The Gilmore Appoints Seth Abramson Director of Jazz Awards
August 2, 2022
Abramson to oversee the Larry J. Bell Jazz Artist Awards for jazz pianists
Kalamazoo, MI (August 2, 2022) – Pierre van der Westhuizen, Executive and Artistic Director of the Irving S. Gilmore International Piano Festival, today announced the appointment of Grammy Award-winning producer Seth Abramson as Director of Jazz Awards. Abramson is the President and founder of Rabbit Moon Productions, Inc. (RMP) a full-service, live music presentation and production company. He also served as the founding Artistic Director for Jazz Standard, the renowned New York City jazz club owned by restaurateur Danny Meyer for over 20 years. He begins his new role on September 1, 2022.
The Director of Jazz Awards position was created to oversee the Larry J. Bell Jazz Artist Awards for jazz pianists announced in February. This includes the Larry J. Bell Jazz Artist Award and Larry J. Bell Young Jazz Artist Award. As with the internationally renowned Gilmore Artist Award for classical pianists, the Larry J. Bell Jazz Artist recipient will be chosen every four years by an anonymous committee with the pianist receiving $300,000—a $50,000 cash grant to be used at the artist’s discretion, and $250,000 disbursed over a four-year period for projects and activities that will enhance the artist’s musicianship and career. The first Larry J. Bell Jazz Artist will be announced in 2026. Additionally, a new Larry J. Bell Young Jazz Artist Award has been established to bestow $25,000 every two years to the most promising of the new generation of American jazz pianists age 22 and younger, beginning in 2026. This award mirrors the Gilmore Young Artist Awards for classical pianists.
Abramson will establish and oversee the nomination and selection process for the Larry J. Bell Jazz Artist Awards. Candidates will be nominated by a large and diverse international assemblage of music professionals. The finalists among the award candidates will then each be evaluated for their career potential and musicianship in live concert performances over a two-to three-year period by members of an anonymous committee representing a variety of music professions and viewpoints. This committee— which will remain anonymous until after the awards are announced—will assess the candidates’ concert performances and recordings over a sustained period of time, rather than judging their achievements during a concentrated period under tightly controlled conditions, as in a public competition. Abramson will also advise van der Westhuizen on the jazz programming for the biennial Gilmore International Piano Festival.
van der Westhuizen said: “The Gilmore is delighted to welcome Seth Abramson as its new Director of Jazz Awards. Seth’s extensive contacts in the international jazz community and his vast experience as a producer, presenter, and as a musician means he is well placed to recruit and inspire a Jazz Awards Advisory Committee. Seth’s impressive track record discovering and supporting young artists will also play a key role in mentoring and nurturing the careers of the future Larry J. Bell Jazz Artists and Larry J. Bell Young Jazz Artists.”
Abramson said: “The new Larry J. Bell Jazz Awards will make a monumental impact on the jazz community and I am thrilled to be a part of bringing these awards into fruition. In my many years of working with jazz artists, some of my most memorable moments have been seeing artists grow and succeed and to have such a fundamental role in being able to do this at the high level The Gilmore is providing with these awards, is a true honor.”
ABOUT SETH ABRAMSON
Abramson’s passion for music was born at a very early age on the piano but took flight when he first strummed a guitar at age nine. Over the years he performed hundreds of engagements with his own groups as well as a sideman in numerous bands both large and small. Most notably he was featured as the guitarist on Terence Blanchard’s Emmy−nominated score for the documentary film entitled, The Promised Land.
Abramson’s keen ears for discovering and presenting new talent have helped launch the careers of many well-known Grammy Award-winning artists as well as those who have subsequently been named MacArthur and/or Guggenheim Fellows. These artists include jazz pianists Jon Batiste, Robert Glasper, Vijay Iyer, and Jason Moran alongside drummer Dafnis Prieto, bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, and saxophonist Miguel Zenon to name a few. Over the course of his career, he has programmed and produced concerts including Terence Blanchard, Bruce Hornsby, Lake Street Dive, Bettye LaVette, Ledisi, Wynton Marsalis, Gregory Porter, The Suffers, Lizz Wright and countless others.
In February 2012 Abramson received his first Grammy Award for producing The Mingus Big Band Live at Jazz Standard album which received the award for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Recording. He also produced the great Spanish pianist, Chano Dominguez’s recording, Flamenco Sketches, for Blue Note Records, which was nominated for a Best Latin Jazz Album Grammy Award.
Most recently, amid the pandemic, Abramson produced numerous virtual events with world renowned artists ranging from discussions with pianist and singer-songwriter Norah Jones, vocalist Dianne Reeves, and pianist and bandleader Maria Schneider for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), to ticketed virtual concerts with artists including pianist Bill Charlap and bassist Dave Holland, to notable rising stars such as trumpeter Keyon Harrold and pianist Christian Sands.
In April 2008, Abramson served as a producer for the New York City Papal visit of Pope Benedict XVI, for which he oversaw an all-day festival and concert event featuring The Three Graces, Kelly Clarkson and others inclusive of over 700 people in total on stage throughout the day. This historic event culminated with a speech from Pope Benedict XVI addressing a crowd of over 35,000 attendees.
For over a decade, Seth proudly served as the sole Artistic Director and Music Producer for The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party’s music stage. This event attracted over 140,000 people throughout the weekend event annually. He also produced a concert series for the New York City Parks Department in Madison Square Park entitled Mad. Sq. Music for 15 years. He’s produced musical events ranging from private corporate functions to arena size programs and everything in between. He’s presented concerts in venues as diverse as traditional theaters and clubs to hotels, museums, boats, and skyscrapers.
Before transitioning to the presenting and producing side of the business, Seth held various positions at major record labels and was an agent for such Jazz luminaries as pianist Mose Allison, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, drummer Roy Haynes, vocalist Abbey Lincoln, saxophonist Joe Lovano, and many more.
Abramson graduated cum laude with a degree in music from New York University, has served as a panelist at numerous music conferences, including the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), and has been a guest lecturer at The New School, Manhattan School of Music, New York University, Julliard Music School and many others. He currently resides in New Jersey with his wife and daughter and is always up for a competitive round of mini golf.
ABOUT THE GILMORE AWARDS
The Larry J. Bell Jazz Artist Awards were established with an $8 million gift to The Gilmore endowment and named for Kalamazoo businessman and President of the Gilmore International Piano Festival Board of Trustees Larry J. Bell, the founder of Bell’s Brewery.
The Gilmore Festival and Awards are the legacy of Irving S. Gilmore, a Michigan businessman and philanthropist based in Kalamazoo, whose special devotion to piano music and pianists inspired the creation of the biennial Gilmore International Piano Festival and the Gilmore Artist and Young Artist Awards. More information can be found at thegilmore.org.
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