As the year draws to a close, it's time to celebrate the achievements of American Pianists Awards winners in 2023! We have witnessed a remarkable year of creative projects from recent winners, each showcasing their unique styles in highly lauded album releases. Let's dive into their latest.

Collage of album covers

As the year draws to a close, it's time to celebrate the achievements of American Pianists Awards winners in 2023! We have witnessed a remarkable year of creative projects from recent winners, each showcasing their unique styles in highly lauded album releases. Let's dive into their latest.

Classical releases

Kenny Broberg

Kenny Broberg

2021 Awards winner Kenny Broberg’s Steinway & Sons debut brought much praise upon release in January. It finished the year on All Music’s 2023 Classical Favorites of the year with the editor noting, “The pure Russian school of virtuosity is in good hands with young pianist Broberg.” Kenny followed that with a collaboration with violinist Maria Ioudenitch titled “Songbird,” which we covered in detail previously.

  • · Maria Ioudenitch “Songbird
  • · Rachmaninoff, Scriabin & Medtner: Piano Sonatas

    Jazz releases

    What a year in jazz! The three albums from this year’s Awards winner Isaiah J. Thompson showcased here make up a small fraction of the collective works our past winners dropped in 2023.

    We have selected some of our favorite tracks from 15 albums for a Spotify showcase--listen here: 

    Details on the albums and selected tracks follow:

    Adam Birnbaum

    Adam Birnbaum

    Stereophile says Adam Birnbaum's "Preludes" “just might be the best Bach/jazz album yet. It is definitely the most fun.” Adam previously spoke with us about his playful reimaginations of Bach’s preludes.

    Adam also collaborated again this year with Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society on "Dynamic Maximum Tension," an album that also features our friend Cécile McLorin Salvant.

  • · Prelude in Db Major, Prelude in C Minor from Preludes
  • · "Dymaxion" and "Mae West: Advice" from Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society “Dynamic Maximum Tension
  • Emmet Cohen

    Emmet Cohen

    Emmet Cohen continued his years long project collaborating with jazz legends with "Masters Legacy Series Vol. 5 featuring Houston Person

  • · "Sunday Kind of Love" by Etta James
  • · "Isn't It Romantic?"by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
  • · "Why Not?" by Houston Person
  • Aaron Diehl

    Aaron Diehl

    “Zodiac Suite” is Aaron Diehl’s labor of love to honor the musical legacy of composer Mary Lou Williams. Recorded with NYC-based orchestral ensemble the Knights, the completed project was declared “a triumph” by the Guardian.

    Aaron’s ongoing role in drummer Tyshawn Sorey’s trio brought us "Continuing" (not available on Spotify; album link).
    Additionally he accompanied Cécile McLorin Salvant on “Mélusine” for two tracks, including the standout opener “Est-ce Ainsi Que Les Hommes Vivent?" (Is This How Men Live?) by Louis Aragon and Léo Ferré.

  • · "Taurus," "Virgo" and "Scorpio" from "Zodiac Suite"
  • · “Est-ce Ainsi Que Les Hommes Vivent?" from "Mélusine"
  • Sullivan Fortner

    Sullivan Fortner

    Sullivan Fortner likewise joined Cécile on “Mélusine,” adding to the album’s sonicscape with an array of instruments: on "Fenestra," an original by Cécile, he contributes piano, kalimba and vocals; later he brings a futuristic synthesizer sound to the 17th century baroque air "D'un feu secret" by French composer Michael Lambert.

    Sullivan's “Solo Game” is a double album with two strikingly different concepts! More here.

  • · "Fenestra" by Cécile McLorin Salvant
  • · "D'un feu secret" by Michael Lambert
  • · “Come Sunday" by Duke Ellington
  • · “Congolese Children” by Randy Weston
  • · “It’s a Game” by Sullivan Fortner featuring Kyle Poole on percussion (and hand claps!) and Cécile McLorin Salvant on vocals
  • Aaron Parks

    Aaron Parks

    Little Big Live in Berlin” is a bootleg Aaron Parks made of his band's performance in Berlin. Jazz critic Nate Chinen calls it "a vérité document of a killer band."

  • · “Kid” from “Little Big” studio album
  • · “Rising Mind“ from “Little Big” studio album
  • Dan Tepfer

    Dan Tepfer

    The innovative astrophysics major-cum-pianist Dan Tepfer once again found himself on NPR this year, this time to highlight “Inventions / Reinventions” in which he improvises the nine missing keys from Bach’s Inventions (more details on Dan’s blog)

    He followed that release with a collaboration with saxophonist Miguel Zenón they dub “Internal Melodies.” It received a rare five star review in Downbeat!

  • · Improvised Invention in Db minor
  • · Improvised Invention in B major
  • · "Fanfares" by György Ligeti
  • · “317 East 32nd Street” by Lennie Tristano
  • · “La Izquierda Latina Americana” by Miguel Zenón
  • Isaiah J. Thompson

    Isaiah J. Thompson

    Isaiah J. Thompson's journey this year has been nothing short of spectacular: winning the American Pianists Awards, headlining two albums with lasting appeal and touring with John Pizzarelli has kept the creative output rolling!

    "The Power of the Spirit" received high praise from All About Jazz, which notes his prowess as both a composer and performer. "A Guaraldi Holiday" conjures holiday seasons past and present and was a wonderful gift at the end of the year. Isaiah also helped John Pizzarelli bring to fore musical numbers from the past on “Stage & Screen.”

  • · “The IT Department”
  • · “Tales of the Elephant and the Butterfly”
  • · “Thanksgiving Theme” by Vince Guaraldi
  • · “Heartburn Waltz” by Vince Guaraldi
  • · "Tea for Two" by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar from the musical "No, No, Nanette"
  • · "Just in Time" by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green from the musical "Bells Are Ringing"
  • As we reflect on the past year, it's clear that the American Pianists Association's commitment to discovering, promoting and advancing the careers of young artists has paid off brilliantly! These albums not only highlight the individual artistry of each pianist but also contribute significantly to the larger worlds of jazz and classical music. We eagerly await to see what they will do in 2024!


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