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Moses for Mercury

The London-based saxophonist Moses Boyd is the latest jazz-related addition to the shortlists of the nominally alternative music awards event

As often, an album related to jazz makes an appearance in the “Albums Of The Year” shortlist for the 2020 Hyundai Mercury Prize, namely Moses Boyd’s debut album as leader, Dark Matter, released February 2020 on his own label Exodus Records.

The list was chosen by a panel including musician and BBC Radio 2 presenter Jamie Cullum, himself often involved with jazz, as well BBC Radio 1 DJs Annie Mac and Gemma Cairney and Will Hodgkinson, chief rock and pop critic at The Times.

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The winner will be announced 24 September, but the organisers say it is unlikely the customary live awards show will take place. BBC Music will, however, provide TV and radio coverage and YouTube Music will stream performances by the nominees to international audiences.

The Mercury prize, instituted in 1992, aims to recognise “artistic achievement across a range of contemporary music genres” and other nominees this year include Laura Marling, Michael Kiwanuka and Stormzy.

The event is organised by the British Phonographic Industry, the British recorded music industry’s trade association. Its chief executive Geoff Taylor feels the prize presents “the most exciting new talent” and “the best in contemporary music”.

Aspiring at its launch to present a more eclectic and alternative list than mainstream pop events such as the Brit Awards, the Mercury prize has often featured in its shortlist an artist or band either identifying or identified as a jazz, as well as classical and folk artists.

Among the nominees answering the jazz description to varying extents have been Bheki Mseleku (1992), Stan Tracey (1993), Guy Barker (1995 and 2002), Courtney Pine (1996), John Surman (1998), Denys Baptiste (1998), Soweto Kinch (2003), Polar Bear (2005 and 2014), Zoe Rahman (2006), Portico Quartet (2008), Led Bib (2009), Kit Downes (2010), Gwilym Simcock (2011), Roller Trio (2012), Dinosaur (2017), Sons of Kemet (2018) and SEED Ensemble (2019). However, none has ever won, leading to charges of musical tokenism.

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