Manchester Jazz Festival returns in May with 10 days of live music

A jazz-filled journey through the city's iconic venues and a fusion of unique performances.

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 10 May 2023

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The Manchester Jazz Festival (mjf) is back, filling the city with ten days of extraordinary music from emerging talents and renowned artists alike. From Fri 19 – Sun 28 May, the festival will take place across ten iconic venues, featuring some of the finest names in contemporary jazz, such as Hot 8 Brass Band, Eliades Ochoa from Buena Vista Social Club, Mica Millar, Billy Cobham, and more.

Starting with a completely free multi-stage weekender, mjf, Manchester’s oldest festival, will transform the lively First Street neighbourhood into a celebration of ‘the diversity and uniqueness of our local scene’ with three stages. Expect electrifying performances from northern bands like Wizards of Twiddly, Yemi Bolatiwa, Good Habits, Ni Maxine, Charlotte Keeffe’s Right Here Right Now Quartet, and many more. The lineup also includes emerging 18-25 bands from the festival’s Soundcheck talent development program and several ‘hothouse’ alumni artists.

Hot 8 Brass Band

From Fri 19 – Sat 27 May, evening sets will be held at the popular Northern Quarter jazz venue Matt & Phred’s, featuring Alligator Gumbo, Henry Botham’s New Orleans Piano Gumbo, Los Chichanos, Arun Ghosh, Baiana, and others. The Yard will host three nights of funk-infused entertainment in association with NQ Jazz, starring Donovan Haffner, Alina Bzhezhinska’s HipHarp Collective ft. Tony Kofi, and the Nathaniel Facey Trio from Mon 22 – Wed 24 May.

The Blues Kitchen, a newcomer to the festival, will host Fred Wesley, funk trombonist and former composer for James Brown, on Tue 23 May, performing with The New J.B.’s, Brown’s former backing band. The next night, talented musician Olivia Cuttill will perform the entirety of Miles Davis’ iconic record, Kind of Blue, accompanied by an all-star quintet.

From Wed 24 – Fri 26 May, the magnificent St. Ann’s Church will host an enchanting series of concerts, featuring artists such as Robert Mitchell, Stan Sulzmann and Nikki Iles, and Freight Train with Paul Clarvis. On Thu 25 May, Deansgate’s Forsyth Music Shop will present vocalist Nishla Smith with her new show, The Beast, an ‘explosion of musical and narrative ideas’ told through song. The James Pearson Trio (Ronnie Scott’s) will celebrate 100 Years of Jazz Piano the following night, with both shows including a glass of prosecco in the ticket price.

Mica Millar

To conclude a week of incredible contemporary jazz performances, Band On The Wall is hosting a weekend-long closing party, featuring Jazz FM’s 2022 Soul Artist of the Year, Mica Millar. A special triple-bill edition follows, featuring Marcus Joseph, the Romarna Campbell Trio, and the Robocobra Quartet, before a final day starring the Julie Campiche Quartet and esteemed Cuban guitarist Eliades Ochoa.

Additionally, the Manchester Jazz Festival presents a new commission, THEMORY, at The International Anthony Burgess Foundation. This immersive audiovisual installation explores the artistic inspiration derived from the subjective, fluid forces of family, history, place, and time.

Steve Mead, mjf CEO and Artistic Director, expressed his excitement, saying, “We can’t wait to welcome you back to our 10-day festival – the 28th mjf – to share some hugely inspiring artists with a host of venues and partners across the city.” He emphasised the festival’s focus on celebrating the diversity of music and its artists.

For the full Manchester Jazz Festival program, click here. Ticket prices go up to £35, but many events, including the opening weekender, are free to attend.