More than 25,000 music lovers flocked at the 5th Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival 2007

Dubai is still reverberating with the soulful sounds

Dubai2007.jpgWhile Dubai�s International Jazz Festival 2006 was proclaimed the best yet, this year�s performances are almost certain to repeat if not better this record.

The Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival 2007 (S-DIJF) brought jazz fanatics who flocked to Dubai from all over the UAE, the GCC and from Europe, three spectacular nights of quality music and performances, complimented by a magical atmosphere and a stunning set-up, and has left people euphoric and hungry for more. This was the 5th year of this hugely popular event and its success, thanks to an unparalleled, legendary line up, was evident from the cheers of an appreciative crowd the applauses of which are still resonating around the idyllic venue at Dubai Media City�s outdoor amphitheatre.

�On the first night we had a crowd of 6,500 fans, 9,000 attended the second night of the event, and an incredible crowd of 9,500 attended the final night of performances.� Said Anthony Younes, managing director of Chillout Productions, founders and organizers of the Dubai Jazz Festival.

The first night, Thursday March 8, saw the oriental jazz band, Kamal Musallam Trio, open the festival to great acclaim from the audience. The strains of middle-eastern jazz-fusion filled the air as Kamal added his unique, doleful sounding Glissentar, an innovative instrument created by Godin, which is an amazing marriage of the guitar and the oud. Musallam�s alluring hybrid of oriental passion and charming jazz was the perfect opener.

Suitably �warmed up� by Kamal, the audience welcomed the second act, a living legend in the person of the soulful Freddy Cole. Cole, already a confirmed favorite of the UAE�s jazz and blues aficionados, did not disappoint. Playing to his audience, Cole delivered a polished performance, in his inimitable easy going style which, coupled with his unforgettably husky voice and acute sense of melodic and rhythmic phrasing made his interpretations of both pop and jazz music very much his own.

Subsequently, Guy Manoukian, the charismatic, Armenian origin, Lebanese born composer, stormed the Cadillac stage with his unique style of classical jazz/oriental music. Manoukian enthralled the strong Lebanese contingent and others with cover versions of Fairouz and traditional Armenian songs �jazzed up� (if you�ll pardon the pun) with catchy upbeat rhythms that had people literally dancing all around; these were featured alongside several of his own compositions. Manoukian was called back on stage to perform another number that kept the crowd applauding until long after the stage lights were extinguished.

DeeDee_Dubai.jpgThe artist who topped the bill on the first night was the spectacular Dee Dee Bridgewater, putting on a powerful show with the aid of her Malian family The Dee Dee Bridgewater Malian Project. Dee Dee�s repertoire delved into the roots of jazz, blues and her own history as an �Afro-American�. The power of her voice and the energy and spirit of her performance was the perfect end to a fabulous evening that celebrated the jazz movement from all four corners of the earth.

The local blues hero Sergio Bekhazi, formerly of the Sergio Bekhazi Trio, opened the second night of the S-DIJF 2007 ably assisted by Drummer Tim Burnell and his own brother cum bassist, Roy Bekhazi. Sergio, winner of several North American blues guitar magazine awards, �charged up� the crowd with a selection of music from such legends as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer and others, in addition to some of his compositions.

3LadiesBlues.jpgIn true Emirates style, Sergio was given a rousing reception and a big hand of thanks when his performance regrettably came to a close and he handed the stage over to the Three Ladies of Blues, whose singing was as impressive as their looks. Powerful, moving and sexy are some of the adjectives evoked by the sheer vocal strength and range of these three virtuosos, who delivered an intensely emotional and moving performance. The audience of the 2007 S-DIJF were captivated and taken back to the early years of Harlem paying tribute to such great female Jazz, Blues and Gospel singers and musicians as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Diana Washington along with a number of other stars of black American music, whose music and lyrics are still strong in our minds even today�

What more can be said about the seasoned jazz veteran, amazing trumpet virtuoso and prolific composer Randy Brecker who, following the Three Ladies of Blues, shared the Cadillac stage with his wife, Ada Rovatti, a fluent tenor and an accomplished soprano saxophonist in her own right. The audience was transported by the melodic sounds of this traditional and funky jazz duet.

Toto_Lukather.jpgThe much anticipated Toto, who were celebrating 30 years together on stage, along with the 9,000-strong audience at the Jazz Festival, ably lived up to their reputation. This legendary group that has hundreds of well-merited credits, tributes and honors to their names, blew away the crowd for a full two and a half hours. Professionalism at its best!

The finale to our three-day jazz extravaganza was initiated by the popular Dubai Drums, who were invited back by public demand thanks to the extremely positive audience feedback received after last year�s event. True to form, Dubai Drums put on an intensely interactive and truly astounding show that energized the crowd and has surely given them something to talk about for months to come.

Next, S-DIJF 2007 attendees welcomed on stage the European jazz-chart-topping Robin McKelle. McKelle treated the attentive crowd to a selection of songs from her debut solo album Introducing Robin McKelle, extending her repertoire of mesmerizing songs that echoed with haunting memories of the postwar jazz greats to include a touch of retro-swing and demonstrating the range of her remarkable soul-infused, alto pitched voice.

Fresh from two successful world tours, a Grammy nomination (their third), a Gibson Guitar Award, a Jazz Trax "Album of the Year" Award and a National Smooth Jazz Awards nomination in the "Group/Duo of the Year" category, the British jazz group Acoustic Alchemy closed the Cadillac stage performances on March 10, 2007 with a sensational performance of their two acoustic guitars concept via an adventurous mix of Latin, jazz, pop and soul textures which drew people closer and closer to the stage, mesmerized!

Jamie Cullum, the dynamic 26-year-old British singer, songwriter, and pianist met everybody�s expectations, and then some! The crowd was electric, but not more than the artist himself, who gave a performance to top all performances - one that will stay in the memories of everyone who had the good fortune to be there. Cullum played songs from his Verve debut album, Twentysomething, leaving the audience in no doubt as to why he has set the record as the fastest-selling jazz debut artiste in UK history. The album was certified Platinum in just six weeks, selling over two million copies (including nearly 400,000 in the States) and garnering a Grammy nomination. Jamie�s repertoire for the 2007 S-DIJF as well as including songs from his new album, Catching Tales, also featured titles such as "Photograph" along with some songs from his second album Pointless Nostalgic. Cullum�s performance was truly incredible. An onlooker from the crowd was heard to declare �What a performer, he truly is the face of modern jazz.�

Anthony said, �My sincere thanks go out to the main sponsors Skywards, Cadillac, Emirates, to name just a few, and all the press and media partners and to everyone who has contributed to the success of this incredible event. We will, of course, endeavor to put together an equally illustrious line-up of invitees for next year.�

The two stages, worked well giving the public the chance to discover all the additional stands that were there, as they took a leisurely stroll along the paved walkways between the two stages. Not forgetting the Arts & Crafts village located next to the Cadillac stage which showcased some of its best crafts so far. The atmosphere was one of relaxed conviviality; the food and beverage village catered by Hilton had a wide variety of snacks to suit all tastes, from burgers and shawarmas, to the famous Zaatar W Zeit, right down to the Seatle�s Best Coffee.

�This year we added a second jamming session venue besides Jambase, Madinat Jumeirah �Midnight Jamming Session�, held at the Tamaniya terrace, Radisson SAS Hotel �Midnight Shisha & Jazz�, and it had proved to be highly successful with Furat Qaddouri Quartet and all the festival musicians stepping on stage to create what we call the �magic pot�! said Anthony, adding, �and we can promise all our fans that next year is going to be no less surprise- filled than the years before.

Its an ongoing thriving vision, we have to keep the Jazz festival reflecting nothing less than electrifying music blended with dazzling performances that would appeal to the true music thirsted ever growing audience, leaving them anticipating the following show that is constantly evolving to evoke the soul in Dubai�s creative music scene. See you next year at the 2008 Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival which is going to take place in the first 10 days of March.�