Jazz Garden returns: not much jazz, but it’s free and funky

First the good news: later this month the Dubai Jazz Festival people are restarting the Jazz Garden series they last ran in 2014 as a sideshow to the main-stage festival. It was used to showcase local and jazzier acts, it was outdoors, and admission was free. The reborn version is similar – you get a whole al fresco evening at the Habtoor Grand in Dubai Marina featuring three live bands, one of them local, and yes the music is free (though you have to register online before you can get in). You don’t even have to spend money on the Habtoor’s F&B, though obviously you probably will.

The less good news (depending on your musical tastes and maybe your musical pedantry) is that it still isn’t jazz, despite the name. Take the opener on 20 October. There are three hands, with the local five-piece Lady J & the Royal Vagabonds (right) getting the early slot – tight blues-rock with original tunes, some covers and a smattering of classics. They’re a good get-up-and-dance band, and Janelle Thomas has a great voice.

Albie Donnelly’s Supercharge are virtually guaranteed to deliver a good time. Donnelly (left) is a singer/saxophonist who started as a session musician in London in the 70s and formed Supercharge to play a blend of old-style funky RnB. He’s played with BB King, who called Supercharge “Europe’s finest rhythm ‘n’ blues band”; in an interview a while ago, Donnelly listed his musical preferences as “a mix of soul, blues and jazz, definitely no Coldplay or Whiteboy Indie Pop, Oasis or other so called really great stuff”, which augers well. The band is basically a killer horn herd plus Donnelly’s sax and a great rhythm section, but it’s stretching things a bit to call it jazz …

The middle slot goes to LA-based Catie Waters (right), who of the three probably gets nearest to what you might call ‘real jazz’ (but why bother with the jazz label in the first place?). She blends R&B, pop, neo soul, funk, and yes even jazz in in a kind of Amy Winehouse meets Adele via Joss Stone way; she has multi-octave range, hits the high notes well, can drop down to do smoky and sultry, and sometimes turns the volume up to 11. She has her own songs and a well received 2013 album, Stone Child.

You can bring portable foldable chairs and/ or blankets into the venue, but not food or drink. There will be some eight-person picnic tables allocated on a first come first served basis, though you can pre-book if you commit to a minimum spend on F&B – AED 600, 750 or 900 depending on how close to the stage you want to be (or can afford).

Here are the details currently available for the subsequent Jazz Gardens (the local acts have yet to be signed, so it might be worth clicking this link if you want to put your name forward):

17 Nov

Lin Rountree & Beth Griffith
Sharrie Williams & the Band

15 Dec

Joanna Lee
Nine Below Zero

19 Jan

Julian Vaughn
Gisele Jackson & Raphael Wressnig

16 Feb

Oli Silk & Friends
Annika Chambers

16 Mar

Nick Colionne & Friends
Earl Thomas

19 Apr

Jonathan Fritzen
Mississippi Heat feat Sax Gordon

20 Apr

Wee Wellie Walker feat Alex Schultz

More information and sign-up here.

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