DC Jazz Festival Announces Inaugural DCJazzPrix™ Winner –
New Century Jazz Quintet (NCJQ)

New Century Jazz Quintet

The DC Jazz Festival®(DC JazzFest) is proud to announce that New Century Jazz Quintet (NCJQ) is the inaugural DCJazzPrix™ winning band, selected following a competitive final that took place as part of DC Jazz Festival and Events DC Present Jazz at The Yards. Based in New York City, the NCJQ is co-led by pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., with Braxton Cook, on alto saxophone; Benny Benack III, on trumpet and vocals; and bassist Yasushi Nakamura [see full NCJQ bio below].

The NCJQ competed in the finals, Saturday, June 18, against two exceptional fellow finalists – the New York City-based Cowboys and Frenchmen, and Washington, DC’s Mark G. Meadows and The Movement. All three bands presented solid, swinging 20-minute sets, exciting the audience throughout.

“We are excited to have successfully introduced the DCJazzPrix, a national competition that adds yet more cultural significance to the DC Jazz Festival, and is designed to help launch and promote the careers of emerging jazz artists,” said Artistic Director Willard Jenkins. “All three finalists presented impressive performances. We look forward to working further with the excellent musicians who comprise the New Century Jazz Quintet, who are clearly poised for greater exposure.”

In addition to a $15,000 cash prize, the NCJQ has earned a year-long association with the DC Jazz Festival for professional development, business support and a mainstage 2017 DC Jazz Festival engagement. Prize elements include:
DCJF will determine the band’s greatest professional development needs;
DCJF will provide gratis content supporting band publicity, financial management, artistic management, booking and touring, social media engagement, audience engagement, grant writing, commissioning of new works, brand development, etc.
DCJF will highlight NCJQ with a booking and more during the 2017 DCJF.
The NCJQ is unique in that it operates as a cooperative ensemble built on sustained excellence and leaving lasting impressions on its audience. While Ohbayashi and Owens lead the group, each band member contributes equally as composers and arrangers. NCJQ has released two recordings, “Time is Now,” and “In Case You Missed Us,” in Japan and the U.S.

Here’s the New Century Jazz Quintet in performance:

Launched just this past January, DCJazzPrix™ is a national competition created to recognize and support top rising jazz band talent. The Jury considered a highly competitive incoming pool (ages 18-40) of original applicants, emerging bands evaluated for artistic quality and merit.

For more information about the DC Jazz Festival, please visit

Keep up with the DC Jazz Festival:
Twitter: @dcjazzfest #DCJazzPrix
Instagram: @dcjazzfest
DCJazzPrix™ is made possible by the generous support of Conrad Kenley, Linda and Michael Sonnenreich, and The Anne and Ronald Abramson Family Foundation.


About DC Jazz Festival®(DCJF): With more than 125 performances in over 40 venues across the city, the DC JazzFest is one of the largest music festivals in the country. A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the DCJF has experienced spectacular year-by-year growth. As the fastest-growing jazz festival in the U.S., the DC JazzFest celebrates America’s unique original art form during this international event that attracts jazz lovers from around the world to the nation’s capital. The DCJF also presents year-round programs with performances featuring local, nationally and internationally acclaimed artists. The DCJF’s mission is to promote music, particularly jazz, education programs and actively support community outreach to expand and diversify its audience of jazz enthusiasts. The 2016 DC JazzFest took place June 10-19. For more information about the DCJF and its activities, visit


Proud major funders of the DC JazzFest and its education events, to date, include: Events DC; Forest City Washington, The Washington Post; ABC7/WJLA-TV and News Channel 8; LCG, Sage Communications; Anne and Ronald Abramson Family Foundation, Clyde’s Restaurant Group and The Hamilton Live; Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Renaissance Hotels, Destination DC; Mayo Charitable Foundation, Capitol Riverfront BID, Peter Gillon and Lisa Hook, Linda and Michael Sonnenreich; Amtrak and Coca-Cola. Other funders include CrossCurrents Foundation, Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck, the NEA Foundation, BMI, Dallas Morse Coors Foundation for the Performing Arts, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, Venable Foundation, Amtrak, WMATA, WHUR, The Washington City Paper, The Washington Informer, WAMU, Washington Parent, WPFW, Geico, Downbeat, Reva and David Logan Foundation, Wells Fargo, K&L Gates, Pillsbury, Conrad Kenley, Michelle Galler, Debbie Veney, Roger Schagrin, William Kirk, and The Georgetowner.

The DC Jazz Festival®, a 501(c)(3) non-profit service organization, is made possible, in part, with major grants from the Government of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, Mayor; and, in part, by major grants from the Anne and Ronald J. Abramson Family Foundation, Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Mayo Charitable Foundation and with grant support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts; and by the City Fund, administered by The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. ©2016 DC Jazz Festival. All rights reserved.

New Century Jazz Quintet (NCJQ) Bio

Co-led by pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., New Century Jazz Quintet (NCJQ) is a cooperative built on sustained excellence and leaving lasting impressions on its audience. Though co-led by Owens and Ohbayashi, each band member contributes equally as composers and arrangers. NCJQ has released two recordings, “Time is Now,” and “In Case You Missed Us,” in Japan and the U.S.

Bassist Yasushi Nakamura has been featured on some of New York City’s most prestigious bandstands, including Birdland, Jazz Standard, Blue Note, Village Vanguard, and Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. He performed in the 2013 Apollo Theatre production “Ellington At Christmas: Nutcracker Suite,” conducted by David Berger, alongside Savion Glover, Lizz Wright, Keith David, and the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir. His multi-discipline work has also included performing Susan Stroman’s “For the Love of Duke” with the New York City Ballet. Yasushi toured the Middle East in 2010 with Jazz At Lincoln Center’s “Kings of the Crescent City, and toured Asia in 2008 with the Juilliard Jazz All-Stars, led by Carl Allen. He has also performed with NEA Jazz Masters Benny Golson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Wynton Marsalis, as well as such notables as Wycliffe Gordon, Benny Green, Wallace Roney, Ron Blake, and Victor Goines. Born in Tokyo and raised in Seattle, he achieved his Bachelor’s Degree in Performance at Berklee College of Music, and did his graduate studies work at The Juilliard School.

While listening to old jazz records growing up in the Maryland/Washington, DC area, the sound of the saxophone always stood out to Braxton Cook (Washington, DC) and he found himself wanting to recreate the sounds that he heard from the recordings. He began formal lessons with a private teacher and eventually starting performing locally. In 2011 he transferred from Georgetown University, where he’d been studying English, to The Juilliard School in NYC to study Jazz Saxophone. A chance to meet with Grammy Award nominated Christian Scott at a Donald Harrison concert led to Cook being flown to LA for a recording session and nearly four years later, playing saxophone in Scott’s group. Touring the world with Christian Scott, moving to Harlem, performing with the New Century Jazz Quintet, and exploring history and culture have been the biggest influences on his music now, which incorporates R&B and Soul music with classical jazz.

Trumpeter-vocalist Benny Benack lll is accomplished at both, having been a finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition, the Gentlemen Sing Competition, and the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Vocalist Competition. He has won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Soloist Competition, the National Trumpet Competition, and the National Trumpet Guild Jazz Competition. Benny matriculated at the Manhattan School of Music, where he achieved both B.M. and M.M degrees. Professionally Benny has performed at Blue Note, Birdland, Smoke, Smalls, The Iridium, Jazz Gallery, Minton’s, and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

Drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. is an in-demand musician, having performed and toured extensively with such greats as Christian McBride (including the Grammy winning album “The Good Feeling”), Kurt Elling (including the Grammy winning album “Dedicated To You”), Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Schuur, Renee Fleming, Monty Alexander, Russell Malone, Joey Alexander, and Mulgrew Miller. As a leader Ulysses Owens has released three albums, including “It’s Time For U,” “Unanimous,” and his most recent, 2014’s “Onward and Upward.” As a composer Ulysses composed “Stages of Us,” a seven-movement suite for the Museum of Modern Art Summergarden Series. Among his awards are the 2015 Jazz At Lincoln Center Swing Award, 2014 Global Music Award, 2013 ASCAP Plus Award, and a 2014 DownBeat Magazine Rising Star citation.

Pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi studied film scoring and composition at the Tokyo College of Music before being awarded a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, where he was selected to be part of the inaugural class of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute led by Danilo Perez. Following graduation from Berklee Takeshi performed with vocalist Jose James, and his eventual NCJQ co-leader Ulysses Owens. Takeshi has toured to venues across Japan and the U.S., as well as abroad, including Montreal, Barbados, Martinique, Panama, Oslo, and Puerto Rico. His 2011 debut recording as a leader, “Introducing Takeshi Ohbayashi,” was followed by “Feelin’ Lucky” in 2013, nominated for best jazz album of the year.

For more information about the DC Jazz Festival, please visit