The 5th Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg (7th if you count those in Bregenz and Munich that preceded it) took place at the Parktheater at the Kurhaus Göggingen in Augsburg, Germany. This year, the festival was slightly extended, beginning Thursday night, giving us one more evening of music compared to previous years. The festival has matured nicely and Christian Bössner, the man behind the event, is improving it every year. Fans from all across Europe and the US came in droves to see some of the best smooth jazz players on the scene, and this year's lineup was excellent as ever. The US players were supported by musical director Lutz Deterra on keys, Andy Pilger on drums, Günter Asbeck on bass and Martin Feske on guitar, the tried and tested band that is working hard during the festival to back up all the featured artists.
Thursday night, the festival was kicked off by guitarist Chris Standring, a British player who now resides in the US, having a successful career with a string of solo albums and a bunch of number #1 hits over the years, his playing is jazzy, soulful and intelligent, with a lot of depth, still it is funky and groovy, definitely not your usual smooth jazz fodder. After a bluesy tune, the did "Scatterfunk" from his current CD Don't Talk, Dance, featuring some cool wah-wah guitar, followed by the current single "Sneakin' Out The Front Door" that kept the funky groove going. Things slowed down with the introspective "Sunrise" from the Blue Bolero album, which provided a highlight for me. The pace picked up with "Oliver's Twist", a funky bossa nova with a catchy melody. He concluded his show with the beautiful "Constellation", a jazz-funk track from the Soul Express album, plus one more ultra-funky track, finishing a very entertaining show.
After an intermission, saxophonists Marion Meadows and Paul Taylor took over, despite the fact that each has his own inimitable style, they blended very well together. They opened their show together with a slamming track, after that, Paul Taylor did "Supernova" from his current Tenacity album, followed by Marion Meadows doing one of his mellow instrumentals on the soprano which was graced by an extended solo on acoustic guitar by Martin Feske. For the next song, special guest Chris Standring on guitar and Bob Baldwin on keyboards joined the band, funking things up considerably. Paul Taylor did his own "Tenacity", followed by his classic "Pleasure Seeker", featuring his sweet soprano saxophone. Then Marion Meadows took over again, before the groove picked up with a great funky track with a memorable hook that featured both players, plus a burning guitar solo by Martin Feske who was in a great playing mood. Paul Taylor did his "Horizon" from Prime Time, including an extended drum solo by Andy Pilger that was off the hook. They returned for one encore, adding Chris Standring to the band, having people dance in the aisles. This was a very good show that started the festival in style.