Dhafer Youssef Quartet

When: Sunday, June 9
Time: 7 p.m. (doors open at 6)
Where: Jackson Theater, 4400 Day School Place, Santa Rosa

Tickets: $75 | $55 | $45 (Reserved seating)
10% discount for members starting at Jazz Supporter Level


Dhafer Youssef, a charismatic and mesmerizing oud player and singer from Tunisia, headlines the Healdsburg Jazz Festival with a top New York jazz rhythm section – drummer Marcus Gilmore and bassist Matt Brewer – and brilliant Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan. His journey to this musical destination has been a fascinating one. Born in 1967, he was destined to become a muezzin – religious singers tasked with incanting the five-times-a-day call to prayers in the Muslim world. Dhafer proved to be restless, however, and craved musical experiences beyond the Islamic. He took up the oud – an ancient string instrument related to the mandolin and banjo – and started playing professionally.

After studying at a conservatory in the capital city, Tunis, his restlessness propelled him to Austria to continue his musical education. This occurred, though, less in the academy than in the bars and clubs where he encountered top musicians from Austria and other parts of the world. He began releasing records in 1999 and steadily gained in acclaim as a prodigy capable of blending his explosive multi-octave voice and masterly oud skills with musicians capable of going in practically any direction.

In 2015 Dhafer was invited to perform at UNESCO’s International Jazz Day Concert in Paris where he found himself onstage with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. A year after that he recorded an album featuring a full cadre of American jazz stars – Diwan of Beauty and Odd, with pianist Aaron Parks, drummer Mark Guiliana, bassist Ben Williams, and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.

Dhafer is now a bona fide international music star. But what does this mean exactly? Dhafer combines instrumental and vocal virtuosity along with knowledge of North African musical traditions and an innate ability to find commonalities with his fellow artists. His concerts are typically ecstatic affairs constructed around grooves and modal rhythms that the leader instigates with subtle, passionate oud strumming and if the song calls for it dynamic vocalizations that rocket through the octaves. Because the music is largely improvised, the players know they will have to climb out on a musical high wire, and for fans open to it, that’s really where the thrills reside. Expect an extraordinary confluence of sounds at the Jackson.

Wine sponsors: Arbor Bench Vineyards, Landmark Vineyards and Miner Family Wines

Spirits sponsor: Don Julio and Ketel One