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Sax, swing and bebop: Newcastle Jazz Festival is back

From Wednesday 16th – Sunday 20th August, Newcastle Jazz Festival 2023 will take over the city, with performers playing across plenty of cool venues. Here’s everything you need to know about the line-up…

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 09.08.2023



The Globe

Newcastle Jazz Festival 2023 kicks off with a fantastic double bill in the first and only venue in the UK owned by a co-operative committed to live music.

The Ben Shankland Trio is led by young, Edinburgh-born pianist and composer Ben. His compositions show the influence of traditional recordings on his work, whilst a fresh, contemporary jazz flavour shines through. He’s joined by two of Scotland’s finest young musicians in his trio: Ewan Hastie on bass (Winner of BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2022), and Chun-Wei Kang on drums.

Amy Thatcher and Fran Knowles are an accordion and percussion duo based here in Newcastle. Their dynamic collaboration sees the musicians defy preconceptions of what their instruments can do, breaking with tradition whilst also adopting it as a foundation for experimentation. Their live show is one of both raucous energy and colourful, creative composition.

Doors at 6.30pm, music from 7.30pm

Wednesday-only ticket: £12.00



The Bridge Hotel

The festivities of Newcastle Jazz Festival 2023 continue into Thursday evening down by the Quayside, as the Strictly Smokin’ Big Band take over The Bridge Hotel for the night.

The 19-piece strong big band prides itself on the versatility of its performance: originally rooted in swing, but beyond comfortable performing new, original and contemporary music.

Featuring Alice Grace on vocals, the Strictly Smokin’ Big Band is the only ensemble of its kind in the North of England. As well as establishing itself as a firm fan and festival favourite across the country, the band have also performed alongside jazz A-listers such as Claire Martin, Mark Nightingale and Bruce Adams.

Doors at 6pm, music from 7pm

Free entry  



Newcastle Arts Centre

As a finalist in the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2020, winner of the Rising Star category in the 2019 British Jazz Awards and nominee in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2021 & 2022, Alex Clarke is known to be one of the most in-demand and versatile saxophonists to have emerged on the modern British jazz scene.

Praised for her extensive repertoire and intelligent ear for harmony, Alex’s sound is steeped in the tradition of bebop. Alongside her at Newcastle Arts Centre on the Friday of Newcastle Jazz Festival 2023, as part of The Alex Clarke Quartet, are some of the finest names in British Jazz, including David Newton, Dave Green and Clark Tracey.

As well as a stellar performance from the quartet, Newcastle Arts Centre’s regular Tuesday Jam team will be delivering an extra special Festival Jam session – where all jazz instrumentalists and singers are invited to jam together with the house trio (and listeners are always welcome).

Doors at 7pm, music from 8pm

Friday-only ticket: £15.00



Tyne Bank Brewery

Newcastle Jazz Festival 2023 promises a jam-packed (pun intended) Saturday at Tyne Bank Brewery, with six stellar slots confirmed by some of the most exciting talent on the jazz circuit.

Kicking things off at 1.30pm will be the Ruth Lambert Duo, spearheaded by the versatile vocals of experienced jazz singer Ruth, who balances warmth and maturity with effortless charisma in front of the microphone.

The Giles Strong Quartet follow straight after at 2.40pm, which unites the artistic prowess of four long-established and respected musicians on the regional jazz scene: Giles Strong (guitar), John Bradford (drums), Ian Paterson (double bass) and Pete Tanton (trumpet and flugal horn).

Next, at 3.50pm, is JazzMain – Scotland’s pioneering jazz quartet and one of the most acclaimed jazz acts in the UK. Expect artists like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston to all be given the JazzMain treatment in their performance.

The evening’s entertainment starts at 5pm, where Dean Stockdale presents the Music of Oscar Peterson. His band will celebrate the great Canadian jazz pianist’s work – showcasing new arrangements of Oscar’s compositions as well as music from his famous albums.

At 6.15pm, the Nigel Price Trio take to the stage. Nigel’s clear, driving approach to jazz guitar has made him one of the UK’s foremost exponents of the instrument, whilst Ross Stanley’s expertise with a B3 Hammond Organ is exemplary, and ‘man of the moment’ Joel Barford has been causing a stir in the British jazz scene with his incredible drumming ability.

Jazz/neo-soul collective Swannek treat us to the final performance of the day, which begins at 7.45pm. A local six-piece, with vocalist Mollie Birmingham and keys player Findlay Hewitson at its core, the band have amassed a swathe of loyal fans thanks to their regular performances at Hoochie Coochie.

Doors at 1pm, music from 1.30pm

Saturday-only ticket: £18.00



Tyne Bank Brewery

Newcastle Jazz Festival 2023 promises to go out with a bang with another star-studded line up packing into Tyne Bank Brewery on the final Sunday.

First up is the Graham Hardy and Stuart Collingwood Duo at 1.30pm. Trumpeter Graham has been likened to legends like Chet Baker and Art Farmer, such is the style and modernity of his phrasing, whilst pianist Stu is something of a legend himself on the local jazz scene.

The Matthew Forster Quartet is next to the stage at 2.40pm. Having honed his craft by playing with the likes of Jordie Cooke and fellow Newcastle Jazz Festival 2023 performers the Strictly Smokin’ Big Band, Matt now leads the way on sax and bass clarinet, alongside Ben Lawrence on piano, Mick Shoulder on double bass and Dave McKeague on drums.

At 3.50pm, multi-instrumentalists Steve Summers and Sue Ferris take the mantle with their ultimate homage to Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond’s classic album, Two of a Mind. Then, at 5pm, local heroes Slowlight Quartet will give us their own iteration of what they’ve term ‘cinematic jazz’, (and what we would describe as epic).

Newcastle Jazz Festival 2023 then closes with a special performance from one of the most innovative composers on the jazz circuit, Jonny Mansfield, who will be joined on stage by Andy Champion on double bass and Dave McKeague on drums at 6.15pm.

Doors at 1pm, music from 1.30pm

Sunday-only ticket: £18.00


Festival pass (which includes entry to all events from Wednesday to Sunday): £55.00

Wednesday-only ticket: £12.00

Thursday-only ticket: Free

Friday-only ticket: £10.00

Saturday-only ticket: £18.00

Sunday-only ticket: £18.00  

Children aged 12 and under don’t need a ticket but must attend events with an accompanying adult  

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