Hackney pianist wins BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020

BBC Young Jazz Musician Final 2020.
Photo credit: Doug Peters/PA Wire

BBC Young Jazz Musician Final 2020. Photo credit: Doug Peters/PA Wire - Credit: Doug Peters/PA Wire

Former Mossbourne Academy pupil Deschanel Gordon has gone from playing keyboard in a Hackney church to impressing the judges at a near empty Cadogan Hall

BBC Young Jazz Musician Final 2020.
Photo credit: Doug Peters/PA Wire

BBC Young Jazz Musician Final 2020. Photo credit: Doug Peters/PA Wire - Credit: Doug Peters/PA Wire

From his first performance playing keyboard in a Hackney Pentecostal church, to impressing the judges at Cadogan Hall, it’s been an exciting road for pianist Deschanel Gordon.

The former Mossbourne Academy pupil scooped the BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 on Sunday with his rendition of Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight and his own composition Waiting.

But instead of wild applause, it was filmed a week earlier in a near empty hall to a panel including saxophonist Nubya Garcia, vibraphonist Orphy Robinson, and trumpeter Guy Barker.

The 22-year-old Trinity Laban graduate says: “That silence is something I have had to get used to this year, playing to no-one in the room. In terms of nerves, maybe there’s a little bit less, but you miss the vibe that the audience gives. Jazz especially is based on improvisation and anything in the room can affect what happens musically.”


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Gordon praises the “supportive music department” at Mossbourne for developing his talent.

“I started at seven years old playing hymns in church - on a keyboard with an organ sound - then I had classical lessons from sheet music, but often I would hear something on an advert then play it and really enjoy it. I had my first jazz piano lesson in year six and from there I found out about (jazz pianist) Oscar Peterson and fell in love with jazz.

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“What makes it so exciting and enjoyable is anything can come out in the moment.”

Gordon’s compositions are threaded through with his rich musical influences, gospel from church, reggae from his Jamaican heritage, and classical, which offers a “framework” to improvise.

Of Waiting he says: “During lockdown I looked through old recordings and found this idea from a year ago. I developed it adding a section of reggae to change it up - my parents are from Jamaica and my dad especially played reggae a lot.

“Round Midnight is a jazz classic, all my piano heroes have played that song. It’s one of my favourites and I had to put my own stamp on it.”

Gordon moved back to Hackney in September and instantly felt at home “bumping into those old faces during lockdown, I do love Hackney.”

As for the future, he hopes for “some sort of normality” to playing live music

“Social distancing has a big effect on whether a venue can run at half capacity. In the last few years I have had some amazing opportunities to play with people on the London scene and learn from them. In future I want to develop my own band, but for now I am just grateful to be given opportunities to play piano.”

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