Scene News: Music Icon CHAKA KHAN Headlines Mammoth Melbourne International Jazz Festival Line-Up for her Only Australian Performance

Chaka Khan
Melbourne International Jazz Festival (MIJF) has today dropped its stacked 2023 program, breaking records for its 26th festival with their biggest ever line-up of artists, led by global music icon and ten-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan as she celebrates 50 years in music at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl with Nile Rodgers & CHIC.

Melbourne will emerge as the epicentre of Australia’s vibrant and buzzing jazz scene from 20-29 October, with over 100 events and performances taking place across ten days, enlivening the streets, concert halls, intimate clubs and even the Melbourne City Baths with a sweeping array of jazz genres from Australia and around the world.

The 2023 program offers 11 World premieres, 10 Australian exclusive performances, 16 new Australian and International collaborations and the largest proportion of free programming in the festival’s history.

Melbourne International Jazz Festival Artistic Director Michael Tortoni said: “I’m honoured to announce this program of incredible artists for MIJF 2023. This is one of our most bold and ambitious festivals yet – and we cannot wait for audiences to witness some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians and iconic artists as they converge on our great city over a huge 10-days in October.”

Nile Rodgers & CHIC

Opening weekend jazz festivities kick off with an explosive launch event at Sidney Myer Music Bowl Saturday 21 October with six hours of funk, jazz, disco and soul, featuring music legends Chaka Khan and Nile Rodgers & CHIC, supported by ARIA-winning neo soul queen Kaiit and Melbourne’s finest purveyors of jazz and funk Horns of Leroy.

In her Australian exclusive performance, Khan celebrates an extraordinary 50 years in the music industry at this year’s festival. Over her illustrious career, the artist has redefined soul, jazz, pop and funk, and remained one of the mightiest voices in modern music. After her performance in Melbourne, Khan will be officially inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, cementing her status as an all-time music icon.

Spend Saturday afternoon getting down to iconic hits including “I’m Every Woman” and “Ain’t Nobody”, as well as classics like “La Freak” and “Good Times” by fellow Hall of Fame inductee Nile Rogers & CHIC.

Back over the road at Federation Square, free performances by a line-up of international legends and local heroes will roll out over Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October, including performances by MIJF First Nations Resident Artist Bumpy, Zimbabwean-born First Lady of Soul Thndo and singer-songwriter Rita Satch, debuting material from her forthcoming album.

Earlier on Saturday is the unmissable Second Line Street Party, bringing a classic New Orleans jazz parade banging and swinging through the streets of Melbourne. New Orleans legends of the Second Line, the Hot 8 Brass Band, will lead a joyous and jumping musical march along the Yarra, through Southbank and Federation Square, joined by Melbourne’s very own brass masters, Horns of Leroy. Everyone is encouraged to dress-up, don some colourful beads, and join the party.

Ebo Taylor

Presented in partnership with PBS 106.7 FM, Beasts of No Nation returns, paying tribute to the legends of Afrobeat and highlife. This year, musical icon and the founding father of highlife, Ghanaian guitarist Ebo Taylor will perform in Australia for the first time alongside Melbourne’s own 17-piece band The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra.

A prolific guitarist, vocalist and composer whose career began in 1950s Ghana, 87-year-old Taylor shows no signs of stopping, having recorded and toured consistently for over six decades. In that time, he’s collaborated with Fela Kuti, influenced countless artists, and helped shape the Afrobeat sound as we know it today.

Under the Artistic Direction of the creatively fearless Aaron Choulai, the Australian Art Orchestra enters a new and exciting era. For one night only at The Substation, Raw Denshi combines bilingual rapping with structured and free improvisation. Based on Choulai’s critically acclaimed 2020 release, and reimagined for the AAO, Raw Denshi explores new pathways of experimentation in hip-hop and improvisation, bringing together two of Tokyo’s most prominent and influential pioneers of Japanese hip-hop, Kojoe and Hikaru Tanaka.

Also performing at The Substation, one of Australia’s most distinctive contemporary music ensembles Hand to Earth will present new work The Crow. In a collaboration that spans continents and cultures, rising star of European jazz, Polish violinist Amalia Umeda joins the Hand to Earth ensemble, for a brand-new commission by MIJF and Jazztopad Festival in Poland, which traces the songline of the crow (waak waak) in Arnhem Land.

Rounding out the Substation performances is the previously announced special MIJF collaboration by the formidable Nduduzo Makhathini (South Africa) and distinguished ARIA winner and 2023 Queensland Australian of the Year William Barton, the world’s pre-eminent didgeridoo musician. In a truly unique genre-defying pairing, Barton and Makhathini will combine forces to unveil a rapturous musical encounter that promises to cross borders, expand horizons and create new musical languages that speak to culture, Country and beyond.

Lisa Simone

For the first time ever, award-winning actress and Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist, Lisa Simone, will grace the Hamer Hall stage to honour her mother’s legacy. Blessed with the same deep velvet voice as her inimitable mother, jazz legend Nina Simone, Lisa Simone will bring the Simone repertoire to life in a lushly orchestrated and deeply personal main-stage performance accompanied by a swingin’ all-star big band.

Making her MIJF debut is celebrated Grammy-winning vocalist and composer, Cécile McLorin Salvant, performing for one night only at Hamer Hall on the closing night of the festival. Described by Spin as “her generation’s most imaginative and thrilling jazz interpreter”, Salvant has collected countless accolades, winning the Thelonious Monk competition in 2010, receiving the MacArthur fellowship in 2022 and the Duke Artist Award, as well as the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album for three consecutive years.

Steeped in New Orleans musical culture, the Hot 8 Brass Band has brought the unique energy of the deep south’s iconic Second Line parade to adoring sold-out audiences around the world. From working with Lauryn Hill and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and starring in Spike Lee docos, this infectiously upbeat 8-piece continue to represent the soul of New Orleans while forging their own powerful legacy. Along with hosting the Second Line Parade on MIJF’s opening Saturday, there is another chance to get up and close with the band in a gig arena at Max Watt’s.

Fusing jazz improv with the rhythmic swagger of hip-hop, celebrated drummer, composer and self-proclaimed “beat scientist” Makaya McCraven pushes jazz into thrillingly uncharted territory. Performing at The Croxton Bandroom in partnership with new music festival The Eighty-Six, don’t miss this chance to witness one of the genre’s most exciting and visionary performers at the top of his game.

UK instrumental trio GoGo Penguin will visit Australia for the first time, performing at The Forum for an electrifying performance that is guaranteed to thrill audiences and convert even the staunchest jazz non-believer. The cinematic break-beat trio have garnered a cult-like following for their rare combination of dance-friendly production, anthemic melodies and virtuosic jazz instrumentation.

SFJAZZCollective, one of the great US jazz super groups of the past half-century, will make its Australian debut at MIJF this year, delivering inspired takes on the classics and showcasing the skill of contemporary jazz’s top talent in an exclusive performance at Melbourne Recital Centre.

Following his collaboration with William Barton, Blue Note artist Nduduzo Makhathini will take over The JazzLab with his trio for two nights of music over the final weekend of the festival. Considered a ‘musical philosopher’ by his peers, the prolific recording artist has brought a bold new energy to the genre. His eleventh, and most recent album, In the Spirit of Ntu, has been described as a ‘prayer,’ and indeed feels imprinted with cosmic purpose, while his previous Blue Note release was named one of the “Best Jazz Albums of 2020″ by The New York Times.

One of Chicago’s most thrilling young trumpeters, Marquis Hill, will also perform for two nights at The JazzLab, sharing his blend of contemporary and classic jazz, hip-hop, R&B, Chicago house and neo-soul. To Hill, they’re all essential elements of the profound African American creative heritage he’s a part of. From winning the prestigious Thelonious Monk award in 2014 to his status as an internationally renowned musician, composer and bandleader, Marquis Hill has worked tirelessly to break down the barriers that divide musical genres.

Hailed as one of the most gifted jazz trumpeters of her generation, Canadian Ingrid Jensen takes over The JazzLab for two nights of musical alchemy, joined on stage by some of Australia’s most gifted jazz musicians Stephen MagnussonAndrea Keller, Sam Anning and Felix Bloxsom. Showcasing her abundant technical facility, Jensen draws from an eclectic blend of influences ranging from traditional and classical jazz to American folk and avant-garde. Over recent years, Jensen has served as the artist- in-residence at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival, performed on Saturday Night Live and worked as an integral member of the Blue Note supergroup Artemis.

Dead Weight

Jazz takes over the gym in this kooky yet ambitious site-specific work at Melbourne City Baths – devised, composed and directed by Cologne-based Australian trombonist and composer Shannon Barnett. Gym clothes are optional.

First developed in Germany in 2018, Dead Weight sees Barnett team up with 18 jazz musicians to embark on a surprising, curious, and humorous journey as you navigate through various gym spaces with works including ‘Skin Deep’ with three singers in the female changeroom, and ‘Deep Work’ with a power funk band performing alongside a fitness instructor.

Celebrated Australian folk jazz trio Elixir has been enchanting audiences since 1997. Featuring the sublime and haunting vocals of Katie Noonan, alongside saxophonist Zac Hurren and guitarist Benjamin Hauptmann, Elixir have amassed an impressive list of accolades over their 20 plus years of working together. For this special MIJF performance at Melbourne Recital Centre, Elixir will launch their latest album A SMALL SHY TRUTH, joined by a stirring string quartet.

Vanessa Perica has quickly become one of Australia’s most exciting voices in jazz with her debut album in 2020, Love is a Temporary Madness, met with widespread acclaim and named one of the best Australian albums of 2020 by The Guardian. Premiering her new album for MIJF 2023 at Melbourne Recital Centre, Perica’s dynamic and exhilarating 18- piece ensemble features some of Australia’s finest jazz musicians including Jamie OehlersJulien WilsonBen Vanderwal, Mat Jodrell and Andrea Keller.

In a performance that crosses cultural and musical boundaries, Chinese-Australian composer, performer and pioneer of modern guzheng music Mindy Meng Wang will join distinguished jazz artist and multi-award-winning Australian composer and pianist Paul Grabowsky AO at Chapel Off Chapel for a truly unique musical exploration. In this exclusive performance, the pair will take audiences on a poignant musical journey into the fertile space that exists between Chinese folk music and contemporary jazz – an exploration of genres not to be missed.

For those up late, lose yourself in a night of heavy, unpredictable, and inventive sounds with TEYMORI + Supernatural Dirt + Alexander Flood at Max Watt’s, as these three extraordinary acts at the forefront of the 21st century dance-focused jazz scene are bought together for this first-time for a night of dancing.

Cheryl Durongpisitkul

MIJF is making itself at home over in the south at the iconic Chapel Off Chapel for five jam-packed days, including a special family event for even the smallest jazz lovers.

Bring the kids on a very jazzy adventure with the twice ARIA Award-nominated stars of ABC Kids television series Lah-Lah’s Adventures. Aimed at infants and pre-schoolers, this performance will see Lah-Lah and her friends take a fun and interactive look at the roles of the different sections of the jazz instruments in the band ,playing around with the core jazz concepts of call and response, groove and improvisation.

For older audiences, check the inspired double-bill by two bold and ambitious acts at the forefront of Sydney’s thriving jazz scene, Empty Voices + Tom Avgenicos: Ghosts Between Streams. Chapel Off Chapel will also host USA’s Kendrick Scott, one of the finest drummers of his generation, to perform music from his recent Blue Note album Corridors. And multi-award-winning jazz vocalist Kristin Berardi will showcase music from her recent album, The Light and the Dark, while acclaimed Italian pianist Kekko Fornarelli shares work from his just released eighth album Naked, supported by the Italian Institute of Culture.


The JazzLab in Brunswick is the place for late-night jams every night of the ten-day festival. Head to Brunswick’s iconic jazz club for a chance to witness emerging artists, industry greats and unexpected collaborations.

Opening the festival on Friday 20 October will be talented saxophonist, composer, and band leader Cheryl Durongpisitkul, debuting a powerfully evocative suite for a 12-piece improvising ensemble that channels experiences of loss and healing. A dynamic, boundary-pushing musician, Durongpisitkul fuses contemporary jazz, avant-garde and rock/pop aesthetics in this new work commissioned by MIJF as part of the festival’s annual Take Note artist development program.

More international talent confirmed for the week includes Dutch saxophonist and composer Marike van Dijk presenting Stranded, a haunting work originally commissioned by the Netherlands’ North Sea Jazz Festival; Cologne-based Australian trombonist and composer Shannon Barnett and her German ensemble The Shannon Barnett Quartet in their first Australian performance as a quartet in over seven years; and Melbourne-raised, Paris-based jazz pianist Daniel Gassin, performing all-original material with the five-piece Daniel Gassin Crossover Band, in an energetic and textural aural journey that draws on the artist’s broad talent and outstanding international career.


In 2023, MIJF is extending its footprint even further into Melbourne’s western suburbs, presenting a dynamic program of incredible events including a takeover of Grazeland in Spotswood, a pop-up street party in Moonee Ponds and free performances at Maddern Square in Footscray.

For three huge days of free music, MIJF is taking over Spotswood hotspot Grazeland. A unique outdoor dining experience sure to tantalise your senses featuring over 50 food and beverage vendors, enjoy an eclectic mix of local jazz, soul, funk and swing by the likes of Cookin’ on 3 BurnersThe Sugarfoot Ramblers and The CB3 as you explore this expansive foodie’s playground.

On the first Sunday of the festival on 22 October, celebrate the joy of jazz at the Moonee Ponds Street Party. From 2-6pm enjoy the spring sunshine and local talent – with The Georgia Brooks SwingtetJake Amy Trio and Kaiit – at the Hall Street pop-up stage. Then from 6pm onwards, go on a jazz crawl and soak up the tunes at nearby Hall Street restaurants and bars.

Showcasing the hip-swinging rhythms and beats flowing out of Africa, head down to Footscray’s grassy Maddern Square on Sunday 29 October for the last afternoon of the festival. Appearances include Zimbabwean-born singer and rapper NIASHAMelbourne-based Gambian singer-songwriter Yusupha Ngum and his five-piece outfit, The Affia Band and one of Zimbabwe’s greatest unsung musical luminaries, Sylent Nqo, who will be joined local Afro-jazz favourites The Experience for his debut performance in Australia.


MIJF invites audiences to get up close and personal with the some of the world’s leading jazz artists in a free series of intimate conversations and enlightening panels hosted once again by Arts Centre Melbourne. Pre-register for a Masterclass with Ingrid Jensen, an Industry Panel with international presenters, Beyond Words presented by Multicultural Arts Australia and Q&As with Makaya McCraven & Marquis Hill as well as GoGo Penguin.

For more information, visit Melbourne Jazz