Dubai Jazz Festival guide

Who to watch out for and how to access the free gigs at 2014 festival

By any account the Dubai Jazz Festival is the single biggest music event in the emirate. Eight days long and featuring more than 20 headline acts, it’s simply unrivalled in size, while the eclectic mix of jazz, blues and rock acts it serves make it equally unrivalled in sonic scope. Now 12 years old, the festival also unrivalled in its longevity.

Despite its age, the programmers are far from resting on their laurels – if anything, 2014 presents one of the most exciting line-ups we’ve seen, with a new-found commitment to bringing credible straight-up jazz acts over for the newly-dubbed Jazz Legends stage.

And the best thing of all? Much of the music is free to watch, with all the weekday Jazz Garden events from February 15-18 open to anyone who pre-registers online, while the opening night is free to existing tickets holders – read on for full details.

The only problem we see with such a large, beguiling and diverse line-up, is that more casual music fans might not know where to start. So we’ve given you the lowdown on all the acts day by day.

Thursday February 13

Main stage:
9pm-10pm – Juliana Down

In a huge tribute to the local music scene t the 12 edition of the Dubai Jazz Festival will open with a set from what may be the UAE’s best known band, Juliana Down.
Read our interview with Juliana Down here.

10.30pm-midnight – Earth, Wind & Fire Experience featuring The Al McKay Allstars

Following the last minute cancellation of opening night headliners Stone Temple Pilots, the Jazz Fest team went one better by booking this top celebration of funk-popsters Earth, Wind & Fire, starring former guitarist Al McKay – and making the night free to anyone with a ticket to the main gigs on February 14, 19 and 20.

The opening night is free to all main gig ticket holders for February 14, 19 and 20. Click here for more details.

Jazz Legends stage:
8pm-9.15pm – Tony Lakatos feat. Kirk Lightsey
Hungarian saxophonist Tony Lakatos opens the brand new Jazz Legends concept – and technically opens the whole festival. He’ll be joined onstage by legendary pianist Kirk Lightsey.

9.30pm-11pm – Al Foster ft. Wallace Roney

Perhaps the most exciting jazz booking of the bill, legendary American drummer Foster is best known for working on 13 Miles Davis LPs, including 1972’s influential funk-jazz masterpiece On the Corner. He’s joined here by another man who owes more than a nod to Miles: Wallace Roney, who was personally taught by Davis following a chance encounter in the ’80s.
Standalone Jazz Garden tickets are available tonight from Dhs225.

Friday February 14

Main stage:
9pm-10pm – The Wanted

Irish pop band The Wanted add a counterpoint of lowbrow charm, opening up the first paid-for gig. Expect hits and energy in abundance.

10.30pm-midnight – Olly Murs

Former X-Factor runner-up, Robbie Williams mate and general cheeky chap Murs headlines the first paid-for gig on the main stage.
Read our interview with Olly Murs here.
Tickets for the main gigs start at Dhs350, available from

Jazz Legends stage:
8pm-9.15pm – Kirk Lightsey with Jean Toussaint, Tibor Elekes and John Betsch
After backing Tony Lakatos last night, hard bop veteran Lightsey takes centre stage. Now aged 76, the pianist is best known for featuring on a run of notable Chet Baker LPs and for touring with Dexter Gordon. He’s joined here by Art Blakely alumni Toussaint and drummer Betsch - who was taught by Max Roach.

9.30pm-11pm – Larry Carlton
Perhaps the best-known of all the jazz players on the bill. Carlton started as renowned ’70s and ’80s session player,playing on records by Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel and Michael Jackson. His own material is compelling instrumental fusion.
Jazz Legend gigs are open to ticket holders for the main headline gigs, with standalone tickets from Dhs225.

Saturday February 15

Jazz Garden stage:
8pm-9.30pm – Four80East
Perhaps the most forward-thinking of this year’s bookings is Canadian electro-jazz ensemble Four80East, who over six albums and 15 years have purveyed melodic, ambient grooves that push new boundaries of the genre.

10pm-11pm – Alex Schultz’ Soul Gift featuring Sax Gordon and Raphael Wressnig
Expect an evening of organ-led jazz-blues, led by Austria-based duo Raphael Wressing and Alex Schultz, joined here by crowd-pleasing, flamboyant R&B honker Sax Gordon.
For free tickets to all Jazz Garden gigs register online at

Sunday February 16

Jazz Garden stage:
8pm-9.30pm – Jonathan Fritzen
This low-key Sunday gets going with some smooth grooves from upcoming Swedish pianist Jonathan Fritzen.

10pm-11pm – Tad Robinson and Band

Expect things to liven up later on when NYC blues howler blues howler and harmonica screamer Tad Robinson takes to the stage.
For free tickets to all Jazz Garden gigs register online at

Monday February 17

Jazz Garden stage:
8pm-9.30pm – Shilts

A former session player for the likes of The Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai, expect smooth and funky solos from Brit saxophonist Paul ‘Shilts’ Weimar.

10pm-11pm – Deitra Farr and Band
Expect things to get down and dirty when barrelling Chicago blueswoman Deitra Far takes the mic.
For free tickets to all Jazz Garden gigs register online at

Tuesday February 18

Jazz Garden stage:
8pm-9.30pm – Matt Marshak and Le Bron
Two upcoming talents from the smoother side of things join forces here, with guitarist Marshak teaming up with reedsman Le Bron.

10pm-11pm – ‘Sugaray’ Rayford and band
It looks like they’ve saved the best for last, with four nights of free concerts wrapping up some classic R&B grooves from veteran blues belter Caron ‘Sugaray’ Rayford, a man who is six foot five and sounds every inch that tall from his barrelhouse delivery.
For free tickets to all Jazz Garden gigs register online at

Wednesday February 19

Main stage:
8.30pm-10pm – Colbie Caillat

Expect to hear hits including 'Bubbly', 'Realize', 'Brighter Than The Sun' and Jason Mraz collaboration 'Lucky' with this opening slot from US pop singer Caillat.
Read our interview with Colbie here.

10.30pm-midnight – Jamie Cullum
No stranger to Dubai, jazz-pop singer (and UK Radio 2 favourire) Cullum performed at the fifth addition of Dubai’s longest running major music festival back in 2007. Currently classified as the best selling ‘jazz’ musician in the UK, expect tight arrangements and the crowd pleasing delivery of a pro.
Tickets for the main gigs start at Dhs350, available from

Jazz Legends stage:
8pm-9.15pm – Steve Grossman, special guest Silvia Droste
Another chance to see a living legend live in Dubai, Steve Grossman is best known for taking Wayne Shorter’s spot in Miles Davis’ band at the turn of the ’70s, later releasing more than 20 LPs as leader in his own right, as well as working with John Coltrane’s iconic pianist Elvin Jones. He’s joined here by traditional German jazz vocalist Silvia Droste.

9.30pm-11pm – Sean Jones
Part of a new wave of traditionalist talents to emerge from the US, trumpeter Jones is best known for working on Nancy Wilson’s 2007 Grammy-winning Turned to Blue and for lengthy residencies at Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Jazz Legend gigs are open to ticket holders for the main headline gigs, with standalone tickets from Dhs225.

Thursday February 20

Main stage:
8.30pm-9.30pm – Dubai Drums
The final night on the main stage opens with this 18-piece UAE-based percussion ensemble, who promise a sound which incorporates three distinct, yet overlapping musical personalities from the continents of Arabia, Asia and Africa.

10pm-11.30pm – Santana
By far the biggest booking at this year’s festival is huge Latin-tinged rock band Santana, with 40 years of heritage from early hits like ‘Evil Ways’ to ’90s collaborative grooves like ‘Smooth’. Known for a few distinctive harmonic flourishes and tricks, eponymous guitarist Carlos was ranked in 2011 as the 20th guitarist ever by Rolling Stone.
Tickets for the main gigs start at Dhs350, available from

Jazz Legends stage:
8pm-9.15pm – Néstor Torres
A booking likely to be inspired by Santana’s headline slot, expect Latin and pop influenced smooth jazz from Grammy winning Puerto Rico flautist Torres.

9.30pm-11pm – Billy Childs Quartet
Jazz pianist-turned-classical composer Child is a technical virtuoso. Gaining attention during six-years with legendary trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, Child's now balances a career in jazz alongside classical composition. He’s won three Grammys.
Jazz Legend gigs are open to ticket holders for the main headline gigs, with standalone tickets from Dhs225.

Dubai’s popular Italian joint is getting a “cheesy facelift”

Don't miss last remaining places in 5,000-strong ambassador team

Entering couldn’t be easier…

Sponsored: Tickets to the five-day festival of music and culture are now on sale

FIVE Palm Jumeirah Dubai launches exclusive new club

A kid accidentally calls in the universe’s deadliest hunter, the world’s clumsiest spy is out to save the world again and Blake Lively has a ‘simple’ favour to ask


Follow us