Concert Review: Dubai International Jazz Festival, Night 1

Jools Holland performing during the first night of the Dubai International Jazz Festival (photo by Tom Roth)

Tom Roth, aka Wonderboy, reports on the Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival. For more of Wonderboy’s reviews from Dubai, click here.

The first night of the Dubai International Jazz Festival was a doozy on all ends of the spectrum. As the clock ticked closer to the 7:00PM start-time, concertgoers continued to trickle in at a snail’s pace.

By the time the evening’s first opener, Mica Paris, took the stage, few butts were in seats but in what would become Paris’ theme for the evening, she jumped into her set with unabashed enthusiasm.

Her jazzy rhythms and smoky voice contributed nicely and her performance was enjoyable – while she was singing, that is. In an unfortunate decision, Paris took it upon herself to directly engage the crowd, a job best left to the evening’s main attraction. Understandably, she had a difficult time cajoling the mellowed-out crowd to its feet and her insistence in leading a sing-along was even more awkward.

Following Paris was Alison Moyet who took smoky tones to a new level. Her performance exhibited all the talent and candor one would expect from a nearly 30-year veteran of jazz music. Bluesy tracks mixed with upbeat ones gradually lifted the audience’s mood and by the time she was finished, the swelling crowd was more than ready for the evening’s headliner.

When Jools Holland and his platoon, the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, took the stage, the evening became electric. The Brit demonstrated his trademark mixture of genres, led by a parade of guest artists including Rosie Mae, Louise Marshall, Ruby Turner, and an encore by Alison Moyet.

The crowd’s favorite guest, however, was Rico Rodriguez, who performed a lovely rendition of “What a Wonderful World”. The septuagenarian amazed with his immaculate timing, barely lifting his trombone or mouth to the microphone in time but never ceasing to impress.

Holland’s unmistakable style – something akin to a Vaudevillian boxing announcer – served to transition from one genre to another in rapid fire: blues, jazz, ska, pop, R&B, big band, boogie-woogie. Marshall’s guest vocals on “Waterloo Bridge” got the crowd going and the finale of “Enjoy Yourself” had everyone singing along enthusiastically and unprompted.

Mica Paris: take notes.