Paul Acket Award
expressive, complex and spontaneous

The Paul Acket Award is granted annually and presented to an artist deserving wider recognition for their extraordinary musicianship. This year pianist and composer Kit Downes is the winner of this special prize.

British musician Kit Downes (1986) plays piano, (church) organ, and harmonium. He was born in Norwich, UK, where he as a child was a chorister in Norwich Cathedral. Here he was introduced to his first instrument, the church organ, by which he was so enamored, he became an organ scholar at St. Peter Mancroft. He later went on to study piano, organ and composition at the Purcell School of Music, followed by the Royal Academy of Music, where he ultimately received an Associate and Fellow and now teaches himself.

Downes’ music prides itself on being expressive, complex and spontaneous. He has toured the world performing solo organ concerts at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, but he is also known to play with many renowned artists, such as Django Bates.

His discography consists of both collaborations and solo works. In 2017 he wrote 52 piano pieces for right-hand only following a left-hand injury, writing one piece for each day of his recovery. Additionally, he has written commissions for London Contemporary Orchestra, the Scottish Ensemble and Cologne Philharmonie, amongst others. His latest (live) album, REFLEX: DR. SNAP, was recorded with his band ENEMY, featuring bassist Petter Eldh and drummer James Maddren, which was expanded with seven musicians. The album followed 2023’s The Betrayal.

The Paul Acket Award “Artist Deserving Wider Recognition” is named after the founder of North Sea Jazz and aimed to showcase exceptional jazz musicians who deserve greater recognition and a wider audience for their work. Previous winners include Eve Risser (2023), Kris Davis (2022), Julian Lage (2019), Kaja Draksler (2018) and Donny McCaslin (2017).

This year, 21 nominees were selected by a jury consisting of Annamaija Saarela (G Livelab, Finland), Jermaine Kanbier (Bimhuis, the Netherlands), Raluca Baicu (Bird, the Netherlands), Roel Vanhoeck (Bozar, België) and Sunny Sumter (DC Jazz Festival, USA). Members of Europe Jazz Network (EJN) were then asked to vote for the names on the shortlist.

Kit Downes at the festival
Saturday, Missouri with Enemy