The prestigious competition is open to musicians under the age of 30 who have not led recordings. Ten semifinalists, chosen on the basis of written applications and recordings, competed last night at the Smithsonian Institution's Baird Auditorium; three moved on to tonight's finals concert.
Pianist Herbie Hancock and actor Billy Dee Williams are the hosts of tonight's event. The competitors will perform with saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist James Genus, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and pianist Bob James. Judges include guitarists Earl Klugh, Russell Malone, John Pizzarelli, Bill Frisell, and Pat Martino.
In addition to performances by the three finalists, the concert will include a tribute to guitarist George Benson and appearances by the judges and by Hancock, drummer Thelonious Monk Jr., trumpeter Terence Blanchard, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, trumpeter Clark Terry, saxophonist Jimmy Heath, and others. It will be recorded for broadcast on the Black Entertainment Television network.
The Thelonious Monk Competition was founded in 1987; it focuses on a different instrument each year. Previous winners include pianist Marcus Roberts, trumpeter Ryan Kisor, saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Jacky Terrasson, and vocalist Jane Monheit.