A dream come true as Cambridge Jazz Festival makes vibrant return

PUBLISHED: 10:02 09 October 2016 | UPDATED: 15:25 11 October 2016

Jazz Festival pictures - submitted by organisers

Jazz Festival pictures - submitted by organisers


Cambridge Jazz Festival co-founder and director Roslin Russell has two great passions – science and music.

“I’ve always loved music as much as I love science. I’m a nerd in both areas,” she says. “They’re both fascinating and creative, and in many ways I think improvisation is probably the key to both.

“They have been together for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories are of recording myself singing and playing the piano. I was creating my own songs on my new snazzy tape recorder when I was seven years old.”

Roslin has a degree in biology, two masters’ degrees, one in medical parasitology and the other in computer science, and a PHD in molecular and computational biology from Christ’s College in Cambridge.

While studying for the latter Roslin stepped back from the music scene, but “pined for more jazz in Cambridge”.

“Cambridge already had a long established folk festival and many other festivals were popping up but none of them really catered to the jazz community.

“Worse, jazz was and still is a very much misunderstood genre 
of music.

“The ideas I had for a jazz festival had been brewing for quite a while but Cambridge back then wasn’t really ready for it and nor was I,” she says.

It wasn’t until Roslin had finished her studies and had children that things changed.

“I decided to end my hiatus and get back into the music scene [back in 2008] by meeting and performing with other musicians locally at jazz and funk jams. It reignited my dream and passion of having a Cambridge Jazz Festival,” recalls the 44-year-old.

“Jazz is so much more vibrant and diverse in Cambridge now; although very much spread out all over the place and because of this I felt it needed an umbrella organisation to link up all the different groups and communities.”

In 2014, Cambridge Jazz Festival was born and last year’s inaugural festival attracted around 5,000.

“This truly was a dream come true,” said Roslin, who juggles her full-time job as a scientist with running the festival.

“It certainly takes over a lot of family and social life and most of my weekends are dedicated to music and the festival.

“I also share quite a few of my responsibilities with my co-founder, Gavin Spence, an orthopaedic surgeon at Great Ormond Street, who is also passionate about jazz,” explains Roslin, who describes her musical heroes as “a real eclectic mix” with Louis Armstrong, The Cure, Aphex Twin, Portishead, Frank Ocean and Hiatus Kaiyote all making the long list.

So what can audiences expect from this year’s festival? Roslin believes there is something for everyone with 80 events covering everything from jazz, funk, hip-hop, soul, blues, poetry, folk and rock.

And what can we expect from Roslin in the next year?

“I’ve already started planning for next year’s festival and very excited about it already. I’ll be keeping myself very busy as usual, juggling between my scientific work developing biomarkers for various diseases, family, festival, playing and making music.”

■ Cambridge International Jazz Festival runs from November 16-27 in multiple venues. For more, visit cambridgejazzfestival.co.uk or search on Facebook.

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