Manchester Jazz Festival at First Street

Manchester Jazz Festival
First Street
19th May 2023 – 21st May 2023

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Back of Engels statue at First Street Manchester

This year’s Manchester Jazz Festival begins with a spectacular free opening weekender at First Street from 19 – 21 May. There will be three event stages: Main Stage, Garden Stage and HOME stage, each celebrating the breadth and individuality of our home-grown scene: bands from, or with a strong connection to, the North.

Here’s what’s on:


Celebrating their 35th year, Wizards of Twiddly blast open mjf2023 with their trademark combination of hi-energy eccentricity and virtuosity – and still know how to pack a punch. Formed in Liverpool 1988, the Wizards of Twiddly stuck out like a sore thumb! Creating wildly ambitious music from a vast and colourful palette with large chunks of humour and theatricality.

Yemi Bolatiwa is a multi-faceted vocal artist who has worked on numerous releases with electronic music labels across the UK & EU. As a live act she writes and performs tracks with RnB melodies, deep soulful vox over Hip-Hop, DnB & Garage inspired grooves and she’s taken her original live shows across the country and even across the EU.

Good Habits are an alternative-folk band forged on the other side of the globe. Bonnie and Pete, met as music students in Manchester and wanted to travel with music and tour to New Zealand – where they became stranded due to covid and toured full-time for 2+ years. Their music is a meeting of folk and jazz, as their eclectic musical backgrounds and unique instrumental combination fuse together into narrative-led songwriting, tune arranging, and improvisation. 


Ferg’s Imaginary Big Band are a 24+ piece jazz x noise machine who are part of the burgeoning left-field independent Leeds music scene spearheaded by the Tight Lines record label. Initially inspired by the cosmic jazz legend and musician/band leader Sun Ra, Ferg’s Imaginary Big Band is a semi-fictional large ensemble whose primary aim is to bring big band music kicking and screaming into the 22nd century.

Trumpeter, composer and band leader Nick Walters is arguably one of the most sought after and respected musicians on the UK Jazz scene. Known for his work with the bands Ruby Rushton, Riot Jazz Brass Band and Beats & Pieces Big Band, he also leads the Paradox Ensemble, a diverse collection of some of his closest musical collaborators, premiered 10 years ago at mjf 2013.

Hailed a ‘Black Woman at The Forefront of the UK Jazz Scene’ alongside Cherise & KOKOROKO’s Sheila Maurice-Grey, Ni Maxine is a Neo-Jazz Singer-Songwriter; a Black British woman sparking intergenerational conversations for change, exploring themes of home, identity, self-esteem & belonging.

With her Right Here, Right Now Quartet, British composer and improvising musician, Charlotte Keeffe, passionately embraces the moment with her audiences, she enables raw musical ingredients and individual expressions to magically come together and flow… Keeffe wears her serious love for free improvisation, jazz and experimental music on her sleeve.

Jazz North alumni having formerly co-led Artephis, in-demand trumpeter/producer Aaron Wood and award-winning classical guitarist/improviser James Girling share a 7-year history of close collaboration together. Emerging from the pandemic newly reconnected in an acoustic pairing, influences span Black American Music, Brazilian, flamenco and classical styles; their enticing arrangements and intimate compositions are imbued with empathic sensitivity and swing.

Gary Washington is a cellist and composer who writes music for orchestra and chamber ensembles, leads a band that plays original music, and has carved out a unique identity with his solo playing and beatboxing as The Urban Cellist. He is native to the USA and New Orleans is his musical home in the states. As such, the heritage of New Orleans has a huge influence on his playing, even though he is now based in the UK, between London and Manchester.  

Apollo House are a four-piece jazz ensemble that formed at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2021. Made up of all Northern musicians, they take inspiration from the thriving UK jazz scene and fellow Northern artists GoGo Penguin, Matthew Halsall and Jasmine Myra by combining elements of improvised ambient music, drum and bass and electronica.

Nasa Parka are a four-piece band not quite belonging to one particular genre. The band is comprised of Nat, Rhys, Rosie and Bryce, collectively reigning from Manchester, London and Sheffield.

Laced with unchained, angular harmonies and vivid story telling, Moby Dickless are a band set on breaking the mould. Consisting of John Sloth, Maria Rocha and Freddie Hunter, they met while studying at university and bonded through their love for improvisation.


On the Sunday, Manchester Jazz Festival partner with Jazz North to celebrate 10 years of the northernline touring support scheme: on the Main Stage, they’ll showcase five acts selected by industry bigwigs to be elected on to the 2023 artist roster.

Moore & Fairhall bring together Indian ragas, American folk, and jazz from all eras, resulting in music that is lyrical, passionate and highly rhythmic. Although they are a new duo, they have performed already to a packed and appreciative audience at Matt & Phred’s and at the Cloudwater Brewery in Piccadilly. It is their aim for the audience to feel energised, invigorated and inspired from their performance. 

Rory A. Green is a Manchester-based guitarist and composer. He draws his inspiration from the worlds of jazz and folk music and focuses his compositions around dynamics, feel and spaces within music to tell stories about growing up mixed race, mental health and other personal topics. 

Paint Or Pollen are a new mystical trio with influences from folk, minimalist, and contemporary European jazz. An unusual combination of cello, drums, and keys provides music that is immersive and pensive, yet at times, driving and suspenseful. The trio consists of emerging keys player Antigoni Anastasiadou, cellist Lili Holland Fricke, and drummer Sarah Heneghan.

J2oh are a hybrid-jazz duo. Their energetic and emotionally epic sound comes from a hybrid of hiphop/trap/dnb/electronic and contemporary jazz, using cross signatures, melodic phrasing, rhythmical hooks, complex harmony and vocal soundbites to create their sound. Each composition is rooted in improvisation, which is part of their creative process and is also how the two met. Influences include; Floating Points, Gretchen Parlato, Yussef Kamaal, Portico Quartet, Slowly Rolling Camera and Richard Spaven.

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