz Television and Radio Shows, Musical Critic and Composer

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