We talk to Ruby Turner and Cindy Bradley, who are in town to perform in this week's jazz festival.
Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival is set to go beyond the standards
James Blunt's name above posters advertising a jazz event?
It may be an odd choice having the UK pop singer headlining the Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival, which begins tonight, but such is the nature of the niche genre that it still requires industry heavyweights to draw a crowd.
While Blunt's number one hit You're Beautiful may not have anything in common with the classic You Are Too Beautiful from the maestros John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, adding a famous pop singer to the bill can be an effective way to expose new audiences to both legends and emerging talents in the jazz world.
For example, the British soul singer Ruby Turner. After wowing the audience last year as a fiery backing vocalist with Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, the singer will pull a double shift this year: performing with the famed UK composer and television host as well as making her solo festival debut.
Turner says her consistently growing tour schedule is proof that jazz is expanding geographically as well as musically.
"I'm always game for everything, and always when there is a chance to grow abroad, I am happy," she says. "The jazz world is now opening up and embracing different genres, and that is a wonderful thing."
Turner's enduring success is an example's of the genre's widening outlook.
As well as achieving the rare feat of being a British singer with a number one single on the US R&B charts (these were the days before Adele) with her 1990 single It's Gonna Be Alright, Turner found herself attracting jazz fans as the genre expanded itself to incorporate musical flavours from different genres.
"What happened was people started picking up the electric guitar and started playing jazz chords, and then people said: 'Why don't we start including that?'" she says.
"In my gig, my keyboard player comes from a jazz world and I come from heavy soul and R&B, so when you put a piano player like that in my band, he just can't help himself. He would have to interject a little jazz chord in there and I would go: 'What's that?' But it works!"
Another artist making a return to the festival is Cindy Bradley. She explains her mission didn't change in the two-year gap - she still aims to make the trumpet and flugelhorn hip.
Indeed, during the course of her critically acclaimed albums Unscripted and Bloom with the label Trippin'N'Rhythm, the New Yorker explored all sorts of trumpet stylings, from 1930s big bands to more modern approaches, incorporating electronic music and house grooves.
"I am always looking for new things to do and see what other players are doing and expand upon it," she says.
Bradley is excited to return to Dubai, considering her last appearance exceeded all her expectations.
"To be honest, the first time I wasn't sure," she says. "So I read about Dubai for months before I went and it was an awesome experience. It was a great audience that really loves jazz music - they were receptive and great to talk to afterwards."
Ruby Turner will perform with Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at the Main Stage tomorrow starting at 10.30pm. Turner will perform with her own band the following day at the Sub Stage from 11pm. Cindy Bradley will perform at the Sub Stage on Tuesday starting at 9.30pm.
To find out which five records Cindy Bradley recommends to begin your own jazz record collection, visit our Scene & Heard blog www.thenational.ae/national-blog/scene-heard
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