On Sunday March 12, composer, pianist and bandleader Leïla Olivesi received the prestigious Prix Django-Reinhardt from theAcadémie du jazz. The 45-year-old Franco-Mauritanian artist became the sixth woman to receive the award in its nearly 70-year history. A well-deserved prize for the musician, who now has six albums to her name and has set herself apart over the past year with her latest album Astral, released in November 2020 and featuring a dozen musicians.
A passion that makes sense
Leïla Olivesi is a multi-talented artist: in addition to her skills as a pianist and composer, she is also a conductor. This passion, which she has been sharing for over 20 years, takes on new meaning with this award. “All the work you do every day as a musician takes on even greater meaning [with this award] and makes me want to go further,” exclaimed the musician after receiving the award.
The Académie du Jazz jury, made up of 60 members (journalists, festival music programmers, teachers, writers, photographers, musicologists, etc.), selected the artist on the basis of the various albums released in 2022 by the following candidates:
- The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble led by Arturo O’Farrill and featuring his drummer son Zack O’Farrill and drummer Zack O’Farrill for the project Legacies.
- Dedicated Men Of Zion for “The Devil Don’t Like It”, which won the Soul Gospel Award.
- Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride & Brian Blade for LongGone, Grand Prix de l’Académie du jazz.
- Stéphane Kerecki for Out Of The Silence, Prix du Disque Français.
- Laurent Bardainne & Tigre D’eau Douce for Hymne Au Soleil.
- Biréli Lagrène for Solo Suites.
Leïla Olivesi is the big winner of this 2021 award, becoming a role model for the younger generation. And her rise doesn’t stop there: in 2023, she is due to resume her world tour, interrupted by the pandemic.
A musical legacy perpetuated
Leïla Olivesi joins a long list of jazz artists honored by the Académie du Jazz, including Arturo O’Farrill, an ardent defender of a socially conscious art form that perpetuates and modernizes the rich heritage of Afro-Cuban jazz. For over twenty years, he has multiplied his musical explorations with his group The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble to maintain the creative richness of his ever-changing multicultural heritage. The Django-Reinhardt Prize is a reminder that jazz continues to influence contemporary music. Artists like Leïla Olivesi are not only carriers of tradition, but also producers of new possibilities and innovations. This reflects the Academy’s vision of encouraging and recognizing artists who enrich and contribute to the diversity of jazz through their efforts and creations.