Manchester Jazz Festival: 88 bands, 500 musicians

Polly Checkland Harding
Colourful photo of a band in coloured jackets, holding their instruments

The festival of all things jazz kicks off next month – we take a look at what’s in store.

Manchester Jazz Festival teeters on the edge of a major anniversary: next year, the event will turn twenty. This summer, MJF feels like many of the things nineteen year-olds often are: ambitious, yet sometimes a bit unsure of how to present itself. Let’s face it, jazz is a notoriously broad church, which plays to our nineteen year-old anxieties. As in, where do we belong?

Manchester Jazz Festival falls over itself to offer something for everyone, from the brass of the big band to music that’s more abstract and reflective, so its strength lies in presenting accessible, engaging jazz to a wide audience. And with 88 bands, 500 musicians and 30 free concerts taking place over just ten days, there is a huge amount to dip a jazzy toe into.

There’s much to be said for just sitting in Albert Square with a drink, soaking up the sounds and the sunshine

Over from stateside, Booker T and Lonnie Liston Smith are two of the festival’s heritage heavyweights, the latter having played with Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye. Piano trio Bad Plus, meanwhile, are sensational performers, and Adam Fairhall’s The Imaginary Delta – appearing with poet Jackie Kaye at RNCM – should prove an interesting fusion of early jazz with poetry. And it’s hard to resist the fizzy energy of the Hackney Colliery Band, whose instrumental interpretations of songs from all sorts of genres are sure to shake the sides of the Thwaites Pavilion in Albert Square.

Less traditional forms of jazz get a look-in too, though, with the Soup Kitchen basement playing host to Silence Blossoms – think melodic-lyrics-meets-electronica, with props such as AM radios thrown in for good measure – while Space F!ght is billed as an interaction between 3D mapping and sound, and Tin Men and the Telephone intrigue with a gig that encourages the audience to keep their mobile phones switched on.

There are new commissions. Anton Hunter at Central Library (as part of Library Live) premieres Article XI, a suite for an eleven-piece ensemble, created in collaboration with musicians from the UK, Finland and Norway. Hunter’s composition looks set to be experimental and responsive, combining prepared music with improvisation.

The international side of things is headed up by Manchester’s sublime Arun Ghosh, who showcases his new South Asian Suite. Artists such as Diego Amador and Namvula are among a great world fusion line-up here – and who could resist a bit of a party-on with Craig Charles’ Funk n Soul Club and the Afrobeat Collective?

Or why not just take pot luck? There’s much to be said for just sitting in Albert Square with a cool drink, soaking up the sounds and (crossed fingers) sunshine, and contemplating what it might be like to be twenty, with all the extra confidence that might bring.

Culture Guides

Cinema

Black and white classics and a Tarantino-scripted pop-thriller are amongst our Valentine’s themed picks for February.

Exhibitions

The world of art and exhibitions never quite stops, so we have lots of new shows to look forward to at the start of 2023.

The Spongebob Musical at the Manchester Opera House

Families

New year, new start, and what better way to welcome in 2023 than by planning and experiencing all sorts of exciting family events in Manchester and the North?

Gwendoline Riley. Photo by Adrian Lourie

Literature

From local writing to international talent, we have heaps of online launches and in real life readings not to mention some extra special festival events coming our way in live literature land.

Music

More brilliant gigs appear on the horizon as we inch further into 2023.

Theatre in Manchester and the North

Theatre

Queer Contact Festival, stunning physical theatre and intimate in-the-round performance top our eclectic list of drama, comedy and dance this month.

Classical Music

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Food and Drink

Start 2023 as you mean to go on, with the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North.

Tours and Activities

New years are for new experiences, and we have a whole lot of ideas to inspire you as 2023 gets underway.

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts
Activity Until 8 February 2023, from £170.00

Drawing course with Nina Hunter

Music Until 16 February 2023, from £9.50

Donna Candy at SOUP

vegan super club
Activity Until 17 February 2023, from £50

Supper Club at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School

Exhibitions Until 18 February 2023, FREE

The Confessional at HOME

PUSH Festival 2023 at HOME
Festivals Until 18 February 2023,

PUSH Festival 2023 at HOME

The Singing Mermaid at Waterside
Families Until 19 February 2023, from £14.00

The Singing Mermaid at Waterside CANCELLED

Activity Until 23 February 2023, from £59.99

Write Like A Grrrl: Ignite

Activity Until 25 February 2023, from £13

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House Tour

Fairy Tales at Z-Arts
Families Until 26 February 2023, from £3.00

Fairy Tales at Z-arts