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Immanuel Wilkins and Itamar Borochov Have Won the LetterOne Rising Stars Jazz Award

Jonathan Chimene
Immanuel Wilkins, the new North American winner of the LetterOne Rising Stars Jazz Award.

The fourth annual edition of an award for up-and-coming talent honored two artists with sterling credentials.

On Saturday night, theLetterOne Rising Stars Jazz Award went to alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, from Philadelphia, Pa., and trumpeter Itamar Borochov, from Tel Aviv, Israel. The announcement was made during a virtual ceremony broadcast by WBGO, hosted by singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum. 

Also featured in the broadcast were this year's lead jurist, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington; vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater; and bassist and composer Christian McBride. Interspersed through the event were excerpts of performances by past LetterOne Rising Stars, including French guitarist Tom Ibarra, vibraphonist Sasha Berliner, Danish pianist Kathrine Windfield and Bahamanian trumpeter Giveton Gelin.

By design, the award goes to one winner from Europe and one from the United States, granting each the opportunity to appear at major jazz festivals on their respective continents, along with resources for marketing and promotion.

Credit courtesy of the artist
courtesy of the artist
Itamar Borochov

Borochov, born in 1984, should be a familiar name to many on the New York scene. He studied in the New School jazz program beginning in 2007, and spent several years playing at Smalls, among other venues. In his acceptance speech, he thanked pianist and bebop guru Barry Harris, one of his mentors in NYC.

His music infuses state-of-the-art postbop with melodic elements from his Sephardic heritage; at present he is based in Jerusalem, where he just recorded a new work with a string quartet. 

Wilkins, 23, grew up in Upper Darby, Pa., and has been a force on the ground in New York since his arrival in 2015. His new album, Omega, is one of the most acclaimed debuts in recent memory. Just this week, he and his quartet released an NPR Music Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, recorded at Sear Sound in New York.

In their remarks, both Borochov and Wilkins expressed not only gratitude but also eagerness to take advantage of the opportunity that the Rising Stars Jazz Award represents: principally, a series of high-profile bookings at actual festivals. The picture is still evolving on that front — in his remarks, McBride, speaking as artistic director of the Newport Jazz Festival, hinted that there will hopefully be something happening this summer, in some form — but whatever the case, Wilkins and Borochov are both well on their way.

WBGO is the exclusive broadcast partner of the LetterOne Rising Stars Jazz Award. 

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.