The tagline for this year’s Dubai Jazz Festival – ‘Rocking the City’ – sums up the event pretty well. After celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2012 by bringing back some of the audience’s favourite acts of previous years (Jools Holland, James Blunt and James Morrison), this year’s nine-day event has started afresh with a whole new ethos. Running from Thursday February 14 to Friday February 22, and without a guitar-strumming performer beginning with ‘J’ in sight, the festival’s four guitar-heavy headliners veer from the classic rock of Deep Purple to the alternative sounds of 3 Doors Down, and the poppier vibe of The Script and OneRepublic.
Jazz and blues lovers will tell you the Jazz Garden is where the real stuff goes down: we’re pleased to see the smaller stage will be swinging this year with two performers on each of the nine nights. Saturday February 16 to Wednesday February 20 will generally see a smooth jazz instrumentalist at 8pm, followed by a blues singer at 9.30pm. And there’s also some top jazz and pop acts lined up to play from 7.30pm before each of the four headline gigs, which take place on February 14, 15, 21 and 22. Let the musical onslaught begin.
A deeper shade of purple
Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover tells us about spending three decades on the road with one of the best-selling rock bands ever”
‘Do you get bored of playing “Smoke on the Water?”’ That’s the question Roger Glover gets asked more than anything. We know this not because we asked – but because it’s the first thing he says when we hint at the ‘classic’ status of Deep Purple’s setlist.
Mind you, it’s a fair question. It’s not that the band lack other memorable tunes – ‘Hush’, ‘Black Knight’, ‘Highway Star’, ‘Strange Kind of Woman’ and many more – it’s just that ‘Smoke on the Water’ just happens to be among the most memorable rock songs ever written (Total Guitar ranked it the fourth best riff ever).
‘When they go to see a band, most people want to see the hits,’ Glover says. ‘I never get tired of it. They’re great to play, and you can play them different every night. And sometimes we play to a lot of young people, and you’re experiencing it through their eyes. It’s a moment on stage – it’s magic. We’d never get tired of it.’
Released in 1972, ‘Smoke on the Water’ is one of a number of classic tunes that the British rock band released during their ’70s heyday. Formed in English county town Hertford in 1968, the classic ‘Mark II’ line-up, featuring Glover, was established a year later. It started a run of albums that reportedly helped the band to shift more than 100 million records.
Yet Glover doesn’t believe his own band’s hype. ‘I don’t believe we sold 100 million records. People make things up because it goes down well with the press,’ he tells us, doing some sums and drawing out a figure less than half that. ‘I’m a musician, not an accountant. But I can’t imagine we’ve sold anywhere near 100 million.’
Glover’s modest approach comes across as a pleasant British anachronism. Still, that’s a lot of records. Surely he doesn’t need to work again? ‘There’s no way I could live off record sales,’ scoffs the 68-year-old. ‘I have to work. Being in a band, people assume we’re all fabulously wealthy. I wish that were true.’
One hole in Glover’s bank account may come from the 11 years – and three smash albums – the bassist spent out of the band. Like most groups of their day, egos and wild substances fuelled numerous line-up changes. In 1973 Glover was asked to leave (‘they said it wasn’t personal, it was business’), going off to pursue a solo career, before Deep Purple combusted altogether in 1976. Since reforming (with Glover) in 1984 they’ve continued to tour, but have never captured the same commercial peak.
‘I was talking to a taxi driver and he said “Deep Purple? Are they still around?”,’ says Glover, with yet more humility. ‘We get a lot of that. People think we’re dead and buried. I don’t care. It’s not their fault.’
The public’s lack of awareness isn’t helped by the fact Deep Purple have all but given up as recording artists. Their last album, Rapture of the Deep, was released in 2005; instead the band have morphed into a touring tribute to their glory days. ‘There was a discussion about whether we should release more albums – something I opposed,’ says Glover. The band are currently putting the finishing touches on a new LP, and the bassist admits it’s likely to be the last. ‘We’re all in our mid-60s,’ he adds. ‘You never know which will be a last album.’
We can’t help asking how relevant he thinks Deep Purple studio album number 19 will be to today’s marketplace. ‘I don’t know what “relevant” means,’ sighs Glover. ‘I’d like to think we’re relevant, because we’re real musicians. Whether that makes it relevant to millions of people – probably not.’
With more than three decades on the road, it’s tempting to suppose that each gig just blends into a haze of spotlights, airports and hotel rooms. But Glover has found a way to hoard recollections of international travel, and he remembers his last visit to Dubai, to headline Gulf Bike Week in 2009. Well, one aspect of it at least: a corridor. In a case of rock-star eccentricity greater than fiction, Glover documents everywhere he goes by taking pictures of corridors, and plans to display the scores of images he’s assembled over the past eight years in a forthcoming art exhibition. ‘It’s a strange obsession, but it’s an obsession,’ says Glover, ‘and one of my best corridors was taken in Dubai.’ Sadly for corridor-lovers, he can’t recall where.
Who to see at the Jazz Fest
With 21 acts playing over nine days, it’s hard to know where to start. Don’t worry – we’ve done the homework, and circled our editor’s picks.
Thursday February 14
7.30pm: Gary Honor
Australian jazz saxophonist Honor recently released his debut solo album Head ’n’ Tales.
8.45pm: Guy Manoukian
This Lebanese-Armenian pianist is known for touring with 50 Cent and Wyclef Jean.
Headlining the opening night, American pop-rock band OneRepublic are best known for rising to stardom while still unsigned by utilising MySpace. The band’s 2007 debut single, ‘Apologize’, made radio history as the most-played song in a single week ever. Six years down the line and album number four, Native, is set for release in March.
Friday February 15
7.30pm: Nicholas Cole
A jazz journalist-turned-keyboardist known for an inventive harmonic technique.
8.45pm: Chuck Loeb
A former sideman of Stan Getz and Michael Brecker, Loeb is one of the most exciting – and jazzy – performers on the bill.
10.30pm: 3 Doors Down
Saturday February 16
8pm: Paul Brown
Known for producing George Benson and Al Jarreau, double Grammy Award winner Brown is also a mean jazz guitarist.
9.30pm: Sax Gordon & Band
Forgive the silly name – gutsy Californian saxophonist Gordon has played with legends including Jimmy McGriff, Solomon Burke and Johnny Copeland.
Sunday February 17
8pm: TBA at time of going to press
9.30pm: Brian Templeton
The frontman of the Radio Kings, barrelhouse blues singer Templeton sang on Eddie Floyd’s comeback recordings.
Monday February 18
8pm: Oli Silk
This talented young keyboardist is known for two albums with Funk Duo Jazz, and who has collaborated with many other artists on the Jazz Garden bill.
9.30pm: Toni Lynn Washington
Beginning her career singing to troops during the Vietnam War, blues singer Washington’s 40-year career has included gigs at the Chicago Blues Festival. In 1999 she received the Boston Blues Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tuesday February 19
8pm: Lin Rountree
This upcoming R&B trumpeter has played with George Duke and Marcus Miller, and was featured in last year’s Whitney Houston tribute movie, Sparkle.
9.30pm: Barrence Whitfield
A full-throttle US soul-screamer with more than 15 records to his name, Whitfield ranks Robert Plant, Elvis Costello and Jools Holland among his fans. Worth checking out, then.
Wednesday February 20
8pm: Brian Simpson
Known for playing a flamboyant keytar, producer and songwriter Simpson has worked with everyone from Janet Jackson and Teena Marie to George Duke and Stanley Clarke.
9.30pm: Boston Blues All-Star Review
Expect to see the bluesmen and women from the past four nights’ gigs team up for the Jazz Garden’s closing headline evening.
Thursday February 21
7.30pm: Darren Rahn
Canadian saxophonist and producer Rahn is best known for his work with Wayman Tisdale on 2004 US Billboard number one ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’.
Expect tinges of Joss Stone and Alicia Keys from this young American soul-pop singer, whose debut album is due for release later this year.
10.30pm Deep Purple
The US rock band take to the stage.
Friday February 22
7.30pm: All-Star Smooth Jazz
The Trippin ’N’ Rhythm Records artists who have played the Jazz Garden stage throughout the week team up for one last showdown of smooth licks.
American smooth jazz/fusion quartet Yellowjackets – perhaps best known for their work on the soundtrack to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – have produced more than 20 albums over a three-decade career.
10.30pm: The Script
This chart-topping Irish pop-rock trio were last seen in Dubai rocking Sandance in November 2011. Check our full interview with the band in next week’s issue.
Living 3 Doors Down
We caught up with Chris Henderson, the 41-year-old guitarist from the US alternative rock group.
Your music seems a bit heavy for you to be playing at a jazz festival.
It seems weird to me, too. It’s our first jazz festival. We did play an easy-listening festival one time, and that went pretty well. It’s our first time in Dubai, and that’s pretty cool.
You dig jazz?
I’m a jazz fan, although not a hardcore jazz fan – it’s not the only thing I listen to. Some jazz fans are pretty intense.
Your greatest hits album came out last year. Does that make you feel like an old band?
It’s pretty cool. We were talking about how we never thought we’d have one hit – so a greatest hits album is pretty surreal. If you have the songs, that’s what you do.
Do you guys still party when you’re on the road?
We’ve cut back – we’re doing it a lot less. A lot of the wildest things have already happened. We’ve learned from it, and really nothing good comes out of partying. You have to pick up the pieces everywhere –
it can ruin careers and marriages. We’ve been through it all.
So what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
Not to take this life for granted. A lot of people think the money and the girls will never end – it’s a lifetime of excess. It really doesn’t work that way. I partied my way through five years that I really don’t remember, and it’s a real shame. I’ve been to countries I can’t remember visiting. I’m sober now.
You had a huge hit in 2000 with ‘Kryptonite’. Do you think you can ever better that?
This band has been through a lot – new members, people quit, people got fired – but we’re still going, and our ambition is to conquer the rest of the world. We did it before; why can’t we do it again? I think we can. I think this band is definitely not finished.
Do you ever regret rerecording ‘Be Like That’ for American Pie II?
Not really. Nobody ever said anything negative – and I made a ton of money from that. So I never regretted it at all.
What’s the worst thing about being an international rock star?
Being away from your family for long periods of time. That’s the curse of rock ’n’ roll right there. There’s evidence in all the broken families it leaves, it’s a harsh reality.
Who lives 3 Doors Down from you?
Taylor Swift. Well, actually she lives three streets down, but she’s my closest famous neighbour. She’s nice and quiet, real pretty and tall.