Gutiérrez Rebolloso Wins Sarah Vaughan Competition


The winners of the 11th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.

(Photo: Courtesy of the 11th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition)

At a performance held the afternoon of Nov. 20 on the NJPAC stage, Lucía Gutiérrez Rebolloso was announced the winner of the 11th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Hosted by WBGO Radio’s Gary Walker, The SASSY Awards featured performances by the competitions top five finalists as well as special appearances by previous winners Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim and Gabrielle Cavassa.

Rebolloso, recipient of a $5,000 cash award, wowed the panel of judges with the bebop standard “Donna Lee.” The 21-year-old vocalist, born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico, grew up singing in the family’s group, singing son jarocho, a blend of Spanish, African and indigenous Mexican influences — a style that originated on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. “It was a natural introduction to the many influences in jazz, with a strong reminder that at the center is a story to tell,” Walker says. “Lucía’s life story is one that will serve her well in jazz for years to come.”

The second place honor and $1,500 prize went to Ekep Nkwelle, a singer and songwriter who studied both classical voice and jazz performance at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts High School in Washington, D.C., and later attended Howard University, where she performed with the school’s prestigious vocal jazz ensemble Afro Blue. Third place and a prize of $500 was awarded to Harlem-based Allan Harris, who as a child had the great privilege and honor to watch Sarah Vaughan perform live at The Apollo.

Pulled from more than 200 submissions from over 25 countries, the top five finalists took to the stage with magnificent performances in front of a live audience and the distinguished panel of judges including violinist Regina Carter, NJPAC’s jazz advisor and bassist Christian McBride, drummer T.S. Monk, composer/arranger Maria Schneider and WBGO Radio personality Pat Prescott. DB

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