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(L-R) Winner Aaron Diehl, President/CEO/Artistic Director Dr. Joel Harrison, Vocalist/NPR “JazzSet” Host Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Indianapolis Mayor Gregory A. Ballard, pictured after the Finals.

Photo Credit: Mark Sheldon.

American Pianists Association is proud to announce pianist Aaron Diehl as the winner of the 2011 Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz competition. The announcement was made after the final round of performances on Saturday, April 16 at Indianapolis’ Athenaeum Theatre, which concluded the organization’s Jazz Discovery Week.

25 year-old Diehl, selected from a field of five finalists, was granted a cash prize of $50,000, the largest prize in the world for a young jazz pianist. Additionally, over the course of two years, Diehl will receive in-kind career development with the value of an additional $50,000.

During Jazz Discovery Week (April 10-16), the five finalists were judged in concert at a variety of venues throughout Indianapolis. Jazz Discovery Week jury members included: Jazz pianists Geri Allen, John Taylor and Danilo Pérez, as well as New York Times music critic Nate Chinen, and Mack Avenue Records Executive Vice-President Al Pryor.

Semi-finals took place over two sets on April 15 at The Jazz Kitchen. Each pianist was allotted two 20-minute sets with the house rhythm section. The final round was judged on April 16 at The Athenaeum, hosted by Voice of America’s Russ Davis. Each pianist performed a traditional jazz standard in duo format with Dee Dee Bridgewater, followed by a contemporary jazz standard in big band format, accompanied by The Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra

“All aspects of the planning process came together to produce a week of memorable events, most outstanding being the semi-final sets on Friday night at The Jazz Kitchen and the Finals at the Athenaeum on Saturday night,” states Harrison. “Dee Dee Bridgewater’s performances with our five Finalists were deeply rewarding to me, and to all who heard them. On this particular occasion, she was truly without peer. Our new winner, Aaron Diehl, will be a superb ambassador for American Pianists Association and the jazz genre in general, and I commend our jury for its wise choice. We all have much to celebrate!”

Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “The most promising discovery that [Wynton] Marsalis has made since Eric Reed,” Diehl’s distinctive interpretations of the music of Scott Joplin, “Jelly Roll” Morton, Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, and other masters pay homage to the tradition while establishing his own original voice.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Diehl was asked to tour with the Wynton Marsalis Septet immediately following high school graduation. A 2007 Juilliard School graduate – where he studied with Kenny Barron, Eric Reed, and Oxana Yablonskaya – Diehl has performed with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Boston Symphony Orchestra, Hank Jones, Wycliffe Gordon, Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson, and Benny Golson, among others. Diehl has been featured on Marian McPartland’s nationally syndicated NPR program, “Piano Jazz.”

He currently resides in Manhattan, where he serves as music director of St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church in Harlem.

The mission of the American Pianists Association is to advance the careers of American jazz and classical pianists between the ages of 18 – 30. The organization was founded in 1979 in New York City and has been in Indianapolis since 1982.