Renowned for championing the very best of both established and emerging talent of the genre, Manchester Jazz Festival—the city’s longest-running music event—returns this month.

The ten-day festival kicks off on Fri 20 May and runs through until Sun 29 May, with performances at some of Manchester’s most iconic venues, including Matt and Phreds, St Ann’s Church, the newly renovated Band On The Wall, Escape to Freight Island, The Yard and Forsyth Music Shop.

Here’s a roundup of some of our own highlights happening across the festivities.

Showstoppers at NQ Jazz

Brought to you by trusted promoters NQ Jazz, Cheetham Hill’s flourishing creative hotspot The Yard hosts a selection of special shows throughout the festival.

First up, on Mon 23 May, Ivor-Novello-nominated saxophonist and composer Alex Hitchcock, widely regarded as one of the UK’s most creative and virtuosic jazz musicians, brings his groundbreaking record Dream Band to Manchester.

Tue 24 May sees the arrival of award-winning saxophonist and composer Emma Rawicz, who has already made a colossal mark on the jazz scene in such a short amount of time, and on Wed 25 May, Anthony Joseph, the British-Trinidadian poet, novelist, musician and lecturer—described as ‘the leader of the black avant-garde in Britain’—promises a wildly unique performance that blends surrealism, jazz and the rhythms of Caribbean speech.

Soulful sounds at St Ann's Church

Getting things underway at St Ann’s Church on Mon 23 May are Sara Colman and Rebecca Nash who through beautiful melodies set the scene for improvisation, drawing on contemporary classical, folk and songwriter influences to carry audiences through a jazz-rooted journey. 

Following that is Skylla on Wed 25 May. With music that takes inspiration from Eastern European folk and transcends all the way to free jazz, Skylla takes the form of bewitching compositions and other-worldly songs.

Brigitte Beraha’s Lucid Dreamers stop by on Fri 27 May, featuring melodic and abstract music, drawing from jazz, folk and contemporary classical, expect exciting groove and impactful stillness. Later that same day, the incredibly in-demand Zoe Rahman brings her signature blend of power, jazz and classical for a hugely-anticipated highlight of this year’s festival. 

Band on the Wall weekender

Fresh from its incredible refurbishment, Band on The Wall becomes a focal point of the festival. Multi-award-winning tenor saxophonist and composer extraordinaire Nubya Garcia carries us into the weekend early on Thu 26 May, before the legendary father of Ethio-jazz Mulatu Astatke—whose work has been sampled by the likes of Nas, Damian Marley and Kanye West—takes over on Fri 27 May.

Before we’ve had a chance to miss a beat, Gary Crosby brings his sextet together to pay homage to iconic jazz innovator Charles Mingus on the afternoon of Sat 28 May. That’ll be followed by a familiar face, as Craig Charles takes to the decks for a special instalment of his Funk and Soul Club FT The Allergies (live) and Andy Cooper.

Finishing the weekend in style on Sun 29 May is another multi-award-winning saxophonist in the formidable Tim Garland. He’s followed by the boundary-bending Hackney Colliery Band, best known for unlikely covers of Toto’s Africa and Blackstreet’s No Diggity.

Secret Night Gang & family fun at Freight Island

Sun 22 May sees Secret Night Gang head to Freight Island. Jazz FM-nominated ‘Best Breakthrough Act 2021’, and handpicked by Gilles Peterson from Manchester’s vibrant live music scene, guests should anticipate summer-soul goodness and a very cheery nod to jazz-infected soul.

Freight Island also has a stacked programme of family events taking place on Sunday, featuring storytelling, puppet-making and musical workshops.

Manchester Jazz Festival Originals

Two completely original pieces have also been commissioned exclusively for Manchester Jazz Festival 2022.

First up, electronic musician Lara Jones is set to perform her new work, Ensō, in a specially-curated geodesic dome in Manchester Piccadilly Station. Taking place from Thu 19 May-Sun 22 May, audiences can enjoy free performances from the cinematic, audiovisual extravaganza, all based upon Lara’s experiences of train journeys to visit loved ones.

On Fri 27 & Sat 28 May, audiovisual artist and performer Ruby Tingle will present Fountainia, featuring new music inspired by Manchester’s fascinating and historic relationship with water. This is taking place in Barbirolli Square, and will free to attend. 

A Manchester Wire Partnership post
Fri 20 May - Sun 29 May, Various venues
Rebekah Spratt
Published on:
Mon 16 May 2022