From Sept. 27-29, people meandering through the Beirut Souks might find themselves lured toward something other than shopping and dining.
The fifth edition of the Beirut Jazz Festival  promises to transform part of the city center’s outdoor mall into an international music platform. Organizers publicly announced this year’s program at the Souks’ Met Café Wednesday.
The distinguished, if short, lineup of performers slated to for this year’s BJF was presented by festival artistic director John Kassabian, Tourism Ministry representative Mouna Fares and Solidere spokesperson Randa Armanazi.
Last year, BJF staged shows by a clutch of much-acclaimed Lebanese and international artists. The Rabih Abou Khalil Group and Philippe al-Hage, both from Lebanon, Chucho Valdes and the Afro-Cuban Messengers, from Cuba, and well-known U.S. jazzman Marcus Miller took it in turns to set the stage alight and transport their audiences into the cool groove and syncopated rhythms of jazz.
This year’s festival promises to be all the more enticing and captivating.
The multinational Al-Madar Group will open the festivities Sept. 27. The ensemble was founded by Bassam Saba, a renowned figure in Arabic music and the director of the New York Arabic Orchestra. 
Saba’s musical versatility ranges from nai, buzuq and oud to violin and flute. In past years he’s played with such legendary artists as Wadi al-Safi, Sting, Santana and Quincy Jones.
Saba will be accompanied by percussionist April Centrone, guitarist Gyan Riley. Trumpeter, violinist and violist Timba Harris and electric bassist Brian Holtz will also take part in the performance.
The works of Al-Madar Group are a blend of Western classical music with the Middle Eastern classical tradition. The ensemble’s fusion promises to bring the audience in a state of ecstasy.
On Sept. 28, the Beirut Souks will echo with the virtuoso trumpet of Cuban musician and composer Arturo Sandoval. A self-styled “protégé of the legendary jazz master Dizzy Gillespie,” Sandoval’s blend of Latin North American sounds make for a one-of-a-kind sound.
He is an accomplished pianist as well as a trumpeter and he’s known for his fine improvisation.
Sandoval has performed with a variety of famous artists over the years – including Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys. His album “Danzon” was awarded the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album in 1995, and again in 1998 for his “Hot House.” He’s also been the subject of Joseph Sargent’s 2000 made-for-TV biopic “For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story,” in which U.S. actor Andy Garcia played the title role.
This year’s Beirut Jazz Festival promises a festive closing night on Sept. 29 with a concert featuring U.K. pop-jazz sensation Charlie Winston. With his trademark fedora, Winston has become known for his charismatic on-stage presence. There is something in his music that flirts with jazz rhythms and European papers have described his voice as refreshing.
Winston’s second album “Hobo” released in 2009 won Winston international fame, especially with his hit “Like a Hobo.” He has been at number one many times in the musical charts in France, where he is now based, and where he is now more successful than in his own country. No doubt he will find even more followers after his concert in Beirut.
“Beirut Jazz Festival” will run at Beirut Souks from Sept. 27-29. Tickets are available in all Virgin Megastore. For more information, please call 01-999-666 or visit the website www.beirutsouks.com.lb 
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