The complete guide to Dubai Jazz Festival

Dubai’s Best Festival is back next week, with a top line-up of talent on show

It won Time Out Dubai’s Best Festival at the Music & Nightlife Awards 2017, and the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival is ready to return to the city for its 2018 edition.

While the festival does perhaps have a rather loose definition of the word “jazz”, this three-day series of gigs taking place between Wednesday February 21 and Friday 23 never fails to bring with it a stellar line-up of household names, legends of pop and contemporary superstars.

In recent years, we’ve seen Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias, Tom Jones, Sting, Santana, Toto, Jamie Cullum and Earth, Wind & Fire gracing the stage at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. In fact, since the inception of Dubai Jazz Festival in 2003, the past 15 years have featured more than 500 shows in the current three-day format and the longer, multi-event format of old.

The festival says it has hosted “thousands of jazz, blues, world, rock, pop, legends, divas and talents”, and more top acts are coming to town next week for this year’s event and we can’t wait to see them.

Here’s what’s coming up this year.

Wednesday February 21

Duran Duran

This four-piece were absolute titans of synthy pop-rock during the 1980s and 1990s.You’ll undoubtedly know the band’s most successful single, Rio, which became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1982, reaching the top of the singles charts. Meanwhile the album of the same name was home to top tracks including Save a Prayer and Hungry Like the Wolf, both of which also reached the upper echelons of the US and UK charts.

Topping the bill on Wednesday February 21, expect Duran Duran to bust out a whole bunch of classic tracks, including those mentioned above plus Ordinary World and the soundtrack for classic James Bond movie View To A Kill, with a song of the same name.

There will also be tracks from the band’s newest album, Paper Gods (2015), which charted in the top five in the UK, top ten in the US and in the top four around Europe. Collaborations on the new album include massive artists such as Mark Ronson, John Frusciante, Mr. Hudson and Nile Rodgers.

Renegade Brass Band

Supporting Duran Duran is the Renegade Brass Band, and we’re already super excited about this group coming to town. When you think of jazzy brass bands you think of lounge suits and smoky, velvet-laden underground bars. These guys turn that notion on its head with a grimy, rough twist. And we love it.

Renegade Brass Band hail from Sheffield in the UK, and this 12-piece will somehow manage to convince you that you’ve been listening to the wrong sort of jazz your whole life.

Eight horns, two percussionists, a scratch DJ and an MC put together this ensemble. Having packed out venues across the UK and Europe, this band has supported modern jazz star Jamie Cullum, as well as hip-hop heroes including De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy.

Festival appearances around the world also appear on this band’s CV, with legendary gathering Glastonbury the standout of a list spanning festivals in Ireland, Germany, Georgia and even Indonesia.

One thing you can expect is a live show that’s an explosion of jazzy, hippy-hoppy energy and head bangingly massive tunes. And, with all things considered, we can’t think of many bands that would be a better opening for one of the UK’s biggest pop rock bands of the 1980s…

(Oh, and their bass comes in the form of a giant tuba – so we wholeheartedly approve.)

Duran Duright, or Duran Duwrong?

1) Duran Duran actually hail from Durham in the UK, and were originally called Durham Durham.
a. True
b. False

2) For which James Bond film did Duran Duran record the soundtrack?
a. The Living Daylights
b. View To A Kill
c. For Your Eyes Only

3) What was the name of Duran Duran’s second album?
a. Rio
b. Hungry Like The Wolf
c. Save a Prayer

4) In which year was it released?
a. 1984
b. 1979
c. 1982

5) Which royal family member declared Duran Duran as their favourite band?
a. Prince Charles
b. Queen Elizabeth II
c. Diana, Princess of Wales

6) The band was dubbed the Fab Five in the early 1980s by the British press.
a. True
b. False

7) 1992 single Ordinary World later featured on the soundtrack for which British gangster movie?
a. Layer Cake
b. Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
c. Snatch

8) Having released two self-titled albums named Duran Duran, what moniker was given to the second eponymous album?
a. The Birthday Album
b. The Wedding Album
c. The Anniversary Album

Answers: 1) False, 2) B, 3) A, 4) C, 5) C, 6) True, 7) A, 8) B

Thursday February 22

John Legend

Thursday is looking to be one massive night. Having topped the bill three years ago back in 2015, Legend returns to the Dubai Jazz Festival as part of his Darkness and Light Tour. Promoting the album of the same name, Legend is back in Dubai to headline the festival for the third time, with his debut performance coming back in 2008. His fifth studio album, Darkness and Light debuted in the top 20 of the US Billboard Charts, and was streamed online more than 12 million times in the first week alone.

Legend is also a huge collaborator, and before making it as a solo artist he was asked to create and sing hooks for Kanye West’s songs. He has also collaborated with Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Magnetic Man throughout his career.

But, to date his biggest-selling single, and the song that catapulted him to superstardom, remains All of Me – a ballad written to and for his wife. The track, from his fourth album Love in the Future, has cleared 1.2 billion YouTube views to date.

Having won ten Grammy awards and a Golden Globe, Legend remains at the forefront of modern soul, jazz and R&B. Expect a huge performance, and an even bigger singalong when he takes to the Media City stage.

China Moses

If you’re looking for some classy jazz, soothing soul and funky blues Thursday is the night you’ll want to book your tickets for.

Ahead of mighty headliner John Legend, US soul singer (and TV personality) China Moses is making her Dubai debut. The singer has been releasing solo albums for more than 20 years, following the release of last year’s Nightintales – her sixth studio album. Between 1995 and 2013, Moses also appeared on a range of French jazz albums as a sidewoman, and voiced the lead character in Disney’s 2010 animated movie The Princess And The Frog.

Having recorded much of her previous album in the UK, Moses diversified her New Orleans-inspired sounds to bring in a notable English blues slant.

The result? A funky, classy, intelligent series of tracks, with the first track of Nightintales, Running, being a tune with some real swagger. It’s jazzy in a classic sense, with a real contemporary, urban edge – as well as a progressive twist that brings in some slightly avant-garde elements.

It promises to be a big opening act, and a real sophisticated touch ahead of a real superstar’s arrival.

Urban Legends
1) John Legend’s full name is John Roger Stephens.
a. True
b. False

2) In which of these towns, popularised in TV cartoon shows, did Legend grow up?
a. Springfield
b. Quahog
c. Bedrock

3) “Legend” was a moniker given to him because of his classic, old-school sound.
a. True
b. False

4) Legend’s first break came by writing and singing hooks for which US rapper?
a. Jay-Z
b. Kanye West
c. Dr. Dre

5) What was the name of Legend’s debut album?
a. Get Lifted
b. Get Shifted
c. Get Gifted

6) Legend met his wife Chrissy Teigen on the set of a Kanye West music video.
a. True
b. False

7) In which state (which is also where he grew up) does Legend have an auditorium named in his honour?
a. Texas
b. Washington
c. Ohio

8) How many solo studio albums has Legend released to date?
a. Four
b. Five
c. Six

Friday February 23

Ricky Martin

The man credited with writing and performing the song that turned the whole world upside, inside out back in 1999 is here to make his Dubai debut and bring about one mahoosive fiesta to close out this year’s Dubai Jazz Festival.

On Friday February 23, expect to see Ricky Martin bring his Puerto Rican flair to the stage, as one of the biggest Latin American pop acts in history comes to town. With a discography and career that stretches way beyond chart-topping hits from the early 2000s (which, as well as Livin’ La Vida Loca, includes The Cup of Life, She Bangs, María, Shake Your Bon Bon), the majority of Martin’s success has come back on his home continent of South America.

The singer has amassed more than 70 million album sales, and still tops the charts in Latin America. His most recent single Vente Pa’ Ca topped the charts in ten countries in the region, winning a 2016 Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Album.

It promises to be a night full of celebration, singalong tunes, samba, sway and, of course, a gigantic fiesta fit to close this year’s edition of the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival.
Dhs329. Feb 21-23. Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, www.dubaijazzfest.com

Tricky Ricky
1) Ricky Martin’s single Shake Your Bon Bon was inspired by US bakery chain Cinnabon.
a. True
b. False

2) Martin appeared on two international versions of TV show The Voice – in which countries did he appear?
a. Argentina and the US
b. Australia and Mexico
c. The UK and Canada

3) What is the name of Martin’s Las Vegas 2017 residency show?
a. Check
b. Fold
c. All In

4) Martin has two self-titled albums, one written in Spanish, and an English version years later.
a. True
b. False

5) Martin found fame in a local production of Evita that caught the attention of a record producer.
a. True
b. False

6) How many studio albums has Martin released as a solo artist to date?
a. Six
b. Eight
c. Ten

7) In which Seth MacFarlane show has Martin appeared as himself?
a. Family Guy
b. American Dad
c. The Cleveland Show

8) With which pop star did Martin collaborate on the single Nobody Wants to be Lonely?
a. Britney Spears
b. Jennifer Lopez
c. Christina Aguilera

Where to catch jazz, blues and soul around town

No tickets? No worries, don’t miss live music at these Dubai haunts every week

Blue Bar
This intimate, yet trendy little bar is named absolutely perfectly. Head in here any night of the week to find jazz and blues performances from the world’s top musicians being screened on big TVs around the bar, as well as an array of musical memorabilia, beautiful guitars and more. Plus, on Fridays you’ll find local band Carl & The Reda Mafia (who just signed with Universal) headlining a late night slot.
Open Sat-Wed noon-2am, Thu-Fri noon-3am. Novotel World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 0000).

Jazz@PizzaExpress
One of the city’s top destinations, not just for jazz but for, you guessed it, pizza. Every night of the week you’ll find some brilliant live musicians taking to the stage, from full swing groups (The Swing Revue) to a lively, funky two-piece (The Shots). There’s a double dose of live music when Friday comes, too, thanks to the jazz brunch.
Sat-Wed noon-1am, Thu-Fri noon-2am. Mövenpick Dubai Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Cluster A, JLT (04 441 6342).

Q’s Bar & Lounge
This is the first bar and jazz club to be set up by the legendary composer, writer, producer and conductor Quincy Jones. Having worked with some of the biggest and best names in music history, from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, Jones set up this swanky little lounge which puts music at its heart. From Tuesday February 20 until Saturday May 12, you’ll be able to catch six-piece rock funk outfit The Strike five nights a week.
Dhs250 (minimum spend Tue-Wed); Dhs350 (minimum spend Thu-Sat). 7pm-2am. Palazzo Versace Dubai, Al Jaddaf (04 365 2778).

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