Stars at new jazz festival

SINGAPORE - Expect big names such as Jamie Cullum, Natalie Cole, India.Arie and Incognito when the Singapore International Jazz Festival makes its debut next year.

Called Sing Jazz for short, it is touted as Singapore's largest jazz festival that aims to appeal to a wide audience.

It has no link to two festivals of the same name that were held in the 1980s and in 2001.

The new event, which will take place at Marina Bay Sands from Feb 27 to March 2, features 18 acts from the genre's various forms.

They include those with commercial appeal such as Cullum, the British pop/jazz crossover singer who is set to open the festival at Marina Bay Sands' Grand Theatre on the first night.

His 2004 album Twentysomething made him the best-selling British jazz act of all time, and he has sold 10 million copies of his six albums, including this year's Momentum.

Grammy Award-winning American singers Cole and India.Arie will also perform.

Cole is the daughter of jazz and traditional pop legend Nat King Cole and an acclaimed singer in her own right. She has won nine Grammy Awards, including the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album award for her 2008 album, Still Unforgettable.

India.Arie, who has sold 10 million copies of her five albums, has won four Grammy Awards, including Best R&B Album for her 2002 release Voyage To India.

Two other British acts - acid jazz proponents Incognito, who performed last night at the festival's premiere launch at Marina Bay Sands, and jazz-funk foursome James Taylor Quartet - are also on the bill.

They are joined by Australian trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist James Morrison, home-grown singers Melissa Tham and Alemay Fernandez, as well as Singaporean maestro and Cultural Medallion recipient Jeremy Monteiro. Indonesian acts such as jazz/classical pianist Nita Aartsen and singer Glenn Fredly are also in the line-up.

The event was two years in the making, says Mr David Lyndon Smith, artistic director of festival organisers Orbis Festival Productions. "It was conceived by a group of jazz lovers who want to add to the growing and evolving jazz scene here."

The founding board members of the company include telco industry veteran Marshall Towe, Jr and Singapore's former ambassador to Russia, Mr Michael Tay. Former Singapore Arts Festival director Goh Ching Lee serves in the organising team as a festival advisor.

The event is supported by Marina Bay Sands and Indonesian festival Java Jazz, one of the region's premier jazz events which takes place in Jakarta every year.

Besides the 2,155-seat Grand Theatre, performances will also be held at the Sands Theatre, which can seat 1,679 people, and at the Event Plaza outdoors, which can hold up to 10,000 people.

True to the genre, the musicians will stage informal jamming and improvisational sessions.

Tickets are priced from $70 to $756 for a three-day VIP package. Early bird tickets are available till Jan 1.

Mr Smith, who is also the associate principal trumpet of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and a faculty member of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and School of the Arts, adds that the line-up reflects the width and scope of jazz.

"Mindful of how diverse jazz can be, we wanted to be sure that these entertainers would match what jazz lovers in Singapore and the region would want to watch and hear. This meant having a wide appeal but without losing the authenticity and personality of the various nuances of jazz."

The Straits Times is the official media of the Singapore International Jazz Festival.

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