Leeds Jazz Festival 2024 – Saturday review

By May 27, 2024

Music. Leeds.

Leeds. Too small to get lost; too big to get bored. It’s the perfect place for a burgeoning music festival to spread across several venues, showcasing artists of different size, stature and style in a way that feels connected, and easily accessible. In its third year, Leeds Jazz Festival shows what the city’s strengths are as a location for culture, and why it can be such a great place for ambitious creative events to grow up.

Taking place across the Spring Bank Holiday, the eclectic programme draws audiences to art galleries, wine bars, clubs and outdoor stages all over Leeds. The Saturday line-up is a good representation of the festival as a whole – emerging local talent builds up to genre-defining headliners, whilst talks, exhibitions and activities take place in tandem.

Credit: Sam Hopkins

At the centre of the live music is the Welcome to Leeds Stage, an excellent achievement in programming and experience.

Each day at the Stage is curated by a different local influence, including Launchpad, Sable and JazzLeeds. Saturday is the responsibility of DJ Lubi, whose renowned skill for selecting global jazz and funk sounds on the turntables translates to the line-up curation. Afrodesia provide Fela-esque rhythms in the afternoon, whilst the 10-piece Gustave Andrade & The Brasukas close the stage with a samba set – both young acts bring some bright colour and joy to a classically overcast Yorkshire day.

Other highlights include FEE, or the Fee Buckton Band, who are seriously impressive for what is apparently only their second gig, whilst the Jascha Bingham Trio are a purist’s dream, tightly locked together but wildly virtuosic.


Away from the spotlight on local talent, British jazz icon Courtney Pine plays a sold out Howard Assembly Room. Pine and his band ignite the ambient space with a Calypso reworking of Brubeck’s Take Five, some ludicrous soloing on steel drums and electric double bass, and a jam session dedicated to Notting Hill Carnival. And of course, the insane sax scaling from Pine himself makes the HAR rapturous.

To enhance the music, the festival has free activities like panels and listening events taking place. ‘Inner Ireti’, an exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery presented by DJ/Producer NikNak, teases the artists upcoming album with a sensory, spacialised experience – visitors are given headphones, invited to watch a futurist film about “reclaiming humanity from the grasp of machines” with a Burial-esque soundtrack. There’s lots of neon and glitchy imagery, with trumpets over breakbeats… it’s an alternative but creative juxtaposition to the day’s live music.

Wrapping up the Saturday at Hyde Park Book Club, DJ Lubi hosts the Lift Your Feet x Jazz Dance Party, playing latin, soul & funk vinyl and inviting DJs Harry Rook, Tina Edwards and Harkirit Boparai to the decks. Among the mostly-student crowd is a ring of serious dancers, who in jazz-dance tradition take turns to riff off and outdo each other, a tribute to the 80s scene that transformed Britain’s relationship with jazz.


It caps off a Saturday that has succeeded because of how much has happened, and how seamlessly it’s all flowed together. Despite being tucked away in disparate venues, the festival has felt coherent, unified.

Most of the events over the day and the weekend are free and easy to get to, many within walking distance or short commutes of one another. This speaks to the excellent organising, which has made the most of Leeds’ connected, collaborative nature, involving a real mix of local venues, partners and sponsors. It also demonstrates Leeds’ great strength in being so navigable – something other festivals have benefitted from – and self-supporting.

Credit: Sam Hopkins

The Welcome to Leeds stage is the winner. With quality vendors, sound system and space to sit down or dance, the stage is a real sanctuary for the crowd, who build in size and confidence through the afternoon. Situated in a central part of town, it attracts plenty of passersby – big groups of Leeds residents, a bit loose from bottomless brunch or watching the FA Cup Final, pause to watch and dance and interact with the music. A loving clash of Leeds cultures. Seeing a music event pop up in town, in a natural, non-disruptive way that allows it to spill out and reach new sets of ears, is wonderful, and what we need more of.

Leeds Jazz Fest is nailing the programme and set-up, and no doubt it will scale healthily for years to come. Jazz festivals, and arts events in general: take note.


Follow Leeds Jazz Fest and Music:Leeds for new events and updates from the city’s jazz scene.