Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival 2018: Peter White

The last show of the festival was done by guitarist Peter White who been part of these festivals since the beginning. He was supported by Oli Silk on keyboards, Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass, Andrew Small on drums, plus Rocco Ventrella on saxophone. The band played like clockwork and provided the perfect backdrop to the acoustic guitar of the leader. Peter White went through a string of his own material like "San Diego", and the great "Bueno Funk", plus lots of covers like the inevitable "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", "Do I Do" and "Groovin", especially notable was a solo rendition of the Beatles' "Here, There And Everywhere" and an duet with special guest Marc Antoine on acoustic guitar. Another personal highlight was the beautiful "Perfect Moment" which was pure magic. Every member had several chances to solo, especially Rocco Ventrella did a splendid job on sax. This show was a highlight of the festival, providing sophisticated entertainment on the highest level.

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Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival 2018: Lin Rountree

Trumpet player Lin Rountree opened the Sunday noon concerts with his show, his band consisted of Lutz Deterra on keyboards, Christoph Lindner on guitar, Andrew Tolman on bass and Marcus Finnie in drums. He went through a strings of his songs like "Soulfunky" and "Pass The Groove" featuring his soulful trumpet playing. Several members of the band got ample solo space, keeping the funky groove going strong. Everybody had a blast, and this is an artist to watch.

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Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival 2018: Paul Taylor

After the intermission, saxophonist Paul Taylor took over, he was accompanied by Oli Silk on keyboards, Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass and Andrew Small on drums. The band played beautifully and laid down a thick carpet of grooves over which Paul Taylor played his sweet and sensuous saxophone lines. He alternated between alto and soprano saxophone and treated the crowed with tracks like "Crossroads" and "Luxe" among others, immersing the audience in a steady stream of smooth sax tracks. He did a stroll through the audience and invited a bunch of female dancers on stage to join him for "Ladies' Choice", which was fun. He was asked for an encore and delivered the highlight for me, a groovy cover of Ronnie Laws' "Always There", kicking things up a notch.

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Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival 2018: Brian Bromberg

Saturday night, bassist Brian Bromberg performed some of his own material, his band consisted of Lutz Deterra on keyboards, Christoph Lindner on guitar and Marcus Finnie on drums. He opened his show with a couple of tracks from his current release Thicker Than Water, among the tunes performed was the breezy "Changes" which was played on a specially tuned piccolo bass, giving Brian the opportunity to play the melody on a higher pitched instrument. For his radio hit "Coupe De Ville", he invited saxophonist Michael Lington to the stage. Things slowed down for the beautiful "Your Eyes", before trumpet player Lin Rountree joined in to provide some great trumpet playing. The show had a cool laid-back vibe despite the often funky bass playing and was wrapped up with a special cover of B-52's "Love Shack", showing what a consummate artist Brian Bromberg is.

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Saxophonist Michael Lington was next, he was accompanied by Lutz Deterra on keyboards, Christoph Lindner on guitar, Andrew Tolman on bass and Marcus Finnie on drums. He went through some of his own material from his Second Nature release like "Midnight Drive" and others, then he did a nice cover of the Beatles classic "Eleanor Rigby" which was a bit funked up. My personal highlight was his soulful rendition of "Everything Must Change" with guitarist Norman Brown joining in. Another nice one was the throwback to the late 70ies with "Baker Street" where he also took over the vocal chores. For the grande finale, he invited trumpet players Matthias Beckmann and Lin Rountree plus saxophonist Rocco Ventrella on stage to do an ultra-funky version of the AWB's "Pick Up The Pieces" with hot solos by all involved. They returned for an encore, doing the very nice Kenny Loggins classic "Danny's Song" that brought a great concert to a close.

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Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival 2018: Marc Antoine

Saturday at noon, guitarist Marc Antoine performed, he was backed by Oli Silk on keyboards, Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass and Andrew Small on drums. He kicked off his set with "Mas Que Nada" before he played some of his own material. One of the highlights was the hard hitting "Latin Haze", a track by Oli Silk where he guested on the album. Then his first guest, Michael Lington on saxophone, joined him for one song, before he went on with "Caminando", a big radio hit from his collaboration with pianist David Benoit. Another highlight was the guest appearance of young trumpet player Matthias Beckmann, who was invited onto the stage spontaneously and did a great job with a heartfelt solo. Nice was also the contribution of saxophonist Rocco Ventrella, who added some hot sax playing. This was a very entertaining show by a consummate artist supported by a bunch of world class players.

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Algarve Smooth Jazz Festival 2018: Norman Brown

Next was guitarist supreme Norman Brown, he was accompanied by Lutz Deterra and Oli Silk on keys, Christoph Lindner on guitar, Marcus Finnie on drums and Andrew Tolman on bass. Being eager to play, he went through a strings of hits like "After The Storm" and "Westcoast Cooling" having the audience in the palm of his hand right from the start. In the middle of the set, he slowed it down with a solo guitar medley sitting at the edge of the stage, going through a Michael Jackson song and -  while being in the mood - finishing with some Christmas carols, having some adoring fans in front of him. He continued with more classics, like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and "That's How Love Goes", having people get up, culminating in some P-Funk to wrap it up in style. This was one of the best shows so far.

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Friday night, singer Lindsey Webster and musical partner Keith Slattery did their show, the band consisted of Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass and Andrew Small on drums. They started out with a laid back vibe and built up the groove nicely, creating a loose party spirit allowing things to happen spontaneously, giving every member of the band plenty of time to solo, which was cool. Lindsey Webster paid tribute to some great singers doing Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" with saxophonist Michael Lington guesting and Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman", which went down very well with the crowd, plus one song by Jill Scott. Another highlight was her rendition of "Over The Rainbow" done in parts acapella that kept the crowd in awe. She closed the show with some own current material, leaving a satisfied audience.

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Next were the legendary Jeff Lorber Fusion, led by keyboardist Jeff Lorber, plus Jimmy Haslip on bass, Steve Hass on drums and Andy Snitzer on sax, who came just off the Paul Simon tour and was able to join the band again. The band was tight as hell and went through several tracks from their Grammy winning Prototype album, providing ample solo space for all members. It was a joy to see these master musicians deliver this complex yet ultra-groovy music, with the whole band morphing into a cohesive jazz-funk machine, lifting the music to another level. They finished their great show with "Tune 88", opened by a soulful gospel intro on keys, before the familiar melody kicked in. This show was a true highlight of the festival for me.

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Thursday night, the festival continued with saxophonist Rocco Ventrella from Bari, Italy. This player has been part of the festival for many years participating in the jams and guesting at other's shows, eventually was able to do his own show this year. He was supported by Lutz Deterra on keys, Christoph Lindner on guitar, Andrew Tolman on bass, and Marcus Finne on drums. The band was cooking, and they went right into it with a few songs from his brand new release Keep In Touch. Among the songs played were "See You Smile" and "Let's Funk", where trumpet player Matthias Beckmann guested, before his lovely wife Ilaria De Robertis joined the stage to sing "Quando, Quando", the show continued with some more great songs like a heartfelt slow track he wrote when his daughter Margarita was born three years ago which went down very well with the crowd. Ilaria De Robertis came back once more do sing "Yah Mo B There", a great cover version of the Quincy Jones classic. They wrapped up the show with the seminal Grover track "Winelight", leaving a satisfied crowd. Rocco Ventrella has definitely joined the upper ranks of the smooth jazz world!

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