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Jordanian pianist kicks off 8th annual Amman Jazz Festival

By Jean-Claude Elias - Apr 20,2019 - Last updated at Apr 20,2019

Vocalist Michelle Rounds (centre) joins Jordanian jazz pianist Omar Faqir on stage during the launch of the annual Amman Jazz Festival, on Friday (Photo by Jean-Claude Elias)

AMMAN — Amman’s eighth annual jazz festival launched on Friday evening at Al Shams Theatre, with seasoned Jordanian jazz pianist Omar Faqir and his band delivering the festival’s first performance. Alongside the pianist was his brother Alaa on guitar and two guest musicians from Lebanon and Syria — Omar Harb on bass and Gio Najarian on drums.

Jazz vocalist Michelle Rounds joined the musicians on stage, demonstrating her typically daring scat technique. Rounds hails from Australia but resides in Egypt. This year, she is also the festival’s artistic director.

Faqir plays modern jazz, sometimes influenced by the great Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea. In a gesture that seemed to particularly please the audience on Friday, the band played a smartly “jazzified” rendition of the famous folkloric Arabic song “Wayn A Ramallah”, with Faqir giving long improvised solos to the drums, the bass and the guitar. The piece lends itself to jazz arrangements and rhythm, and is often performed at jazz concerts in Europe.

Upon introducing the group to the audience, Rounds admitted that “modern jazz is special, perhaps not really exclusive, but it is certainly a niche musical genre. If you are here tonight it only means that you really like it”. The audience comprised of an interesting 50-50 blend of Jordanians and foreign expatriates, gathered in their shared love of jazz music.

Speaking to The Jordan Times before the concert, Lama Hazboun from OrangeRed — the organisers of the festival — said: “We are really happy to be able to sustain the momentum, thanks to the many sponsors who are supporting the event, and of course to all the jazz lovers in Jordan who each year come to attend the concerts. This is the eighth annual Amman Jazz Festival in a row, we have not missed a single year, and we are looking forward to many more years to come”.

The festival will run until Tuesday, with musicians from Egypt, France, Australia, Switzerland, Syria, Lebanon, Germany, Ukraine, Spain and Sweden appearing.

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