From Discolypso to jazz brunch and Spiegeltents…why not jazz up your July?

Manchester’s longest running music festival, Europe’s most adventurous jazz programmer and the UK’s leading showcase of its genre…when it comes to superlatives, Manchester Jazz Festival (mjf) is onto a winner. 

With a bustling hub in Albert Square and performances citywide, mjf will again be jazzing up Manchester this summer (20-28 July), entering its 23rd year with a whopping 96 gigs spanning world premieres to local gems and some of the most promising new talent. 

Accessible to all, from jazz amateurs to aficionados, the festival offers a mixture of free and ticketed events - with partners this year including RNCMMatt & PhredsBand on the Wall and St Ann’s ChurchNight & Day Café joins as a new venue, while the Midland Hotel will host a series of jazz brunches and afternoon teas. 

Here’s our pick of what’s on…

FESTIVAL SQUARE - Albert Square, 20-28 July

As well as free outdoor performances, the Brightside Festival Bar and nosh such as pizzas and frankfurters (plus ‘Asian-style ice cream rolls’), Festival Square will also house the box office and the opulent Salon Perdu. This intimate Art Nouveau venue is one of the few remaining Spiegeltent structures left in the world and is the festival’s main inside venue. Gigs here include Afro-funk party monsters Agbeko, who open mjf on their tour of the festival circuit; singer songwriter Emily Saunders ESB; high-energy Manc favourites Glowrogues; and a special gig to mark the tenth anniversary of the premiere of Beats & Pieces at mjf.

2018 05 03 Manchester Jazz Festival By Steven Sibbald
Mjf attracts more than 60,000 people each summer Steven Sibbald

JAZZ BRUNCH & AFTERNOON TEA - The Midland Hotel, various dates

Boasting the only dedicated afternoon tea space in Manchester, The Midland has been serving this most British of traditions since 1903, when it was owned by The Midland Railway Company. Since then, it’s welcomed everyone from Kings and Queens to Posh and Becks - and now jazz musicians, as the popular mfj afternoon teas and brunches return. Enjoy a delectable feast of sweets and savouries, as you enjoy performances from talented national artists. 

Midland Tea Room
The Midland has been serving afternoon tea since 1903


Showcasing some of the hottest new talent, mjf Introduces does what it says on the tin: provides a handy intro to the jazzosphere. Expect hip hop, jazz and metal fusions from Slow Loris; minimalist melodies, dark bass lines and haunting melodies from Freese Trio; soulful sounds from Mamilah (video below) and raucous riffs from Leeds-based band Skwid Ink. For more young stars, check out Hothouse - one of mjf’s several talent development programmes - and Jazz North Introduces

DISCOLYPSO! CLUBNIGHT - Band on the Wall, Saturday 21 July

Discolypso is back for another hot and sweaty tropical party, promising to whip revellers into a frenzy with Nigerian and Ghanaian afrobeat, Afro-Latin music and Caribbean disco boogie sounds - curated by Simon Ham and guests. Also at Band on the Wall for mjf will be acclaimed DJ, actor and presenter Craig Charles: ‘taking the flavoursome funk far into the night,’ Craig Charles’ Funk’n’Soul Club returns with special guest Federation of the Disco Pimp.

170504 Band On The Wall 1
Discolypso brings the sounds of the Caribbean, West Africa and Latin America to Band on the Wall

ESTHER SWIFT: LIGHT GATHERER - Salon Perdu Spiegeltent, Thursday 26 July

This year’s Irwin Mitchell mjf originals commission is Scottish composer and harpist Esther Swift, who has created new work inspired by the poetry of fellow Scot Carol Ann Duffy. Creative director of the Manchester Writing School and current poet laureate, Duffy has gained national acclaim for her honest, sensitive prose - often tackling themes like female oppression, gender discrimination and violence. Along with her harp quartet Clouds, Swift will perform new texts and music based on some on Duffy’s most thought-provoking work. 

Manchester Jazz Festival Tent
Esther Swift will play the Salon Perdu Spiegeltent


Cross Currents Trio featuring Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain and Chris Potter - RNCM, Saturday 21 July

Three living legends of jazz unite in a rare UK performance fusing contemporary jazz and world music virtuosity.

Trish Clowes' My Iris - Salon Perdu, Saturday 21 July

Clowes’ compositions - conveyed by distinctive players from the UK scene and inspired by Wayne Shorter, Joni Mitchell and Björk - explore rich melody and dramatic contrast, from full throttle to the most delicate and intricate whispers. 

Arun Ghosh - Salon Perdu, Saturday 21 July

One of the UK’s most charismatic artists and passionate communicators, Ghosh returns to profile new music from album But Where Are You Really From? which fuses his trademark South Asian folk and jazz with elements of rock, classical, folk and ambient music.

Ashley Henry Trio - Salon Perdu, Saturday 21 July

Henry has become one of the UK’s hotly-tipped stars. From a new generation referencing J Dilla, Robert Glasper and Madlib, yet steeped in the tradition of the piano masters, he leads this relaxed but driving trio with an aesthetic and sensitivity beyond his years.

Henry Spencer and Juncture - Salon Perdu, Sunday 22 July  

Astonishing dynamic variety, compositional flair and a measured vigour mark out this fast-rising star of the London scene and his multi-award-winning and close-knit band. Emotive and evocative music that touches jazz, rock and minimalism and makes for an energising sound of its own. 

Yazz Ahmed's Electric Dreams - Salon Perdu, Wednesday 25 July

British-Bahraini Yazz is a distinctive and intelligent soloist and composer. Her latest project is an ongoing series of innovative live collaborations with her favourite artists using electronics, live looping and sampling to explore contemporary jazz from a personal angle.

Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier with special guest Abel Selaocoe - RNCM, Friday 27 July

Descansado - Songs for Films is the trio’s fifth recording together, boasting a beguiling set of personal interpretations of these broad-ranging and often overlooked songs. Norma’s crystalline tone, vast range and open versatility have graced an astonishing international performance and recording career that stretches back over decades.

Hackney Colliery Band + Namvula - Salon Perdu, Saturday 28 July

Inspired by New Orleans marching bands, Balkan beats, hip-hop, sizzling Latin brass and high-octane rock - with covers spanning Goldie to Kanye West - Hackney Colliery Band bring the UK colliery brass band tradition bang up to date. They’ll be joined by Namvula, who fuses the folk and urban traditions of her Zambian homeland with those of her Scottish roots and London’s eclectic music scene. 

2018 05 03 Hackney Colliery Band
Hackney Colliery Band

Mjf executive director EJ Trivett said: “Manchester Jazz Festival is fast becoming the go-to destination for new music and jazz in the UK, and we are equally excited about our future as we are proud of our long-standing history.

“In such an important year marking the centenary of Suffrage, mjf 2018 presents a powerful platform which celebrates female artists and composers, alongside a broad, diverse cohort of talented local to international musicians.

“As audiences demand more unique, immersive experiences, mjf continues to harness the improvisational spirit of jazz, delivering unmissable never-to-be-repeated moments.”

Manchester Jazz Festival takes place citywide from 20-28 July - ticketed performances from £5. For some free events, pre-registration is required