Best new talent at this year’s Cambridge International Jazz Festival



A wealth of bold new talent takes to the stage during this year’s Cambridge International Jazz Festival (13-27 November), providing audiences, both enthusiasts and those new to the jazz world, a genre-twisting taste of contemporary jazz.

From punk and funk, to electronica and spiritual jazz, this year’s crop of must-see emerging talent is breaking down barriers, shifting boundaries and bringing fresh experimentalism; commandingly cool, each of them are contributing to the unique character of the modern jazz scene. 

Over the past decade, Danish double bassist Jasper Høiby has become renowned the world over for his fearlessly expressive sound, charismatic stage presence and distinct compositional prowess.  Since founding the acclaimed bass-led group Phronesis – which quickly gained the adulation of an international audience for its compelling musical synergy – Høiby has gone on to work with a who’s-who of today’s jazz superstars including Mark Guiliana, Django Bates and Shai Maestro. (7.30-9.30pm, Monday Nov 19th, Gonville & Caius College)

Richard Spaven has supplied the drums for many artists on stage and in the studio inc. José James, Flying Lotus, The Cinematic Orchestra, Snarky Puppy, Guru’s Jazzmatazz and Gregory Porter to name but a few. Working closely with such a diverse range of artists must bare influence upon Spaven’s own compositions, in which somehow the drums bridge the gap between the worlds of jazz and electronic music.

José James (Blue Note Records) said: “Richard Spaven is one of the most unique artists in the world. Triple threat drummer, composer, and producer, his voice rings true with clarity and promise.  He is the point where jazz meets the world.” (8.30-11.30pm, Thursday Nov 15th, La Raza)

Named by Jazzwise and Jazz FM as one to watch in 2018, Skeltr’s electrifying ‘spiritual punk funk’ comes at the audience with sumptuous, technically prolific saxophone solos alongside mysterious samples, synths and loopers for a heart-wrenching and thoughtful cascade of modern and technical soulful funk. Having impressed alongside KNOWER at the EFG London Jazz Festival, plus at Oslo Jazzscene in Norway last year, Skeltr are riding a wave. (8.30pm-11.30pm, Thursday Nov 15th, La Raza)

Vividly contemporary composer, pianist and organist, Kit Downes is critically-regarded as one of the UK’s outstanding young jazz talents. The Telegraph describes the ECM-signed artist’s music as, “Enticingly strange and wonderful sounds, so odd you can hardly believe it’s an organ making them… a lightening musical intelligence.”  (6-7pm, Friday Nov 23rd, Gonville & Caius College Chapel)

Elliot Gavin is another performer whose star is quickly rising across the UK jazz scene. A superbly gifted composer and pianist, whose maverick imagination and magpie-like ability to blend a disparate world of influences into his own unique musical vision has seen him compared to Django Bates, although in truth he sounds like no one except himself. He is utterly captivating live! (7.30-10pm, Saturday Nov 17th, Storey's Field Centre, Eddington)

Leading specialists of Brit ‘punk-jazz’, WorldService Project are one of the most exported live acts in their field. Their energetic live shows have taken them to festivals across the world, touring in 18 countries and releasing four highly-acclaimed studio albums. In Spring 2018, WorldService Project launched their highly-anticipated fourth album, 'Serve' on Rare Noise Records. Fresh off the back of mammoth tours across America, Europe, Japan, India and China, the epic and anthemic live sound of WorldService Project is thrilling and heart-wrenching, with a theatrical live performance thrown in for good measure. (9-11.45pm, Friday Nov 16th, Jazz@John's, Fisher Building, St John's College)

Run Logan Run are a head on collision of pounding tribal drums and screaming guttural saxophone. Architects of intense contrast the duo’s diverse and precise instrumentation regularly flirts with fragility and raw power. Heavy spiritual jazz. (8-11pm, Friday Nov 23rd, The Portland Arms)

The new quartet of Hitchcock/Law/Casimir/Michel brings award-winning saxophonist Alex Hitchcock ('sax virtuoso... one to watch' – Jazzwise) together with four of the most virtuosic players the UK Jazz scene has to offer: guitarist Ant Law, bassist Dan Casimir and Lyon-born drummer Marc Michel. All bandleaders in their own right, each member contributes original compositions incorporating influences ranging from konnakol and Brazilian music through to afrobeat and the contemporary American jazz scene. (7.30-10pm, Thursday Nov 15th, Espresso Library)

Exciting new Cambridge-based quintet, Sam Miles & Vij Prakash Quintet, are supporting the Elliot Galvin Trio at this year’s Festival. (7.30-10pm, Saturday Nov 17th, Storey's Field Centre, Eddington)

Festival Director, Roslin Russell, said: “I’m truly excited about the range of extraordinary, young talent we have at this year’s Festival. These are some of the most incredible musicians and performers not just in the UK but also internationally.

“Each of these rising stars are contributing to the development of the genre with their innovative sounds, helping to create a new and thrilling movement that has continued to evolve over the past few years. What’s most exciting is how their fresh sound is appealing to the younger generation, liberating jazz from many of its previous clichés.”


The Cambridge Jazz Festival is supported by the Arts Council England, Brewin Dolphin, Cambridge BID, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridgeshire Music and the University of Cambridge.

Media partners include BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Cambridge Independent and Cambridge 105.

For the full line-up, tickets and lots more information visit:


Twitter: @CamJazzFest