Kaja Draksler is the winner of the Paul Acket Award 2018, a prize awarded yearly by the festival and presented to an artist deserving wider recognition for their extraordinary musicianship.

Exciting, powerful free improvisations and modern-classic influences define the work of pianist and composer Kaja Draksler. She was born in a small town in Slovenia but moved to The Netherlands at age 18. Originally to study Latin and ancient Greek, but she discovered music and was immersed into the world of Amsterdam’s improvised music scene. In a relatively short period of time Draksler made a name in the European jazz scene. She released seven successful albums as a bandleader and a well-received solo album in 2013: The Lives Of Many Others. At the moment Draksler tours as a soloist, as a duo with fellow pianist Eve Risser (they recently released their album To Pianos) as well as with her own octet, in which she combines songs and improvisations with modern-classic inspired.

The Paul Acket Award was named after the founder of North Sea Jazz. Previous winners of the prize include Donny McCaslin (2017), CĂ©cile McLorin Salvant (2016), Tigran Hamasyan (2015), and Ambrose Akinmusire (2014).

The nominees were selected by a jury consisting of Guy van Hulst (TivoliVredenburg, NL), Vera Vingerhoeds (independent jazz professional, NL), Simon Rentner (NPR, VS), Hans-Olav Soli (Molde Jazz Festival, NO), and Emily Jones (Cheltenham Jazz Festival, EN). They nominated 21 musicians, after which international jazz critics and programmers cast their votes. See all previous winners on this page.