The 2023 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition


The 2023 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition was held in Namur, Belgium, on October 20 – 21, 2023.

The host for this year’s competition was international soloist and recording artist Dominique Bodart, and Douglas Jackson, associate professor of music at Elizabeth City State University (North Carolina, USA) served as the competition coordinator. The weekend included a clinic with Stéphane Belmondo, the competition finals, and concluded with a Gala Concert featuring the finalists and the competition judges Airelle Besson, Paolo Fresu, Stéphane Belmondo with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra.


After a long day of rehearsal for each of the finalists, artist/judge Stéphane Belmondo met with the competitors for an hour in the concert hall. Accompanied by Geoffrey Gallante on piano, Belmondo had the finalists play together on several tunes, challenging each other and sharing musical ideas. Demonstrating their musical flexibility, Belmondo then joined on drums while Noah Halpern picked up the bass to provide a full trio accompanying the group.

Following greetings from competition host Dominique Bodart, the competition began. Each finalist was required to perform a composition by the Brussels Jazz Orchestra trumpeter Pierre Drevet’s entitled Bouquet Final, along with three pieces of their choice. All pieces were accompanied with a jazz trio featuring Jérôme Baudart on percussion, Victor Foulon on double bass, and Mathieu De Wit on piano. 

The first finalist to perform was Noah Halpern, who began his session with an original composition, Trust in You. Halpern caught the attention of the listeners immediately, opening with an extended solo alone before being joined by the trio in developing melodic motifs. He continued his performance with the required piece Bouquet Final, followed byDarn that Dream by Jimmy Van Huesen. Halpern concluded his set with another original piece entitled Waldosia.

Noah Halpern Performing with the jazz trio

Evan Abounassar then opened his session with his original composition Keith-ish, in the style of Keith Jarret. Abounassar’s consistent sound and flexibility were immediately evident while building intensity throughout the tune. He continued with Woody Shaw’s In Case You Haven’t Heard, followed by another original composition entitled I Wish. Abounassar ended his set with the required piece Bouquet Final.

Evan Abounassar performing his set with the jazz trio

Clifford Brown’s Brownie Speaks was chosen to open the performance by Andrew Stephens. Starting with a resolute and crisp execution of the tune, Stephens combined high-energy lines with more delicate moments throughout this hard-driving performance. Stephens then used a decidedly more tranquil approach to Bouquet Final that contrasted with the other performers. He followed with All of Me by Billie Holiday and concluded with Al Jolson’s Avalon

Andrew Stephens competing 

Alexandra Ridout opened her performance with the required piece Bouquet Final. Ridout continued to show off her technique and evenness of sound in Dizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma, followed by an original composition by Ridout, Ditty. To end her set, she chose Art Tatum’s hard-swinging Tea for Two to create a tasteful combination of technical facility with beauty of sound for a creative version of this standard.

Alexandra Rideout performing her set for the competition

Geoffrey Gallante began the final performance of the competition with Woody Shaw’s In Case You Haven’t Heard, followed by Jimmy McHugh’s Don’t Blame Me, then Drevet’s Bouque Final. Gallante wrapped up the competition with a hard-charging version of Sonny Rollin’s Oleo which allowed him to bridge his exceptionally refined trumpet playing with an energy that helped close the set perfectly.

Geoffrey Gallante performing his set with the jazz trio

The event evening’s Gala Concert was held in the beautiful Namur Concert Hall. The featured ensemble was the Brussels Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Frank Vaganée. The BJO opened the concert with a hard-swinging arrangement of Dieter Limbourg’s composition Fitzrovia. The next three selections were all composed by former BJO member Bert Joris, and each featured a solo by one of the band’s trumpeters. First was Walkin’ Tiptoe with Jeroen Van Malderen on trumpet and Marc Godfroid on trombone. Trumpeter Pierre Drevet joined Bart Defoort on tenor sax, together delivering finely crafted solos on the next chart, All Over Me. The first half of the concert was concluded by Bert Joris’ Signs and Signatures. 

The Brussels Jazz Orchestra performing at the evening Gala Concert

The judges of the competition began the second half of the concert. French trumpeter Stéphane Belmondo exhibited a beautiful, haunting flugelhorn sound on another Bert Joris tune, Sundown. This serene, introspective playing by Belmondo, gave way to some high-energy moments from pianist Nathalie Loriers before the tune’s calm conclusion. The Italian Paolo Fresu chose one of his original tunes, Metamorfosi, arranged for big band by Roberto Spadoni. The last artist, Airelle Besson from France, surprised the audience with an additional tune, Neige, with pianist Nathalie Loriers.Playing alone to begin, Besson established a rhythmically repetitive pattern before being joined by piano for an extended conversation with creative moments of imitation throughout. She concluded her performance with her original tune, Persona, which featured feature with the BJO.

After some remarks by competition host Dominique Bodart, ITG President Ryan Gardner, Treasurer TJ Tesh, and acting competition coordinator Grant Peters were invited to the stage to announce the winners of the 2023 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition. Alexandra Ridout was announced as the second-place recipient and Noah Halpern was named the winner of the competition.

Halpern was then given the opportunity to take the stage with the BJO rhythm section for a solo selection of his choosing. He selected Johnny Green’s Body and Soul and brought every bit of the technical prowess and imagination to the performance that made him the choice of the judges in the competition. In what has become tradition at the Caruso Competition, the five finalists then returned to the stage for a grand-finale trumpet blowout on Charlie Parker’s Au Privave with the BJO.

Competitors Andrew Stephens,Alexandra Rideout, Geoffrey Gallante, Evan Abounassa, Noah Halpern performing 

Pictures taken at this event can be found on the ITG website at (Source: Grant Peters)

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