These artists will jazz things up - Emirates24|7

These artists will jazz things up

Mike Stern (SUPPLIED)

This year's 10-day Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival is currently in full swing as the free Network Jazz Garden nights continue to delight music aficionados at Dubai Media City.

And even though the week-long independent artist special has drawn in the fans, there's no doubting the festival's headliners are the ones to watch – James Blunt, John Legend and Incognito – who will perform in the emirate for the first time from Wednesday (see box), when the three-day main event kicks off. Accompanying them on their concert days is an impressive line-up of support acts, offering you everything from mainstream jazz to folk/acoustic music.

Each of the nine international names have an impressive track record, with the first day of the main event featuring Sarah Mitchell, Peter Cincotti and Spyro Gyra, who will perform prior to Blunt's appearance.

Thursday will play host to Kelly Dickson, Jonathan Butler and Dave Coz, along with Legend, while the festival's finalé will see Kaz Simmons, Lizz Wright and Mike Stern opening for Incognito.

If you're not sure which support acts to catch over the three days, Emirates Business chatted with some of the performers to find out more…

KAZ SIMMONS

British-born classical guitarist Kaz Simmons performs on February 27 at 6pm.

Is this your first time here?

Yes, and I can't wait! I'm looking forward to seeing Lizz Wright, Mike Stern and Incognito play.

Tell us about your latest release.

It's called Different Smile and features a few original songs and arrangements of lesser-known Brazilian tunes, as well as If You Knew by Nina Simone.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

I'm listening to a lot of Milton Nascimento at the moment – his Clube da Esquina albums are classics.

Who is the most exciting person you've ever shared a stage with?

Jamie Cullum accompanied me on a song once and then I sang backing vocals on one of his songs at a gig in London.

Who would you love to perform with?

I'd love to perform with Rufus Wainwright, although I would probably be too dumbstuck to open my mouth. I'd also like to sing with Damon Albarn.

One day I'll cover a Blur song, but I just have to find the right one.

Which artist would you never share a stage with?

That's not a very nice question!

What can we expect from your performance at the jazz fest?

A few originals, some quirky arrangements of well-known and lesser-known pop/jazz tunes, as well as some beautiful Brazilian songs, all mixed with nifty improvising from my band.

What's coming up next for you?

Lots of lovely gigs and hopefully a new album at the end of the year.

Finally, tell us a little-known fact about you.

I sang Me and My Teddy Bear when I was four years old all on my own on a huge stage in Brighton. Actually, I wasn't alone – I had my teddy bear with me.

JONATHAN BUTLER

The South African musician performs on February 26 at 7.30pm.

Is this your first time here?

Yes. I have four days to enjoy Dubai, which is exactly what I'm going to do.

Tell us about your latest release.

You know, my higher path is my spiritual path, which is where I am in with my life right now. I have just released Gospel Goes Classical, which was recorded with a 75-piece orchestra. I have also just released a live DVD.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

A lot of urban soul records, like Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway and Rahsaan Patterson.

Who is the most exciting person you've ever shared a stage with?

There's so many people. Marcus Miller, David Sanborn, Dave Grusin, Gloria Estefan, Nancy Wilson, George Benson…

Who would you love to perform with?

Stevie Wonder.

Which artist would you never share a stage with?

That I can't say, because I'm such an easy person.

What can we expect from your performance at the jazz fest?

Get ready to sing. Get ready to celebrate. Get ready to enjoy.

What's coming up next for you?

A lot of good stuff. It's early days to talk about it, but I'm doing a lot of writing now.

Finally, tell us a little-known fact about you.

I love cooking and gardening – a basic homebody.


PETER CINCOTTI

The American singer and pianist, who appeared at American President Barack Obama's inaugural ball, performs on February 25 at 7.30pm.

Is this your first time here?

This will be my first time in Dubai. I am very excited to be performing and hope to see the city.

Tell us about your latest release.

My latest CD is called East of Angel Town, and it's my first record of all original material. It's a mix of many different styles of music and lyrical themes.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

Not listening to much at the moment. I'm giving my ears a break.

Who is the most exciting person you've ever shared a stage with?

Opening for Ray Charles is at the top of my list. Meeting him and performing before him was an unforgettable honour.

Who would you love to perform with?

Stevie Wonder.

Which artist would you never share a stage with?

Nobody comes to mind, but I'm sure there are some.

What can we expect from your performance at the jazz fest?

I'll be playing a mix of songs from East of Angel Town, as well as some new songs. I look forward to seeing what my band comes up with on stage.

What's coming up next for you?

Our American tour.

Finally, tell us a little-known fact about you.

I love making pizza.


DAVE COZ

The award-winning American saxophonist performs on February 26 at 9pm.

Is this your first time here?

Yes, first time for me, and from what I've heard from friends who've been here, it's just an amazing place to discover. It unfolds before you in mysterious and wonderful ways.

Tell us more about your latest release.

After 20 years of making albums, I released my first ever Greatest Hits collection late last year. It's 11 of my most famous melodies, plus four brand new tracks, including Life in the Fast Lane, which got to number one on the music charts.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

I'm in a vintage kind of mood these days: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald... and if I need to funk it up, Earth Wind and Fire or Tower of Power always do it for me.

Who is the most exciting person you've ever shared a stage with?

Probably Stevie Wonder. He's just so unpredictable – and unbelievably musical.

Who would you love to perform with?

I would be so excited to make music with Sting. Or Elton John. Or BB King. Or Billy Joel. I could go on…

Which artist would you never share a stage with?

I am a born collaborator. I can find common ground musically with just about anyone. If only our world leaders could use music. It communicates on a level that can be way more effective than words.

What can we expect from you at the jazz fest?

High energy, lots of emotion and some fiery stage moves.

What's coming up next for you?

Lots of travel. More international shows, so there are lots of hotel rooms on the horizon. But I love it. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Finally, tell us a little-known fact about you.

I'm pretty good at crossword puzzles; I find them relaxing. I don't like nuts in my baked goods. And my specialty in the kitchen is breakfast.


LIZZ WRIGHT

The American jazz artist performs on February 27 at 7.30pm.

Is this your first time here?

This will be my first trip to Dubai, and I'm very excited. I want to try the traditional food and tea.

Tell us more about your latest release.

The Orchard is my latest recording, and features some of my favourite musicians.

Craig Street is an intelligent producer, and my friend, Toshi Reagon is very special. We wrote most of it together.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

Susana Baca, Allison Krauss, and Rokia Traore. One of my current favourite albums is Robert Plant and Allison Krauss's collaboration, Raising Sand.

Who is the most exciting person you've ever shared a stage with?

Odetta Holmes. We sang together at Carnegie Hall, honouring the memory of Nina Simone.

Who would you love to perform with?

I've wondered what it might be like to perform with someone like Gilberto Gil. I listen to him often when I cook at home, and he feels very familiar to me through the music.

Which artist would you never share a stage with?

I think I will skip this question.

What can we expect from you at the jazz fest?

The band that I am bringing is very special. I am only scheduled to have these individuals together for the month of February.

What's coming up next for you?

I am happily growing and expressing my discoveries through creativity.

Finally, tell us a little-known fact about you.

I have very, very big feet. In my lifetime, I've met only three women with feet the same size or bigger. It's size 12-13 US.


MIKE STERN

The five-time Grammy-nominated American jazz guitarist and composer – and half-brother of actress Kyra Sedgwick – performs on February 27 at 9pm.

Is this your first time here?

It will be my second time in Dubai and I'm very excited about playing in the city again.

Tell us more about your latest release.

It's called Who Let The Cats Out?, which was nominated for my fourth Grammy. I was also featured on The Yellowjackets' 2008 release, Lifecycle. That record was also nominated for a Grammy.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

I listen to a lot of sax and horn players to get ideas with my playing. John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans are just some of the players I love to check out.

Who is the most exciting person you've ever shared a stage with?

Miles, Jaco, and Michael Brecker are just a few. I have been very fortunate to be able to play with these great players and a number of others.

Who would you love to perform with?

Just to pick a few names, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea are just some of the artists I would love to perform with. There are also a number of rockers that I'd like to play with.

Which artist would you never share a stage with?

I like to keep all the possibilities open.

What can we expect from your performance at the jazz fest?

The band is great, with wonderful musicians that I've played with often. They all live in New York. Lionel Cordew is on drums, Bob Franceschini is on sax and Tom Kennedy is on bass.

We plan on playing a number of tunes from my previous records. We always try to play from the heart – that's the most important thing in music.

What's coming up next for you?

Lots of gigs with my own band. I am doing a special project with The Yellojackets. I am also planning a new record for Heads Up International with a projected release date of August 2009.

Finally, tell us a little-known fact about you.

I love chocolate and eat too much of it. I eat three bags of M&Ms every night before I go to sleep. I need to cut back.


And your Headliners are...

James Blunt is a British acoustic-folk pop singer and songwriter, who's had hits with songs, such as You're Beautiful and Goodbye My Lover. He performs on Wednesday.

The second day features US soul singer John Legend. The 30-year-old rose to fame in 2004, following the release of singles, including Used to Love U and Ordinary People.

Finally, Incognito bring this year's festival to an end. The British band is widely regarded as one of the key members of the English acid jazz movement. Their debut album, Jazz Funk, was released in 1981 and 12 more albums followed, including last year's Tales From The Beach.

Tickets start from Dh295. Call: 04 367 6699

 

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