Since 1995, the Oslo Jazz Festival honours a central figure in the Oslo jazz community with the Ella prize, named after the great jazz artist Ella Fitzgerald. Former winners include Randi Hultin, Stein Kagge, Karin Krog, Bugge Wesseltoft, Bodil Niska, and John Enhjørningen.
This year’s laureate is an exceptionally passionate and knowledgeable Oslo jazz enthusiast. Even in his early youth, he has been involved in the local jazz scene as a concert organiser, musician, and writer. His career highlights, among many, include getting Stan Getz to Tønsberg in 1960, sitting as vice president and president of the Norwegian Jazz Association, acting as editor Jazznytt (1976-1988), holding the position of board member for Oslo Jazzhus when it first began, and contributing to the Norsk Jazz-Arkiv.
His magnum opus, written with Johannes “Johs.” Bergh, is his three-volume work chronicling Norwegian jazz history from its beginnings in 1960: “Jazz, hot & swing”, “Sigarett Stomp”, and “Cool, kløver & dixie”, published from 1976-1988. The award winner has worked closely with Johs Berg since 1958 until his death in 2001. This dynamic duo became renowned as leading Norwegian jazz history researchers.
Educated as an architect, the prize winner has primarily worked in urban housing and urban development, gaining a following for his famed historical city walks around Oslo. But it is jazz that is his passion project. They say what he doesn’t not know about Norwegian jazz is not worth knowing.
This year’s winner has the pleasure of receiving the newly redesigned Ella award by the renowned Norwegian artist Per Inge Bjørlo. Bjørlo has gained fame internationally for his works. “All real art,” he says, “seeks to react to the fragility within us and to give our unspoken pain an artistic expression—just like Ella’s voice and music”
It brings me great pleasure to introduce this year’s winner: a stable oak tree, a fixture in the community, with roots spreading in all corners of Oslo’s jazz scene, be in audiences, on stage cleaning a drum set, or around the jazz clubs. Although recognisable with his charming yet modest smile and glimmering eyes, he is known as the heart of the Oslo jazz scene, front and centre in the crowd, keenly listening, and always ready to pass on the story of Norwegian jazz to future generations. With deep thanks and gratitude, this year we bestow the 2017 Ella Prize on Bjørn Stendahl.