Manchester Jazz Festival 2023

Johnny James, Managing Editor
Image courtesy of Manchester Jazz Festival.

19 — 28 May 2023 Entrance is free — Book now

Manchester Jazz Festival is back with 10 days of live music from some of the best northern, national and international musicians operating in the world of contemporary jazz.

First staged in the summer of 1996, mjf holds the crown of being Manchester’s longest-running music festival. And it’s still going for a reason. Year on year the festival brings a massively diverse range of talent to the city, from big name artists to those – often unjustly – flying under the radar. While you may well know and love a number of the artists on the line-up, part of the fun is the artists you don’t know; mjf is also a place for discovery, for stumbling upon musical worlds you’ve never even heard of.

Yemi Bolatiwa.


These musical worlds have never been so accessible – a good deal of the festival is free this year. In fact, the whole opening weekend is. Located in the vibrant neighbourhood of First Street, mjf 2023 kicks off with a celebration of the depth and breadth of the North’s home-grown (or at the least lovingly nurtured) talent. From powerful soul vocalist Yemi Bolatiwa to post-bop trip-hop band Moby Dickless (yep), there are some top acts playing across three stages (Main Stage, Garden Stage, HOME stage). And if you go for the music, you’ll stay for the full-on-festival vibes that kick off down there, particularly on sunny days.

Fred Wesley.


After the opening weekend, we slide into the weekday gigs, spanning seven venues: Matt & Phreds, Band on the Wall, The Stoller Hall, The Yard, St Ann’s Church, Forsyth Music Shop and – newcomers to the festival – The Blues Kitchen. At these shows you’ll find some of the best names in contemporary (and occasionally not-so-contemporary) jazz. Up there is Mica Millar (Band on the Wall, Thursday 25 May) – one of the UK’s brightest new soul stars and the recipient of Jazz FM’s prestigious Soul Act of The Year Award in 2022. And you’ve got to check out legendary funk trombonist Fred Wesley (The Blues Kitchen, Tuesday 23 May), who, aptly for someone who cut his chops as musical director, arranger and composer for James Brown, is performing with the Godfather of funk’s own backing band, The J.B.’s.

Ibibio Sound Machine.


The action condenses around Band on the Wall for a weekend-long closing party, launching on Friday 26 May with Ibibio Sound Machine and their electrifying fusion of West-African funk and disco with modern post-punk and electro. A triple bill of Marcus Joseph, the Romarna Campbell Trio and the Robocobra Quartet (Saturday 27 May) also promises to be a standout, alongside Buena Vista Social Club’s Eliades Ochoa (Sunday 28 May) – one of the best Cuban guitarists of his generation.

Billy Cobham by Anton Antonov.


Over at The Stoller Hall that weekend, you can catch drummer Billy Cobham (Thursday 18 May), who’s celebrating the 50th anniversary of his debut solo album Spectrum – a breakthrough in jazz-fusion that is recognised as one of the genre’s most significant and influential creations. And at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, mjf is hosting a new commission from un.procedure AKA Piera Onacko (keyboards), Cassie Kinoshi (saxophone) and Nathan England-Jones (drums). Incorporating spatialised sound and video collage, THEMORY (Friday 26 May – Saturday 27 May) is an immersive audiovisual installation, drawing from the subjective and fluid forces of family and history, place and time.



As you can see, the line-up is huge, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Head to mjf’s website, via the ‘Book Now’ button below, for the full scoop. And keep your eye out for other activities mjf has up its sleeve this year, including the much-loved, city-wide piano trail, wherein mjf and Forsyth Music Shop hunt for Manchester’s best street pianists.

19 — 28 May 2023

Book Now

What's on: Music

DJ Gym at Hatch

Learn some DJ and production skills with DJ Gym Manchester, based in the culturally infused surrounds of Hatch.

from £269
RNCM Summer Season 2023

Read our highlights from the RNCM Summer Season, from 50th anniversary celebrations to partnership events with MIF23 and Opera North.

Roger Waters at AO Arena

Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters brings his This Is Not A Drill tour to Manchester’s AO Arena, performing both solo and Pink Floyd material.

from £98.50
Darkside at New Century

Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington AKA Darkside bring their dreamy mélange of psychedelia, art rock and electronica to New Century.

from £31.42

Culture Guides


We go all in on festivals, with a round-up of everything from city-spanning giants to grassroots gems you may not know about.


There's no rest for the art lover - this month brings outdoor sculpture, musings on water, political drawings and Liverpool Biennial 2023!

Classical Music

Summer's classical music calendar is filling up nicely! Read our top picks of concerts happening in Manchester and the North.

Winnie the Pooh at Manchester Opera House

The sun has finally got his hat on! Enjoy our top picks of family-friendly events and activities, both indoors and outdoors.

Gerry Potter (credit Lee Baxter)

Books are big this summer, with festival readings, poetry slams, creative writing activities and famous faces all putting in an appearance.

Food and Drink

All signs point toward June being a scorcher of a month, so let’s take a look at all things summery food and drink.

Tours and Activities

From literary activities to brilliant independent shops, keep your minds and homes filled with the good stuff this month.

Theatre in Manchester

Check out our updated guide for lively theatre festivals, rip-roaring rooftop circus and dreamy outdoor shows.