x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Jazz across the spectrum

Pop rockers and a heavy rock act may be the headliners of the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival, but Saeed Saeed speaks to four acts bringing the actual genre to life during the festivities.

The jazz pianist Guy Manoukian. Courtesy Chillout Productions
The jazz pianist Guy Manoukian. Courtesy Chillout Productions

On the piano: Guy Manoukian

The Lebanese musician is looking forward to bringing his blend of "Oriental jazz" to Dubai. He played in the festival five years ago and Dubai's cosmopolitan crowd is a perfect mix for his eclectic pieces, Manoukian says. "It is such a fantastic crowd and they really appreciate what is happening onstage," he says. "When you are there, you really feel that you are performing to a landscape of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities." While the bedrock of his sound is traditional jazz, Manoukian explains his pieces are coloured by Middle Eastern music elements such as Arabic percussion and the bouzouki. The end result is a set as enchanting as it is rhythmic. "I look at it as the new sound of the Middle East," he explains. "It is a music that has a new identity without losing who we are."

Catch Guy Manoukian on the OSN Substage on Thursday, 8.45pm to 10pm

On vocals: Toni Lynn Washington

We might be getting the winter jitters in the UAE, but spare a thought for the 75-year-old blueswoman Washington, who has to brave sub-zero Boston temperatures when she performs at local jazz clubs on America's East Coast. "I am surprised you guys have blues down there," she says playfully. Washington may have embraced singing from a young age in church choirs, but she only started recording her smoky vocals in 1995, when she released her debut album Blues at Midnight. Since then, she has gone on to record three more albums with one more on the way. Washington promises to bring a mixed musical bag to her Dubai set next Monday. "I will come along with different grooves," she says. "Some of them will be funky and some will be swing. There will be a great variety in my show."

Catch Toni Lynn Washington on the OSN Substage on Monday, February 18, 9.30pm to 10.30pm

On the guitar: Paul Brown

This American is a victim of his own success. When Brown first entered the jazz game decades ago, it was as a guitarist. However, his keen ear and technical knowledge had him spend more time in the studio as a celebrated producer, notching up two Grammy Awards and a staggering 40 No 1 hits in the American smooth jazz chart, earning him the nickname of The BabyFace of Jazz. While Brown is grateful to have produced records by such music idols as George Benson and Al Jarreau, he is more than happy to step out as a performer in his own right. "Jazz is really an international language," he states. "Last year, I played a show in Iceland. I would have never gone there if it wasn't for playing jazz music." Promoting a new album, The Funky Joint, Brown says his set will be an interactive affair. "I am looking forward to coming down," he says. "I am just going to crank it up and have some fun."

Catch Paul Brown on the OSN Substage on Saturday, 8pm to 9pm

On the saxophone: Sax Gordon

He's played to plenty of VIPs, but recently Sax Gordon (or Gordon Beadle, to use his proper name) played to his first ever VP: the vice-president of the United States. The Bostonian was invited to perform at Joe Biden's inauguration, a gig Beadle approached like any other. "It was a good day and some people in the band spoke to [Biden] but I didn't because I was busy playing," he recalls. "However, he did come up to dance during one of my solos." Beadle has been recruited to bring good cheer to Dubai. Charged with assembling The Boston Blues All-Star Review, Beadle promises to have the crowd on their feet. "Sometimes people think jazz is made to reflect and contemplate or that it is inaccessible," he states. "We are all about having a good time and bringing this music to the masses."

Catch Sax Gordon with his band on Saturday at the OSN Jazz Garden, 9.30pm to 10.30pm. The Boston Blues All-Star Review play on Wednesday, February 20 at the OSN Substage, 9.30pm to 10.30pm

For more festival details, go to www.dubaijazzfest.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae

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