With Manchester Jazz Festival launching in just a few days, we’ve come up with our top tips for the annual event.

There’s a whole host of acts (almost 100) performing across a range of venues in Manchester at this year’s mjf and there’s plenty of free performances! But we’ve picked out eleven acts as our top tips …

Sound of Thieves
21 July, 2.15-2.45pm and 4.00-4.30pm
Festival Square
Hypnotising beats and searing vocals from a Live-Manchester favourite. Sound of Thieves (Phoebe Pope, voice and loops) and Jan Bures (electric bass) take inspiration from all genres, creating a mesmerising sound in front of your eyes and ears.  The duo come to mjf2018 fresh from releasing their excellent debut EP In My Kingdom in June.

Trish Clowes’ My Iris
21 July – 3.00-4.00pm
Salon Perdu
Trish Clowes and her band (Chris Montague – guitar; Ross Stanley – piano, organ; Dave Hamblett – drums) draw on stories and poetry to celebrate the interaction between words and music, inspired by the likes of Wayne Shorter, Joni Mitchell and Bjork.

Charlie Cooper
21 July – 5.00-6.00pm
Matt and Phreds
Another Live-Manchester favourite, Charlie Cooper returns to Manchester Jazz Festival where she wowed in 2014. This performance sees the incredible singer and performer Charlie Cooper at Matt & Phreds where she performs an intimate solo piano set featuring soulful, jazzy songs.

Arun Ghosh
21 July – 8.00-10.00pm
Salon Perdu
Also returning to mjf is Arun Ghosh who will perform new music from But Where Are You Really From? Fusing South-Asian folk and jazz with elements of rock, classical, folk and world music, he is an entrancing performer.

Lyons and La Zel
24 July – 5.00-5.20pm and 6.30-7.15pm
Festival Square
Lea La Zel (vocals) and James Lyons (guitar, beatbox and flute) perform a funk, jazz and hip-hop blend. The soulful French-via-Liverpool sound comes to Festival Square for two free shows on Tuesday 24 July.

Mali Hayes and We Are Leif
24 July – 8.30-10.30pm
Night and Day
Mali Hayes returns to Manchester Jazz Festival following her hit performance at least year’s event. The Mancunian singer songwriter is joined on the bill by We Are Leif who take inspiration from New York’s contemporary jazz scene as well as the likes of Massive Attack and Lamb.

Yazz Ahmed’s Electric Dreams
25 July -8.00-10.00pm
Salon Perdu
British-Bahraini Yazz Ahmed weaves electronics, sound design, live looping and sampling to create contemporary jazz with a personal slant. For this performance the soloist and composer teams with Jason Singh (voice, electronics, live sampling), Samuel Hällkvist (electric guitar) and Rod Youngs (drums).

Megan Branwen and Tom Ollendorff
26 July – 2.30-4.00pm
The Midland – Lancaster Suite
The Midland hosts an afternoon tea accompanied by enchanting Welsh singer Megan Branwen and guitarist Tom Ollendorff who bring inspiration from Welsh folk and timeless jazz.

Esther Swift
26 July – 8.00-10.00pm
Salon Perdu
This year’s Irwin Mitchell mjf originals commission comes from Scottish composer and harpist Esther Swift who presents a suite of word-settings using the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy with music built around Esther’s regular harp quartet Clouds.

Beats and Pieces
27 July – 8.00-10.00pm
Salon Perdu
Ten years after their mjf debut, Beats and Pieces return to the stage they have dominated so well each time they have performed. Huge, high-impact, groovy jazz that is bound to get the audience on their feet.

Hackney Colliery Band and Namvula
28 July – 8.00-11.00pm
Salon Perdu
Always a sensational show, Hackney Colliery Band (pictured) return to Manchester Jazz Festival. Their storming, energetic shows, filled with original material and clever covers, are always a highlight and never fail to leave the audience simultaneously exhausted and energised.  Have your dancing shoes on!  Also performing on the bill is Namvula bringing African grooves, fusing the folk and urban traditions of her Zambian homeland with her Scottish roots.