Amman festival thrills jazzophiles with global melodies

1.5 RamiAtallah,NicoloRicci,KamalMusallam
Pianist Rami Atallah (left), saxophonist Nicolo Ricci (center), and guitarist Kamal Musallam interpreted jazz standards and Brazilian bossa nova in their ensemble performance with vocalist Hind Hamed (not pictured). (Photos: Jean-Claude Elias/Jordan News)
In full swing from Wednesday to Saturday, Amman Jazz Festival offered a true global sampler of all the genre has to offer for Jordan’s jazzophiles, with performances in Amman and Fuheis. اضافة اعلان

In its 10th edition, this year’s festival was most notable for the cultural variety it brought to the stage. With musicians from Jordan, Spain, Ukraine, Brazil, the Netherlands, Austria, Australia, Italy, Germany, and Egypt, the palette of styles ranged from jazzy adaptations of Mohammad Abdel Wahab compositions to techno, Brazilian samba, fusion jazz, Ukrainian folk tunes, a handful of jazz standards and a medley of Arabic classics exquisitely “jazzified”.
Here are the performances, in chronological order:
From Spain, pianist Augusto Baez and timple maestro Germán Lopez delighted audiences with the unique sound of the timple, a form of ukulele native to the Canary Islands, as explained by Lopez. This was the opening act and arguably the most melodious and charming performance of the four-day event. What the duo lacked in numbers was made up for in sound: Lopez interpreted a brilliant version of Sting’s An Englishman in New York, and the jazz notes carried the sweetest flavors in uncomplicated tones tinted with Iberian accents.

Orwa Saleh’s ensemble, hailing from Austria, brought a mix of musicians with both Arab and Austrian roots, performing as one. The oud, the electric guitar, the double bass, and the drums intermingled masterfully to reflect the originality of the compositions, and the blend of styles showcased the performers’ advanced technical skills.

Basma Jabr, member of Austrian-Arab band Orwa Saleh, sings at Amman Jazz Festival.

Another fine collaboration brought together pianist Rami Atallah from Egypt and saxophonist Nicolo Ricci, who teamed up for the occasion with two Jordanian performers: renowned guitarist Kamal Musallam and vocalist Hind Hamed. Leveraging Atallah’s Arab-inspired keyboard improvisations and Hamed’s vocal prowess and soothing notes, the group interpreted the epitome of Brazilian bossa nova, The Girl from Ipanema, and a warm rendition of jazz standard Stella by Starlight, cleverly demonstrating the possibilities of true jazz.

Evgeny Khmara from Ukraine not only thrilled with his stunning piano prowess, but he also put on a real visual and colorful show. His energy vibrated as he stood and even danced while performing. A broad smile and the dynamics of intricate musical patterns and massive chords won him enthusiastic audience participation for over 15 minutes, along with a thunderous round of applause. Seamlessly, he engaged the many Ukrainians in the audience to sing two folk tunes from their country. It was perhaps a “non-jazzy” moment, but certainly an enjoyable and lively one. Khmara’s unique stage presence was the most remarkable of the entire festival.

Hailing from the Netherlands, virtuoso guitarist Jan Wouter Oostenrijk contributed solo pieces influenced by the cultural heritage of North African Arab countries where he had found inspiration, as he explained. Here, too, the dominant style was jazz infused with oriental tunes and even musical scales and improvisational patterns (taqaseem). After a solo act, the guitarist was joined by Jordan’s Nasser Salameh on percussion instruments and Michelle Rounds, a singer from Australia who lives in Egypt.

Rounds delighted the audience with popular jazz-blues songs like Cry Me a River, Manha de Carnaval, and My Favorite Things. Her sense of rhythm and improvisation, impeccable tone, authentic sense for jazz, and — last but not least — creative wit enchanted the crowd. Speaking to Jordan News after her performance, the singer explained that late jazz diva Sarah Vaughan was one of her main influences.

Amman-based vocalist Hind Hamed sings during Amman Jazz Festival.

Italian group Motel Kaiju brought an utterly different musical montage with its energetic electro-pop fusion jazz mixes. The raw power of the sound sent waves through the younger part of the audience, and the ensemble honed in on strong 80s accents, channeling jazz great Chick Corea and the ska-pop British group Madness.

On the fourth day, the festival concluded with Zaman Al Zaatar, Ahmad Barakat, Jordan’s Ramz Sahuri, and the German band LBT. The Jordanian group was led by renowned bassist and talented jazzman Yacoub Abu Ghosh. The performance explored pieces by legendary Egyptian composer Mohammad Abdel Wahab and a potpourri of classic Arabic songs. They were joined by Brazilian trumpet master Gileno Santana, who also performed a whimsical version of Thelonious Monk’s jazz-blues standard ‘Round Midnight.

The group was also joined by popular Jordanian singer Ramz Sahuri, who interpreted three songs in Arabic. It was another non-jazzy but still satisfying moment.

Spanish musician Germán Lopez plays the timple during Amman Jazz Festival.

LBT, the final act, went techno all the way. The band included a pianist, a drummer, and a double bass player. Somewhat like Motel Kaiju, although following a slightly different thread of jazz, LBT was all about pure energy, rhythm, and strong beats. The trio’s technical skills were impressive: their impeccable timing and balance and the pristine sound quality gave the impression of listening to studio-recorded tracks, but live.

OrangeRed organized Amman Jazz Festival with the support of the embassies of Spain, Austria, Ukraine, the Netherlands, and Italy.

As an additional part of the festival’s activities, a performance was held in Fuheis on Sunday.

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