A bunch of world-class jazz acts are preparing to take centrestage at year’s Emirates Airlines Dubai Jazz Festival. ‘Rocking the city’ is the tag line and if the full line-up is anything to go by, it doesn’t sound like a failed game plan.
Darren Rahn, jLee, All-Star Smooth Jazz and the mighty Yellowjackets are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the jazz side of things and CEO of organisers Chillout Productions and the original founder of the popular annual event, Anthony Younes, says while frustrating, the ‘sandwich effect’ is necessary.
Refreshingly honest, Younes admits this year’s event, which takes place from February 14-22 at Dubai Festival Park, has a heavy pop/rock influence but says without it, the event would be a struggle.
“People claim to love jazz,” said Younes, with a hint of sarcasm. “People say they will go and ask for more culture when it comes to music, but the bottom line is people don’t go.”
At the helm of the festival for more than a decade, with years of experience in the entertainment industry, Younes said the pop acts bring the crowds who can then experience some jazz along the way.
“It sounds like a cliche, but music is universal,” added Younes. “‘Rocking the city’ should be interpreted in many different ways this year. It doesn’t just mean it’s all about rock. We want to rock the city, the people, the music industry, the atmosphere, the jazz, the fun, the lot.”
The opening weekend of the 11th edition of the Dubai Jazz Festival (now secure under the sponsorship of Emirates Airlines for the next five years) sees saxophonist, flautist and composer Gary Honor and Armenian-influenced Guy Manoukian warm up for OneRepublic on February 14, followed by keyboard player Nicholas Cole and the lively Chuck Loeb opening for American rockers 3 Doors Down on February 15.
The Kryptonite singers pave the way for a week of what Younes describes as “happy jazz” in the OSN Jazz Garden, which is free to attend and starts on February 16.
“We don’t go for the slow jazz,” said Younes, whose original plan was to create a jazz festival in his home country of Lebanon.
“It wasn’t the right time with the conflict and I was working in Dubai so decided to bring jazz to the UAE,” he said, going on to explain at first people “didn’t get it”.
Having big pop acts is not something new for the jazz festival, he adds.
“In the first years we had just a few thousand people,” explains Younes. “It was only when we started introducing some pop — Kool and the Gang, Earth, Wind and Fire –— did we gain much of a reputation as a major annual event. The big acts bring in the crowds which means more people are then exposed to the jazz element too.”
Throughout the week from February 16-20, two-time Grammy Award-winner Paul Brown, Sax Gordon and his band, John Willams’ protégé Marc Antoine, blues vocalist Brian Templeton and band, US keyboardist Oli Silk, vocalist Toni Lynn Washington and band, trumpeter Lin Rountree, singer Barrence Whitfield, Janet Jackson’s keyboard player Brian Simpson and the Boston Blues All-Star Review will showcase jazz from around the world.
Last year more than 46,000 people attended the 10th edition of the festival at the all-new venue at Dubai Festival Park, Dubai Festival City.
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Main gigs: “Deep Purple is my personal preference as they are my age range. They always put on such a good show full of energy and have performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival on many occasions. They know how to do it.”
Jazz: “It has to be The Yellowjackets because this is real funky jazz at its very best. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t keep your feet still when these guys are on.”