Last updated: April 29, 2013

The definitive guide to jazz in the Middle East

Banner Icon Where do the Middle Eastern jazz aficionados go these days? Here’s a guide to the best places to enjoy jazz in the Middle East.

Cairo

Cairo Jazz Club, 197, 26th July St.Agouza. http://www.cairojazzclub.com
The Cairo Jazz Club has maintained its status over the years as one of Cairo’s most popular hotspots. You can always tell it’s a good night at the Jazz Club by the number of cars double-parking and backing up traffic outside. Perhaps calling it a jazz club is a little bit misleading as the venue has a very eclectic schedule of performances and DJ’s, but the Saturday and Sunday nights are definitely jazzy all the way. Local jazz virtuosi such as Sahara, Bashir and El Door El Awal play weekends and big-name performers such as Yehia Khalil and Wust El Balad also make regular appearances at the club.

The Cairo Jazz Festival. 21-23 March 2013, Al Azhar Park. http://www.cairojazzfest.com
In 2009 the first annual Cairo Jazz Festival was founded by three Egyptian jazz musicians,  bassist Samer George, pianist Amro Salah and vocalist, Ahmed Harfoush. Cairo Jazz Festival aims to put jazz in the spotlight and wants it to reach a bigger and more diverse audience. In the past, the festival has hosted a variety of artists like the Lebanese composer Ziad al-Rahbani, the Japanese pianist Makoto Kuryia, the Carles Benavent Quartet from Spain and the American Royal Crown Revue. In addition to the many musical performances, the CJF organizes many jazz-related activities such as jam sessions, workshops and master classes. There is also a special programme for children called "Jazzinino", which aims to introduce Jazz to young children and lets them experience the feel of "being on stage" together with professional artists. At late hours, Jazz performances are held at Cairo Jazz Club in an intimate Jazzy atmosphere.

Amman

Harry’s place Jazz bar at the Bristol Hotel: Abdoun Al-Shamali, Abdoun, Amman.
Situated on the roof of the Bristol Hotel, Harrry’s place offers a unique view over Amman, a rich décor, and sumptuous food. With live music on most evenings, Harry’s place is a great spot to enjoy some jazz in the Jordanian capital.

Amman Jazz festival, April 2013: www.facebook.com/AmmanJazzFestival.
The Amman Jazz Festival will be held in April this year, and welcomes jazz musicians from all over the world, and hosts performances at several venues in Amman and Jordan. From avant-garde jazz to fusion, from crossover to soul, from latin, Afro – Cuban to European jazz, the Amman Jazz Festival caters for all tastes.  

Canvas café&restaurant: Jabal Luweibdeh, Amman. www.facebook.com/canvasjordan.
Canvas café and restaurant, situated in the arty Jabal Luweibdeh neighbourhood of Amman, is also an art lounge and a music venue and its laid back atmosphere and diverse entertainment attracts a young and cosmopolitan crowd. Tuesday night is Jazz Night, with the Yavoub Abu Ghosh Jazz Fusion Quartet playing from 9pm until late. Canvas also hosts special live jazz performaces throughout the year.

Corner’s Pub: Corner’s B&B, Jabal Amman, 2nd Circle, 11181 Amman.
Monday nights are Jazz Nights at the Corner Pub in Amman with the Yavoub Abu Ghosh Jazz Fusion Quartet playing live music. It is a very popular evening so do make a reservation  to secure a place to sit!

Beirut

Mojo Club: Rbeiz building, Hamra Street, Beirut. www.mojo-beirut.com/club.html.
The Mojo Club was established specifically to promote live jazz and blues music in Lebanon. The club, situated in the heart of Hamra Street, has hosted a variety of musical performances from within Lebanon and abroad, such as Chick Corea, Mike Stern and Sonny Fortune. Usually, the visiting artists are backed by resident musicians, creating a true ”East meets West” experience.

Razz’zz Jazz Club& Restaurant: Weaver’s Centre, Clemenceau main street, Beirut.
Though it features a lovely summer terrace and serves some great Armenian dishes, the Razz’zz is not just a nice restaurant, it is a bona-fide jazz club too. The distinctive green double bass that dominates the place leaves you in no doubt as to the theme of the restaurant, providing a funky background for the local and foreign jazz bands that take the stage every night.

Beirut Jazz Festival: Beirut Souks. www.beirutsouks.com.lb.
The Beirut Jazz Festival, now in its fifth year running, takes place right in the middle of the city centre’s shopping area, the Beirut Souks. Usually organized in September, the festival features a wide variety of jazz styles and different artists from Lebanon and abroad. In the past years, the line-up has included names such as the Rahob Abu Khalil Group, Marcus Miller, Toufic Farroukh and Charlie Winston. Tickets are usually available at the Virgin Megastore.

Bar Louie: Gourad Street, Gemayzeh, Beirut.
One of the first pubs to open in the Gemmayzeh area, bar Louie is a relaxed bar/restaurant with a great mix of local and international cuisine. The evenings are dedicated to jazz, with a live band playing all kinds of jazz music, blues and even some latin jazz. For an impression of Bar Louie’s jazz nights: http://www.youtube.com/user/BarLouieBeirut

Blue Note Café: Makhoul street - next to AUB. www.bluenotecafe.com/index.html.
Situated on Hamra Street, right in the middle of Beirut’s nightlife, The Blue Note Café hosts a selection of local and international jazz celebrities and musicians every week. Famous artists like Sonny Fortune, Charles Davis, Andrew Hill, Chico Freeman, Eddy King, Ziad Rahbani and Charbel Rouhana have all played on the Blue Note stage. With its laid-back atmosphere and its great menu of oriental and international specialities, the Blue Note Café unfailingly attracts a big crowd of students, celebrities, tourists and locals.

Jerusalem

Artel Jazz Cub: Russian Compound, Heleni Hamalka 9, Jerusalem.
Albeit Jerusalem’s first Jazz Club, the Artel Jazz Club is a modern and trendy venue. The club has a casual, unpretentious atmosphere, great pub-food and the live performances attract a steady audience of jazz lovers. The music starts at 10pm, but come early to enjoy the happy hour drink specials!

Jazz Globus Festival: http://www.jazzglobus.com/en.
Founded in 2003, Jazz Globus is the Jerusalem Festival for jazz and alternative music. Usually hosted in December, the festival programme is dedicated to a specific musical theme or the memory of an outstanding jazz musician. Israeli and foreign musicians play classical, experimental, electronic and ethnic jazz at five concerts. Among the participants have been such performers as the famous American singer Anita King, Guenter Sommer, Kari Ikonen, the ethno-jazz quarter Modus from Switzerland, and the Israeli-Swedish quartet Nybakat. Tickets available from the online ticket box on the website.

Pargod Theatre: 94 Bezalel Street, Jerusalem.
This theatre organizes live jazz concerts, Friday afternoons from 2.30 until 5.30.

Sol: 15 Shlomzion HaMalka St New City.
Bar and tapas restaurant, this trendy venue has live jazz evenings on Mondays.

Dubai

Dubai Jazz Festival: Festival Park, Dubai.
Responding to what they saw as a gap in the jazz-market in the Gulf, the organisers behind the Dubai Jazz Festival first started out in 2003. Now grown to an annual occasion featuring world class performers, the festival covers all genres of jazz music as diverse as blues, funk, swing, acid, rock, contemporary, modern, and fusion.

Blue Bar: Novotel World Trade Centre Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai.
Blue Bar is Dubai’s one authentic jazz and blues bar, and showcases some genuine local talent.  Located on the ground floor of the Novotel Blue Bar combines fashionable decor, a remarkable selection of cigars and an unusually wide variety of draught Belgian beers. Not every night is live music night though, so make sure to check if anything is scheduled before you go.

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Goos Hofstee
Goos is a freelance journalist based in London and Cairo. She writes regularly for Your Middle East.
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