Martin Kershaw was born in York in 1973, and showed a high aptitude and passion for music from an early age. Having learned classical clarinet from the age of 9, he took up the saxophone at 15, and this soon became his first instrument. At the same time he developed a strong interest in jazz, immersing himself in the study of improvisation. Having completed his degree at Edinburgh University in 1996, he secured a scholarship to the renowned Berklee College of Music, Boston U.S.A. where he was able to further develop his skills as a jazz performer and composer/arranger.
He returned to Edinburgh in 1999, and quickly established himself at the centre of Scotland’s burgeoning jazz scene. He released his debut album Fruition with the Martin Kershaw Quartet in 2003. He then co-founded Trianglehead (‘..a blast of energy and mischief…a riot of cosmic skronk’ – Edinburgh Festivals Uncovered) with Paul Harrison (keys) and Stuart Ritchie (drums), producing the ground-breaking albums Maths and Exit Strategy
In late 2007 he received a Creative Scotland New Work Grant, which enabled him to compose the Hero As Riddle suite – dedicated to the art of Eduardo Paolozzi. The work won a Scottish Jazz Award for Best New Work in 2009 and was recorded and released in 2010 to enthusiastic critical and audience response.
Commissions from the renowned Mr McFall’s Chamber followed: ‘Closing In’, (which was subsequently shortlisted for a British Composers Award), and ‘Far Vistas’ (2013). Both works are included on Mr McFall’s Chamber’s latest recording Born in Dirt ‘n’ Din
In 2011 he released his second quartet recording – The Howness, which received strong reviews and extensive radio play on BBC Radio Scotland and Radio 3. He has held the lead alto chair in the celebrated Scottish National Jazz Orchestra since 2004, and has composed arrangements for its Eddi Reader Songs of Scotland, Charlie Parker, Django Reinhardt and Bill Evans projects. In 2013 he began to write classical reviews for the Glasgow Herald newspaper.
In 2014 he co-founded fortnightly new music event Playtime with guitarist Graeme Stephen, which went on to win the Ginkhana Innovation in Jazz Award at the 2018 New Music Scotland Awards. Also in 2018 Martin was commissioned to compose Dreaming of Ourselves – a large-scale work for octet dedicated to U.S. author David Foster Wallace. It was premiered at the 2018 Edinburgh International Jazz Festival and received rave reviews. It has since been performed at the Traverse Theatre, and received its third outing at the Aberdeen Jazz Festival on 29 March 2019.