Closing the night were Acoustic Alchemy, the legendary guitar duo that helped shaping the whole genre. Leader Greg Carmichael along will fellow guitarist Miles Gilderdale were in fine form, the band consisted of Gary Grainger on bass and Greg Grainger on drums, plus Anthony White on keys. Celebrating 30 years as a band, they went through several of their classic songs like "Mr. Chow" and many others, delivering tons of great solos on acoustic and electric guitars, propelled by a top-notch band. For the last two songs, saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa joined the band. Their catalog stood the test of time well and it was a joy to witness those musicians playing their songs with aplomb and finesse.
Sunday night started with violinist Ken Ford, being supported by Heiko Braun on drums, Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass and Oli Silk on keyboards. He kicked off his show with "State Of Mind", providing some great violin playing and energetic stage presence, moving all across the stage constantly. He did a cool rendition of Stevie Wonder's "All I Do", before he got really serious with Kool & The Gang's "Summer Madness", pulling all the stops. Another highlight was Ramsey Lewis' "Sun Goddess", another musical milestone he did ample justice, with a great solo by Oli Silk in the spirit of the original. A few more songs from his catalog, among them "Butter", plus a stroll into the audience which led to the conclusion of the show, the inevitable "Moments In Love" which has become his trademark song. This was a high energy show by a great and entertaining player.
The second show on Sunday morning featured two veterans of the scene, keyboardist Alex Bugnon and drummer Harvey Mason, backed by Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass, Lutz Deterra on keys, plus special guest Miguel Ramon on saxophone. They started with "Take Five", followed by "The World Is A Ghetto", before they funked it up with Herbie Hancock's "Actual Proof", perfect material for those veteran players that represent the 70ies jazz-funk period well. A highlight of the show was Alex Bugnon's heartfelt rendition of "A House Is Not A Home" that pulled all the stops. Another good one was his Funkadelic/Parliament medley, showing where his musical heart lies. Harvey Mason not only provided a rock solid backdrop, he delivered several awesome drum solos exploring the sounds of his instrument in all directions. They funked it up with "Watermelon Man", done in a decidedly Headhunters style with some funky bass by Orefo Orakwue, finishing their show with Grover Washington Jr.'s "Mr. Magic" featuring the sax of Miguel Ramon. They returned for an encore, doing Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon", another track where Harvey Mason played on the original recording. This was an outstanding show by two excellent players offering lots of improvisation and interplay.
Sunday morning, saxophonist Grace Kelly appeared, her band consisted of Marcus Finnie on drums, Marius Goldhammer on bass, Christof Lindner on guitar, Lutz Deterra on keys, plus special guest Brian Simpson on keyboards for a couple of songs. She brought things nicely up to speed with her rendition of the Michael Jackson classic "Billy Jean" and a funked up version of "Summertime", before she featured her voice to sing songs like "Trying to Figure It Out" from her latest CD and the beautiful, introspective "Touched By An Angel". She showed her affection with current pop music in the following segment of her show, doing an instrumental cover of Sia's "Chandlelier", then singing Coldplay's "Magic" which was not exactly my cup of tea. Anyway, she more than made up for it with the lively instrumental "Lemon's Make Lemonade" that had a nice Sadao Watanabe feeling, and the encore, a great version of "Georgia On My Mind", finishing an entertaining and varied show.
Guitarist Norman Brown needs no introduction, he has not only a string of solo albums, but also a few successful collaboration projects with BWB, West Coast Jam and others. With a brand new CD just out, he was ready to play. His band consisted of Marcus Finnie on drums, Marius Goldhammer on bass, Christof Lindner on guitar, Lutz Deterra on keys, plus Brian Simpson on keyboards. His enthusiastic high energy playing drew the crowd right in. He went through songs like "Better Days Ahead", "After The Storm", "For The Love Of You" and more, an especially enjoyable part of the show was when he paid tribute to his influences, playing some Jim Hendrix, followed by Wes Montgomery ("Bumpin' On Sunset") and George Benson ("This Masquerade"). He played a couple of songs from his new release Let It Go, "It Keeps Coming Back", a groovy track boasting his typical guitar style, and a solo cover of Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror" that was a nice change of pace. He finished his set with "That's The Way Love Goes" having people off their seats, an encore was requested and given with Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", leaving a satisfied crowd.
Saturday night, saxophonist and flutist Nelson Rangell did his show, his band consisted of Heiko Braun on drums, Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass and Oli Silk on keyboards. He opened his show full steam with Stevie Wonder's "Another Star" playing with unbridled passion and flawless technique, before he did one of his own compositions, kicking things up again with EWF's "Can't Hide Love". Things slowed down with Earl Klugh's "Vonetta" beautifully played on the flute, and the awesome Hampton Hawes track "Sonora" that was perfectly whistled, plus a nice solo on the piccolo flute. Another highlight was Chick Corea's "Spain" played on the flute, with a great acoustic solo by Mark Jaimes. Later he played "Turning Night Into Day", one of his big hits during his stint with GRP Records. They finished the show with the Crusaders classic "Put It Where You Want It". This was a very fine show by a consummate artist.
Next was Canadian saxophonist Warren Hill, his band consisted of Heiko Braun on drums, Mark Jaimes on guitar, Orefo Orakwue on bass and Oli Silk on keyboards, he kicked off his show with the Beatles classic "Come Together", followed by a string of his own compositions, especially "Mambo 2000" raised the heat considerably and is always a joy to listen to, while the "Passion Theme" slowed things down nicely. Another highlight was his cover of Foreigner's "I Wanna Know What Love Is", soulfully sung by his daughter Olivia Rox who joined her dad as a surprise guest. After this one, she sung one of her own songs that soon will be released on her first CD. They kept on rocking with Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" and Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog", before they closed the show with the inevitable "Play That Funky Music" having everybody getting off their seats. What a great show this was!
Friday night, keyboardist Brian Simpson was playing, he was supported by Marcus Finnie on drums, Marius Goldhammer on bass, Christof Lindner on guitar, Lutz Deterra on keys, plus Rene Junior on sax, a young player from the Czech Republic that contacted Brian Simpson three weeks before the show and was allowed to sit in. The band went through a string of Brian Simpson's hits, among them "Persuasion" and others, with lots of great solos by all involved, especially Rene Junior blended in well with his soulful, smooth tenor sax playing. During the last groovy song people got up to dance, a bunch of girls went onto the stage to dance along Brian, when an enthusiastic male fan joined in and stole the show with his expressive dancing, ending an entertaining set.
The 6th annual Smooth Jazz Festival Mallorca kicked off with the Smooth Jazz All-Stars, a show that unites most of the players of the festival on one stage. The event usually is held in the unfinished church Església Nova in Son Servera open air, but due to some unexpected cold and rainy weather, it took place at the festival's main venue, the 5-star Protur Biomar Gran Hotel & Spa, which was fine with me.
The show was hosted by keyboardist Brian Simpson, they opened the concert with all players on stage, before the individual players were featured in smaller settings, supported by the festival band consisting of keyboardist Lutz Deterra, bassist Marius Goldhammer, drummer Heiko Braun and guitarist Christof Lindner. The drum seat changed frequently, adding in Marcus Finnie and the legendary Harvey Mason, both playing several nice solos. We got an incredible variety of music, each of the players brought his own style to the table, particularly enjoyable were the young Grace Kelly with her energetic playing, funking up "Amazing Grace", and saxophonist and flutist Nelson Rangell delivering an awesome rendition of Hampton Hawes' "Sonora", whistling and piccolo flute included, with a great solo by Alex Bugnon. Violonist Ken Ford brought the house down with the EWF classic "Can't Hide Love", while Alex Bugnon scored with his own classic "107° In The Shade", recreating a great 70ies jazz-funk feeling. Jeff Kashiwa played some beautiful tenor, while Warren Hill took the Beatles' classic "Hey Jude" to the next level, with some audience participation. Guitarist Norman Brown delivered "On Broadway" in style, with a nod to George Benson. The show concluded with the funky Hancock classic "Chameleon", having all players on stage, bringing a great show to a rousing end.
This was a great festival start, lots of more great shows ahead!
The closing concert of the festival traditionally took place at the Scottish Rite Cathedral with Kirk Whalum's Gospel According To Jazz Celebration featuring Kevin Whalum, Doxa Gospel Ensemble, Lindsey Webster, Tamika Patton plus special guest Fred Hammond. The band consisted of Kevin Turner on guitar, Marcus Finnie on drums, Braylon Lacy on bass and musical director John Stoddart on keys and vocals. This event has become a festival favourite and always sells out. The band started out with "Do You Feel It" and an instrumental that gave each member some solo time, before the singers came out, first Kevin Whalum did "Somebody, Somewhere", before Lindsey Webster and Tamika Patton each did a great song, then it was time for the main guest Fred Hammond to take over with a string of his hits, plus some preaching in between songs. The night was concluded with the rousing "Love Is The Answer" joining all the artists for the finale, having everybody on their feet.