In search of the beautiful moments of life there are always opportunities to hold it for a short time. One of those moments was the Smooth Jazz Festival, which first took place in Sa Coma, on the beautiful east coast of the Spanish island Mallorca. The exclusive ambience of the Protur Biomar Gran Hotel & Spa, a 5-star hotel was the awesome venue of this remarkable event.
Despite the not to be underestimated costs by air travel, hotel stay and tickets a surprisingly large number of smooth jazz fans participated in this highlight at this breathtaking place. All brought with them a good mood because they had the occasion to see many friends from last year. With world-class artists such as Uné, David Benoit, Jeff Lorber, Marc Antoine and Warren Hill did nothing to be desired.
Whom alone the appearance of the artist was not enough, could deepen the contact in intensive talks to his idol. Even the great weather, excellent food and fine drinks rounded out the well-being. The program of Friday night opened the agile saxophonist Eric Darius with Settin' In Off from his album On A Mission (2010). For photographers, it was a difficult task to keep him in the picture, because not only during this piece, but throughout the entire performance, he found himself in motion.
This emphasized particularly his performance and contributed to the success of his show and the general acceptance by the public. It is amazing that he was considering his youth in a position to keep up this pace throughout the entire performance. Eric explained his amazing stamina with his sporting activities he developed not only in college but still maintains.
He continued the show with Just For The Moment from his album Goin' All Out (2008). With his youthful, high-energy keenness he could easily ignite the enthusiasm of the audience. Butterfly was the opening track on Herbie Hancock's 1974's landmark CD Thrust. Eric shows his skills on the path of Bennie Maupin. Jazz was in the house.
With the reggae tune Back To My Roots Eric remembered his heritage. His father is from Haiti and his mother from Jamaica. Eric raised in Tampa but works now in the Bay area. With Kingston's Flavor he kept on the Caribbean excursion. Of course, he could not miss the title song of his album Goin 'All Out.
Next in line was the song If I Ain't Got You from his album Just Getting Started (2006). With this swinging waltz he flattered especially the ladies. Like other saxophonists, he loved a run through the crowd.
Even with his debut album Night On The Town (2004) he familiarized the listeners. He ended his concert with the song Slick. The applause was well deserved and long-lasting.
Headliner on Friday night was keyboard legend Jeff Lorber. Most of the readers will know Jeff Lorber as the exponent of smooth jazz. Smooth jazz oriented releases like West Side Stories (1994), State of Grace (1996), Midnight (1998), Kickin' It (2001), Philly Style (2003), the side project Shades Of Soul (2004), 2005's Grammy nominated Flipside, He Had A Hat (2007) and Heard That (2008) are a strong sign for these activities.
Friends of the fusion jazz mourned Lorber's departure from the jazz genre, he became known by his albums The Jeff Lorber Fusion (1977), Soft Space (1978), and Water Sign (1979). “We all had a vision of what we wanted this record to be,” said Lorber. “We wanted a return to the sound of the Jeff Lorber Fusion, but informed by everything I’ve learned since then. All of a sudden, people seem to be interested in hearing that again. They’re ready to hear musicians who can really play, really stretch the envelope with their technique, with their songwriting, and with harmonic structure.”
With his albums Now Is The Time (2010) and Galaxy (2012) he returned to fusion jazz much to the chagrin of the smooth jazz fans. This little trip to Lorber's discography is allowed in order to understand the key question. Would he perform on this Smooth Jazz Festival smooth jazz?
To answer the question: Lorber opened the show with Live Wire of his new album Galaxy (2012). Unlike on his new album that is still too soft washed for a few fusion fans, he searched at his concert more the fusion approach of his early years.
Follow-up was the tune Montserrat. Without string and horn arrangements just concentrated on his Yamaha Motif XF 7 the food seemed to some concert-goers too unwholesome. Those who preferred more smooth jazz were soon leaving the venue. The enthusiasts of Lorber's music remained and followed with suspense Lorber's keyboard runs.
They were rewarded with further masterpieces, such as Singaraja, Galaxy, Chinese Medicinal Herbs (originally on Water Sign and re-issued on Now Is The Time), He Had A Hat, Pacific Coast Highway (State Of Grace), The Underground and Pixel. The musicians were playing focused on a very high level. The lasting music connoisseurs were not sparing in their applause.
Saturday night was opened by local hero and guitar wonder Marc Antoine. A true gypsy by lineage and lifestyle, Marc Antoine is like a musical sponge, soaking in everything around him at all times. "If I'm walking in New York," he says, "and I hear a salsa band in a club nearby, I get in that mood and immediately start thinking of writing a tune in that style." His goal every year is simply to travel everywhere and anywhere his wanderlust and muse take him.
When you hear the name of a known artist, you associate a special style or music with this musician. Classical Soul (1994), Urban Gypsy (1995), Madrid (1998), Universal Language (2000), Cruisin’ (2001), The Very Best of Marc Antoine (2002), Mediterraneo (2003), Modern Times (2005), Hi-Lo Split (2007), and Foreign exchange (2009) are indices for Marc's Gypsy and Latin influenced contemporary jazz. With his latest album My Classical Way (2010) Marc leaves the contemporary jazz style and creates his music on classical themes.
His recent heart disease had him thrown a little off course and forced him to cancel a number of concerts. These physical impairments were not to observe on this event. He was in the old freshness and vigor.
Marc started his concert with On The Strip, a typical summer breeze from his album Cruisin' (2001). With his romantic Spanish guitar he quickly spellbounded his audience. The next song Latin Quarter from his album Urban Gypsy (1998) is certainly his signature hit, which still receives lots of airplay. A piece with a high recognition value. The audience was grooving with the infectious melody.
In his early 20's Claude Debussy wrote Reverie. Marc transforms this theme into Dreamer, the first presentation from his album My Classical Way (2010). Mas que Nada, Jorge Ben's world hit from his first album Samba Esquema Novo (1963), ignited the second stage rocket of general enthusiasm.
The song Spooky was new arranged by Buddy Buie and lead guitarist J.R.Cobb, both part of the group Classic IV and later as part of the group The Atlanta Rhythm Section. This song from the '60s found Antoine's relaxed expression. The second song from the album Hi-Lo Split (2007), the title tune was a jam tune in the spirit of the Spanish Flamenco school.
Classical Soul from Marc's legendary same titled album (1994) was another blissful song enthusing the listeners. Funky Picante from Mediterraneo had the same stunning impression. In the spirit of the best to last Marc enjoyed his fans with Sunland from his album Madrid (2003) . He finished the concert with the encore Spain, a new song he first performed at this festival accompanied by Warren Hill. Both have just recorded the song in Marc's studio for his upcoming album.
Marc developed during his concert a cozy atmosphere, where the audience clearly felt well. No wonder were in the audience also Marc's wife, Rebeca, and his son Alex, who together with Marc used the weekend for a short holiday. A great smooth jazz family.
Top act of Saturday night was saxophonist Warren Hill. Hailing from Toronto Canada Hill he graduated at Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music. After his move to Los Angeles he was lucky enough to release during the Golden Age of music business his solo albums Kiss Under the Moon (1991), Devotion (1993), Truth (1994), Shelter (1997), Life Thru Rose Colored Glasses (1998), Love Life (2000), Love Songs (2002), A Warren Hill Christmas (2002), PopJazz (2005) and La Dolce Vita (2008). The time between record releases were larger, which shows the decline of the record industry even with this artist.
I met Warren Hill at the height of his career in 2005, when he hosted the famous Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise for the last time. My enthusiasm for the genre, the artists and the amazing cruise are still be read in my report. So it was for me a special joy to see this great artist again.
In his youth Warren played as lead guitarist in a rock band. As child he was impressed by the super long white hair on the cover of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein. If you ever saw Edgar Winter performing this tune on sax and mini moog, you know, why Warren was infected. Frankenstein is a constant gem in his repertoire.
Warren continued with Play It Like You Mean It and Our First Dance. This song is dedicated to Warren Hill's wife and was played with great emotional impact. Highly recommended as Wedding song. Do You Feel What I Am Feeling from his album Truth has that romantic appeal of his early years.
Another Goodbye from his album Devotion is further song that has never lost its luster. The Latin tinged Mambo 2000 from Love Life reminded me of Carlos Santana's Oye Como Va. Try to catch the song, when Warren is joined by a good percussion player.
Still In Love, a sentimental grapy tune with a strong romantic mood, was Warren's testimony of love to his attending wife. With Gimme Some from his album Dolce Vita Warren heatened up the scene, before he ended his show with the energetic Skinny Dippin' from the same album.
A surprise guest at the show was Warren's young daughter Olivia. She performed God Bless The Child by Billie Holliday. An irresistible blend of youth and fresh jazzy professionalism. Watch the video at YouTube. Olivia has won many fans that night and received standing ovations. Also remarkable her second song Somewhere Over The Rainbow singing and playing on her Ukulele. Very touching! Don't forget to visit her website.
Hailing from Motor City Detroit came singer/songwriter UNÉ, who created the musical flow of Sunday midday. During his concert he revealed many details about his life. Encouraged by his mother to use his God given talent, he learned by self teaching to train his singing voice. After his move to L.A. he released his self-titled debut album.
Listening to his voice Luther Vandross or Curtis Mayfield come to mind. Far away from any stardom this man is down to the earth and a model of kindness. From his album he presented songs such as What You want To Do For Love, I Can Remember, Lady You Are, Fifth of September, Hit Da Shaw, You Complete Me. Emotional songs full of memories and passion.
Some of the songs he introduced with stories about his personal living, especially his relationship. Une states: “My goal is to make music that touches the very soul of a person and to take them on a journey with me on the byways of love or the passages of hurt. I want my music to be a spiritual ride we (the listener) both could share in.”
Tributes to his idols were the covers Sailing and Sexual Healing. With his Wake-up shouts he got the necessary attention of the listeners and was well supported by Eric Darius on the sax side.
|The little photo shy
David Benoit headlined the Sunday show starting with Kei's song.
Since launching his recording career in 1977, David Benoit’s expansive
career as a contemporary jazz pianist has included over 25 solo
recordings. David has dedicated this song to his wife Kei, with
which he is married since 27 years, and released it on his album
Freedom At Midnight (1987), considered as influential genre
classic. A slightly changed version is to find on his new album
As second song I found on the playlist New Creation. That was by the way the originally chosen title of David's album Earthglow. David remembered: "New Creation was suggested but as we began to discuss artwork and concept, the title seemed uninspired and lacking a theme. I went back and reviewed all the song titles and Earthglow jumped out at me. I believe it was the best word to illustrate the spirit of the project."
The show continued with Every Step Of The Way, a look back on his album from 1990. The song has nothing lost of its beauty. With Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Benoit presented his first song from his upcoming album Conversation. Benoit adapted the theme music from the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, composed by Theodore Shapiro and developed it to new heights. Not far away from the Charlie Brown themes Benoit's typical style.
Next in line was Letter To Evan, the title melody of the same-named album (1992). The title tune is composed by none other than the legendary Bill Evans. David adapted the song in a more acoustic set. Blue Rondo à la Turk is a jazz standard composition by Dave Brubeck. The main theme is performed in 9/8 rhythms using the classic rondo form of Mozart's Rondo alla Turca. David says: "This is a classic and rather than re-invent it, we stayed true to the original." Not easy to follow the original weird rhythm structure. But David did it all in perfection.
Freedom At Midnight is David's signature melody since his GRP debut album in 1987. The introduction and later the refrain are a magnificent take on Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata performed in the style he often did on many of his live shows since several years.
Final tune on David's concert was Botswana Bossa Nova from his album Earthglow (2010). Benoit commented: “I loved the world mix of exotic ethnic percussion, African voices along with Brazilian beats..." Connoisseurs of Benoit's music will certainly recognize the seamless continuation of the style of his earlier period. A great initiator for this impression is David's genius working on Quincy Jones' Soul Bossa Nova, a song of timeless attraction.
David was accompanied by star musicians Eric Darius, Warren Hill and Marc Antoine in the tradition of previous Smooth Jazz Festivals. Musical backbone of this festival was a German band consisting of keyboardist and musical director Lutz Deterra, bassist Günter Asbeck, drummer Heiko Braun, guitarist Martin Feske and saxophonist Michael Hügel. They assured with great commitment, loyalty to the tune and musical perfection the success of the festival.
I have good news for those, who missed this grandiose event and for those, who would like to come for a second time. Promoter Christian Bößner and the local management of Protur Biomar Gran Hotel & Spa will invite you to the 2nd Annual Smooth Jazz Festival Mallorca next year.