Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kuwait Jazz: Tiny Steps

In 1960, John Coltrane released one of his most famous albums, "Giant Steps". The title track features some of the most complex chord changes, hence the name. The term also is a marketing strategy to announce leaps in the jazz world.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong uttered the famous words upon landing on the moon: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

In Kuwait however, we have tiny steps.

These steps have occurred sporadically and without pattern; I have delved on issues on the local jazz scene in the past... and as part of the Jazz Journalists Association's blogathon on Jazz Day, April 13, I have decided to discuss the issues of the local jazz community.

I have not been able to get much information about jazz in the past history of the country; I will however delve into recent events.

The longest running jazz event in Kuwait has been the Gulf Jazz Festival; it's 7 years running... I reviewed the 2011 show, which can be found [here].

It was a hotly debated matter; about how jazz is seen as upscale background music for the social elite, willing to fork over loads of money for a classy buffet.

with Karen Edwards

However an opposite side was when the Chris Byars/Avi Roland jazz band performed at the 360 Mall last year. My review is [here].

with Chris Byars

And just this week I went to the Coco York & Mike Del Ferro jazz performance at the US Embassy. The review is [here].

There have also been several lounge jazz acts; mostly a one man show or a vocal/piano duo.

There's also the Kuwait Jazz Trio, who have found success with corporate events.

But what does this all mean on the ground?

Jazz is still a fairy new concept; due to local laws on performance, and the still shy acceptability and small fanbase, jazz is not easy to find. Let's not also also forget that there are no respectable music stores that sell jazz records; and even when Virgin Megastore was open they had a pathetic selection.

Some strides have been taken though; I have met several musicians who are avid players and fans of jazz yet they don't have a band or venue to perform. And to those who have, tend to play things they don't like due to the requests given to them.

I have organized the Blend Music Festival last month under my new initiative Avant-Garde Music Projects. And in that show I performed alongside a great group of musicians, 3 jazz standards: "so What" - Miles Davis, "Blue Train" - John Coltrane, and "Moanin" - Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.

Since then I have been contacted by many artists who want to listen to jazz, and to perform and introduced themselves as players.

There definitely is a sort of curiosity when it comes to jazz; some view it as background music for corporate events, and others as a great art form for self-expression.

With the internet and social networking massively bringing worlds together, there might be more possibilities to bring jazz to a wider audience.

Happy Jazz Day!


  1. not a fan of jazz myself but i appreciate the effort ur trying to do in kuwait! because honestly between going to a jazz concert or anything else of they call music here i would definitely choose jazz! keep up the good work and spread the music in kuwait

  2.  Thanks Jeff! Very kind of you :)

  3. Jeff, those may seem like tiny steps to you, but I believe you're sowing some significant seeds! Keep up the good work and the cool music. I was in Jordan last spring and met jazz musicians there who talked to me about the local scene and the regional scene -- wouldn't it be great if making music as jazz musicians do caught on? How about reaching out to the elite of college age, do they have interest? 


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