Jazz and all that pizzazz

The coolest cats in jazz are set to add a little swing to the Middle East, with a 10-day celebration of all things great and groovy. City Times takes a look at what’s in store

By Adam Zacharias

Published: Tue 17 Feb 2009, 8:43 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:27 PM

WORLD-FAMOUS PERFORMERS and some of the top new names in music are headed to the UAE for the Dubai International Jazz Festival.

Now in its seventh year, the festival will welcome the silky-voiced John Legend, ladies’ favourite James Blunt and jazz funk stalwarts Incognito.

Other artists scheduled for the extravaganza, taking place from February 18 to 27, include young piano maestro Peter Cincotti, stunning songstress Kelly Dickson, the barrier-breaking Jonathan Butler and Dubai’s very own Marwan & The Mojos.

Being Blunt

James Blunt shot to fame with his 2005 debut album Back to Bedlam, after a distinguished career in the British Army. The song You’re Beautiful hit number one in both the UK and the USA, and helped the album enter the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest selling album in the UK ever during one calendar year. It has since sold 12 million copies worldwide.

The privately-educated singer followed this up with sophomore effort All the Lost Souls in 2007. The album hit the number one spot in 18 countries worldwide, and cemented Blunt’s place at the pinnacle of the soft-pop tree.

The 34-year-old has also become regular tabloid fodder due to his eye for the ladies, and supported charities including Doctors Without Borders, which provides medical help in impoverished and war-torn countries.

Catch James Blunt on Wednesday, February 25 at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre.

The man, the legend

Since releasing his multi-platinum debut album Get Lifted in 2004, John Legend has more than lived up to his name. The Ohio-born crooner has enjoyed a close working relationship with rapper Kanye West, after the two met through Devon Harris – West’s cousin and Legend’s university roommate.

The duo have contributed to one another’s albums and West made Legend the first signing to his fledgling record label GOOD Music. The singer has since won five Grammy Awards, performed at both the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star game, sold seven million albums and collaborated with artists including John Mayer, Jay-Z, Outkast’s Andre 3000 and Will.I.Am from The Black Eyed Peas.

Legend also recently sang at the We Are One concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The event, celebrating Barack Obama’s inauguration as president, saw 400,000 people flock to Washington DC to see the crème de la crème of American entertainers perform.

John Legend will appear at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre on Thursday, February 26.

Incognito and world-renowned

Since forming almost three decades ago, Incognito have released 13 studio albums and toured the world many times over. The band is built around Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick, who moved to the UK from his native Mauritius at the age of 10.

After growing up on a musical diet of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Santana and FBI, he founded Incognito in 1980. In 1991, Always There featuring Jocelyn Brown reached number 6 on the UK singles charts, and two years later the band released million-selling album Positivity. Stevie Wonder even recorded a harmonica part for the track Change.

When not recording or gigging with Incognito, Bluey successfully sidelines as a producer – cutting tunes for the likes of Paul Weller, George Benson and Maxi Priest.

Incognito will perform live at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre on Friday, February 27.

Best of the rest

Among the other acts flying into Dubai is legendary Los Angeles-born saxophonist Dave Koz. The 45-year-old, named one of People magazine’s ’50 Hottest Bachelors’ in 2004, has been nominated for six Grammy Awards and performed alongside some of the biggest names in showbusiness.

Later this year, Koz will receive his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – the sax player was honoured in a list including Robert Downey Jr., Shakira, Hugh Jackman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Cameron Diaz and camp role-playing wrinklies The Village People.

Jazz guitar virtuoso Mike Stern is also coming to town. Stern first came to prominence after being recruited by Miles Davis for his comeback in 1981. During his three-year stint with the late great jazzman, Stern appeared on three records – Man with the Horn, Star People and live album We Want Miles.

In the past 15 years, the Bostonian has picked up no less than five Grammy nominations for both his solo and collaborative work. His most recent nod was last year for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, playing alongside Yellowjackets.

Spyro Gyra are a band with some impressive figures behind them. The New Yorkers are still going strong after 35 years, with 27 albums to their name, which have sold more than 10 million copies between them and earned a total of 11 Grammy nominations.

The five-piece, jokingly named after the algae commonly known as “pond scum”, are fronted by saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and fuse a hybrid of jazz, R&B, Latino, Brazilian and other genres to create their own inimitable sound.

The festival

Since first coming to the UAE in 2003, the Dubai International Jazz Festival has maintained stellar line-ups year on year, with artists including Jamie Cullum, the Electric Light Orchestra, David Gray and Robin Gibb from the Bee Gees.

The number of punters flocking to the extravaganza has, accordingly, shot up as well. Last year, the festival attracted roughly 30,000 people – almost four times as many as when it first came to the emirate.

It has also become a tradition for musicians to enjoy a jam session after each concert. The spontaneous improv show can feature anyone and everyone, giving jazz lovers a unique aural treat.

For the first time this year, festival founder Chillout Productions is opening the Network Jazz Garden to the public. The 1,200-capacity venue, at the north end of Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, will feature three performances each night from February 18 to 24. Admission is free for the first seven nights, and you can register online.

Keep your eyes glued to City Times for further information and artist interviews.

Event details:

What: Dubai International Jazz Festival 2009

Where: Dubai Media City Amphitheatre (across several stages)

When: Wednesday, February 18 to 27

Cost: Dhs295 for regular standing or Dhs590 for front seating per night. Dhs750 for regular standing for three nights. Free admission for children under 10 accompanied by adults

Tickets: Available from www.boxofficeme.com, Hallmark stores, Spinneys, Virgin Megastores and www.souq.com

For further info: Visit www.dubaijazzfest.com or call 04 391 1196


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