Updated: Aug 2017 – If you have not yet attended one of Europe’s Smooth Jazz Festivals hosted by Smooth Entertainment, you are missing a truly amazing experience. Over the past four years, I’ve attended 11 festivals in four different countries. Once one is over, I can’t wait for the next one to come around. The newest addition to the lineup is the Smooth Jazz Festival on the Algarve in Portugal, and the next one will be September 26- October 1. You still have time to sign up!
Smooth Jazz on the Algarve in Portugal
Smooth Entertainment, headed up by German-duo, Christian Boesner and Sandra Hoffmann, hosts the best of smooth jazz artists worldwide. They pull some heavy hitters in Smooth Jazz who collaborate to create an unforgettable week-long experience. The past venues have been in Munich and Augsburg, Germany; Lago Maggiore, Italy; Mallorca, Spain; and 2016 saw the first Smooth Jazz Festival on the Algarve in Portugal.
The festivals range from 4-6 nights, starting with a dinner with the artists. There are local excursions you can take part in as well. The booking process is very easy and ‘Chinese-menu’ like, allowing you to pick and choose what you want to see and do. I can’t rave enough about the Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival, or any of the festivals, frankly. The festivals attract a rather sophisticated crowd eager and willing to spend up to a week in pampered, luxurious surroundings to enjoy their favorite genre of music. And Vila Vita Parc Resort was pure luxury.
Smooth Jazz Algarve Festival at Vila Vita Parc
The festival is located at 5* Vila Vita Parc, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World chain. The hotel is an amazing sprawl of 54 acres, perched on the Atlantic, with beautiful sea views, six bars, 10 restaurants, private villas, numerous pools and its own beach! Here’s a recap of what happens at the festival.
The Artist’s Dinner
The festival starts with a dinner with the artists the night before the festival begins. It’s a great chance to mingle, up close and personal with the artists in a very relaxed, chilled environment. It’s so cool to share a glass of wine and dinner with these performers, because you get to know them on a personal level. What are they working on? What’s inspiring them at the moment? In Portugal in 2016, we enjoyed the company of Vincent Ingala, Peter White and several members of the House Band. The performers are seated at different tables, so there are plenty of opportunities to dine with one of your favorites.
The artist’s dinner takes place on the airy, rustic terrace of Adega Restaurant, in the Vila Vita Parc Resort. Our four-course dinner started with massive amounts of unique regional tapas of cactus soup, local cured ham, fritters filled with meats and fish, huge garlic-shrimp, and slices of goats cheese and figs. Then, we dove into a lovely traditional Caldo Verde, a Portuguese soup made of cabbage, potato, and distinct, smoky sausage. We moved onto even more tasty treats of pork fillets with a white sweet potato accompaniment, then finished with an herb-infused gateau, with ice cream and wafer-like crunchy cookie.
We all agreed we could have easily stopped after the entree. There was just so much tasty food. The ambiance was even more special listening to local musicians play traditional songs, including music popular during the Carnation’s Revolution, Fado and others. It was such a beautiful, unique venue to meet old friends and new.
The Excursions are interesting
During the week, there are a variety of excursions: to Faro; to San Vicente – the furthest west part of Portugal, along with Lagos and Sagres; and we toured the Herdade dos Grous Winery in Alentejo where we took a hayride through the vineyards, pulled behind huge tractors. We had a lovely wine tasting while listening to smooth jazz.
The music venue itself is an air-conditioned marquis on the grounds of Vila Vita Parc. The weather is perfect in September, and when we weren’t on excursions, we were lingering by the infinity pool, or sipping cocktails laying on huge lounge chairs nestled in the pool. Some days, you needed to pry us off. It is such a decadent experience.
The Music Venue is Great
The acoustics are excellent for being in a marquis. As they stagger the seating, there isn’t a bad seat in the house, and the organizers know I like to get up, walk around and take photos. I am quite content on the end in the 2nd row. The music moves a lot of people to head to the back where you find the bar and plenty of space to dance, while not affecting the enjoyment of others – well except for maybe the bartenders, who think we are all crazy for liking this ‘elevator music.’
The Smooth Jazz Lineup
First up on Thursday was Vincent Ingala who is an amazing entertainer for his age! And what a great start to get things moving. This guy has a wide knowledge of practical playing. Having started to play music at the age of 4, and coming from musical parents, he records most of the instruments himself. This evening he played his usual tenor sax, guitar, drums, and sang. His talent is apparent and it’s said Vincent is going to be the next Dave Koz, with his ability to engage with the crowd. He’s definitely one to watch. He’s at Pizza Express in London once a year, so a great show. Unique note: One friend said he has underwear older than Vincent!
Peter White, the next act, is a veteran guitarist going back to the 70’s. As an Englishman, he was moved by this new group called, The Beatles. Well actually, he was in awe of all of the girls who were screaming AT The Beatles! He hoped that when he got established as a musician he’d have that same screaming success. Peter played songs going back to his first album, 20 years ago, as well as more recent works, and works composed by other artists. He has a smooth style to his guitar playing. Unique note: Peter’s shoe of choice? Sandals…
Friday night was Will Donato. This was the first I’d seen this sax player and his energy is over the top. You can tell Will plays to big crowds as he was freely mingling and talking to the crowd while playing. He had his first solo album in 2006 and has eight in total. Unique note: Will is 6 years cancer-free from throat cancer. He has teeth a dentist would love, manicured eyebrows that would make Liz Taylor weep and some say he looks like a young Liberace! Will’s new album is out now (Aug 2017) and boy is it a great one!
Matt Marshak was the guitar accompanist to Will on Friday night. I’d actually forgotten how much I love his sound. I’ve seen him play a couple of times. Matt’s a tiny guy with huge talent. He appears somewhat timid, but his music is nothing but. He plays guitar in a way that his music says what he’s feeling. While he’s only in his 30’s, he already has nine albums under his belt. Unique note: Matt is producing jazz-inspired furniture called, Rhythm and Home by Pulaski Furniture in North Carolina. He performed his tune, North Carolina, for the people who he loves there.
Eric Marienthal finished off Friday night. He’s a veteran on the fusion-jazz scene having played professionally since the 80’s. I’ve heard his name since the 90’s in Chicago, but this was the first time I had seen him live. He’s played with the likes of Elton John, Dionne Warwick, Billy Joel, Chick Corea, and Stevie Wonder to name a few. I love his smooth sax playing style, and he’s quite engaging with his stories for the audience.
So far, he’s up to 14 solo albums. I quite like seeing a sax player who uses a sax that looks like it’s the first one he every bought. Nothing assuming about it. Just great sound that comes out of a quality instrument. Unique note: He was asked by Billy Joel to play the sax for New York State of Mind. He’d never played it before and had little time to prepare. He played it for us Friday evening, and it sent chills up your spine.
Acclaimed bassist, Michael Manson, started off Saturday evening. Michael, a Chicago-born and bred musician has been playing since he was 14. His styles are R&B, contemporary jazz and a bit of gospel. He’s played with the likes of legendary George Duke and contemporaries such as Al Jarreau, Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright. Unique note: Michael is the founder and executive director of the Musical Arts Institute – a Chicago-based school for music instruction. Also, Michael appears to be possessed by demons when he plays. His facial expressions can be kind of scary, but he’s definitely into his music.
Finishing off Saturday, was trumpet great, Rick Braun. Rick first debuted in 1992, and I swear The Wave 94.7 radio station in California is where I first heard of him and Peter White. He’s toured with Tina Turner, Sade, Natalie Cole among others. He’s solo’d and collaborated on more than 20 albums, and below is one of the collaborations he did with Peter White that made it to #1.
Sunday began with flutist, Althea Rene. Not only had I never seen her play before, but I had never even heard of her! This woman is not only a flutist but she adds sounds in between her flute-playing. I don’t know how to describe it. She does vocal sounds to complement the breaths in between sounds. It’s strange and brilliant at the same time. Unique note: one of her flutes is encrusted with Swarovski stones! It looks like diamonds, and if my flute was adorned with that, my chin would either be the scabbiest or the smoothest, most exfoliated part of my body! When we chatted, she did mention she needs to protect her chin. Oh, and she used to be a cop in Detroit for 10 years! Yikes!
The festival closed on Sunday, with the brilliant pianist, David Benoit, who’s been playing since he was 13. David has more than 25 albums since his first album came out in 1987. He’s performed at the White House for three presidents and numerous other dignitaries. He’s been instrumental in collaborating with many of today’s artists. Unique note: In 1985, he recorded a cover of the Linus and Lucy song from Peanuts, which was originally composed by Vince Guaraldi. David’s version propelled the start of the Smooth Jazz genre. After the death of Peanuts‘ creator Charles Shulz in 2000, David produced a memorial album called, Here’s To You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years, and is responsible for performing the music for Peanuts in later specials. Below is his version of Linus and Lucy.
Every evening during the festival, there is an after party hosted by UK’s-own Richard Edwards. He plays the best dance tunes from the 80’s and up. It’s a great way to continue the evening until early in the morning. We can go absolutely crazy dancing and singing to tunes we grew up with.
Richard also has two weekly smooth jazz programs online: one is on Monday with Regina Records Radio at 19:00-21:00 UK time or 12-2pm Midwest US time, and on Tuesday nights, you can catch him at Gloucester FM from 21:00-23:00 UK time or 2 – 4pm Midwest US time.
Tickets are on sale now for the Smooth Jazz Festival in the Algarve in September 2017. My bags are already packed! Not to be missed. Come and join us!
If you are looking for other things to do to round out your week in the Algarve please be sure to check out my Top Sights to see in the Algarve for more suggestions.