Tag Archives: bavaria

End of Year Soul, Funk & Jazz Party: The Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg 2016

So, here’s a first: before this winter I’d never been to a festival which stretches across two different years. The long-established Smooth Jazz Festival in the Bavarian tow of Augsburg, Germany, ran from 29 December 2016 until 1 January 2017 and I had discovered it only recently as I was heading back to my hometown for the Christmas holidays. It was also a first as I’d never been to a smooth jazz event before. It turns out, just like in the Americana and folk music scene, which I usually write about, there are excellent performers and dedicated followers in this genre, too, and I met lots of super friendly folks.

smooth-jazz-1

The first gig I attended was held at the impressive Kurhaus Parkheater in the suburb of Göggingen. Originally built in 1886, it almost completely burned down in 1972 and was largely forgotten until it was restored to its former glory and reopened in 1996. Hailing from Fresno, California, and trained at the renowned Berklee College of Music, saxophonist Jeanette Harris treated us to favourites from her two recent albums ‘Chocolate Vibez’ and ‘Summer Rain’, among other compositions. I have to admit that purely instrumental music is normally not so much my thing, but listening to any musician who is a master of their chosen instrument is always a treat and this set as well as the acoustics in the venue were pitch-perfect. I would have loved to stay for the next act, UK smooth jazz veterans Shakatak, which I later heard did a great show, but I was feeling really under the weather with a bad cold and annoyingly had to call it a night at that point. Oh, well.

Sadly, the cold also made me miss Brian Bromberg, Oli Silk and JJ Sansaverino the following night, but I was all the more excited for the concert at the Dorint Hotel on New Year’s Day. Another first, as I’d never been at a festival on the first day of a new year. The lunchtime concert opened with US jazz, soul and R&B singer Lindsey Webster supported by her husband Keith Slattery on keys and joined by the excellent smooth jazz ‘house band’ with Heiko Braun on drums, Mark Jaimes on guitar and Marius Goldhammer on bass (Lutz Deterra, on keyboard, completed the band for the second part of the afternoon). Lindsey has a lovely, natural way of performing and gave it her all (including her hit single ‘Fool Me Once’ and a beautiful cover of the Prince song ‘Call My Name’), which was greatly appreciated by the festival audience, who loved every minute of it, myself included.

smooth-jazz-elan-trotman

The final act of the festival, after a short coffee break, was also yet another highlight: saxophonist extraordinaire Elan Trotman, born and raised in sunny Barbados and another Berklee graduate, whose first-rate performance was as infectious as music can possibly get. He took his saxophone off the stage several times during his set and played right in the middle of the assembled audience, which quickly broke the ice. From the Caribbean flavoured ‘Tradewinds’ to a lovely rendition of Chick Corea’s ‘Spain’, it was definitely time for a dance together with a room full of jazz fans who’d already partied their socks off at the New Year’s celebration the night before. I certainly didn’t expect a fully seated daytime festival gig to be this lively and felt really uplifted for the rest of the day!

Apart from the outstanding quality of performers, Smooth Jazz organisers Christian Bößner and Sandra Hoffman also did an excellent job in terms of the organisation and friendliness of the event. I chatted with attendees from as far as Mallorca, the US as well as other German cities most of whom were regulars at the festival. If smooth jazz is your kind of thing or if you’re keen to give it a try, make sure you check out their yearly festival roster, they also run popular smooth jazz festivals in Mallorca (May) and the Algarve (September). I certainly had a great time at the 17th Smooth Jazz Festival.

augsburg-christkindlesmarkt-2016

In case the above has whetted your appetite and you’re visiting Augsburg with its 2000 years of history for the first time, here are a few travel tips. Don’t miss the Fuggerei (supposedly the oldest social housing estate in the world, but instead of stark architecture, it’s rather quaint), the Goldener Saal in the City Hall, the Perlach tower (which you can climb for panoramic views), the Cathedral, the many fountains and a stroll in the old town. For those with a sweet tooth, Café Dichtl and Café Eber are good bakeries to try, so is Bäckerei Wolf (a few outlets around the city centre). If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll be pleased to know that there are many veggie-friendly options around town, including the just opened Mom’s Table on the city’s main thoroughfare Maximilianstraße. Not too far from there is also where the famous Augsburger Puppenkiste puppet theatre and museum (shows used to be on national tv, so it’s known all over the country) has its home. While Augsburg may appear conservative at first glance (and it is in many ways), we also have a very exciting cultural and social project, the Grand Hotel Cosmopolis, where you can stay in unique rooms designed by artists. It’s a friendly, mostly volunteer-run hotel, a gathering place for creatives and a welcoming home for asylum seekers from all over the world.

Disclaimer: Life is a Festival was provided with concert tickets for the 2016 festival in exchange for a personal review of the event and mentions on social media. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the same as the official views of the event organisers. All Photography used in this blog post by Christan Nordström (with the exception of the Christkindlesmarkt picture, taken by Life is a Festival).

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Home Sweet Home: Why it’s great to be a tourist in your own home town

Since moving abroad I’ve been having a great time being a tourist in my own hometown every few months or so. I couldn’t have picked a better time for a visit this summer as the weather was just perfect for balmy nights in the beergarden, there was a free outdoor jazz gig, I got to play with my cute nieces and discovered a few new corners of the place I grew up in.
So here are my top 8 reasons why visiting one’s hometown can be the best and most relaxing holiday of all:
1. The temperature actually reaches 30+ degrees
Ah it’s so nice to be able to leave your umbrella at home (if at all, it might come in handy to shield you from too much sun) and spend every night beergarden hopping, fanning yourself with the cocktail menu while contemplating the next drinking destination. In Augsburg alone there are about 100 beergardens to choose from, there is even a little guidebook for that serious (= Irish style) beergarden crawl!

Eiskaffee

2. Your mum/friends/neighbours will happily feed you
Let’s face it, you’re only in town every couple of months, so there should be dinner invitations left, right and centre. I never fail to have Kaesespaetzle at least once when I’m home and never turn down an invitation for afternoon tea, especially when the host mentions homebaked cake…mmmhhh…in fact I more than once managed to have four brunch/coffee/dinner/coffee get togethers all in one long, leisurely vacation day. Bliss.
3. You get to hang out with old friends
No introductions or explanations needed, no awkward moments, just sipping coffee together, giggling about jokes that only you find funny and having a brilliant time.
Gilda Razani
Outdoor jazz gig in the beautiful Damenhof

4. You don’t need to bring a guidebook

You know how much the tram ticket is and where to catch a bus to your favourite cafe. You don’t need to do any sightseeing because you know the place inside and out. Plenty of time to just relax, eat, drink and laugh.
Blumen
5. Everything is cheaper – especially food and drink
Well, this might not apply if you’re living in any other place than Dublin, but it is just incredible how much cheaper everything always seems back home. Being a firm believer in appreciating the little pleasures in life, I always happily eat and drink my way through the menu of all my favourite foodie places and smile at the thought of how in Dublin this would have cost me a small fortune. By the way, buffet style brunch (usually includes a hot drink and/or juice and a selection of savoury and sweet food all for under a tenner) is amazing in Germany and you can sit there all morning with your friends.
Pizza
Yummy coal oven pizza for €7 and it was so big I couldn’t even finish it all
6. You discover new things about your old home
When your friends are at work but you have a bit of time on your hands, take an extended walk around town and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. Turn into a street you normally wouldn’t take, peak around an unfamiliar corner, get off a tram stop earlier, have a chat with a stranger at a newsagent’s, sit on the steps of a little church watching everyday life go by.
Message on the street
Don’t dream about the past when happiness is at your footstep. Wake up and discover me. Yours, Augsburg. One of the winners of the ‘Lebe mich. Dein Augsburg.’ competition (see also: http://www2.augsburg.de/index.php?id=20536)
7. You remember what’s cool about the place you’re from
When it’s almost time to go back pick up a few tourist office brochures to show to your friends and colleagues abroad. Every place tends to have a few interesting things it is known for, be it the best local brewery, the most famous writer or artist or some curious historical facts – go dig them up!
Rathaus und Perlachturm
City Hall and Perlach Tower
8. You can bring back some things you crave when you’re homesick
I always miss my favourite chocolate, speciality teas and my mum’s christmas cookies, so on the way back to Dublin I generally fill up my suitcase with as many of them as I can fit in. I tell ya, having such a stash with things from home is priceless when you’re hit by a bout of homesickness on one of those dark, rainy November days.
If you ever make it to Augsburg, check out these sites before you go:
The ‘Fuggerei’ is the world’s oldest social housing estate dating to 1516.
Famous Augsburgers include Leopold Mozart, Bertholt Brecht and Rudolf Diesel.
Augsburger Puppenkiste – Augsburg’s renowned puppet theatre company
The Eiskanal – the world’s first artificial whitewater course (used during the 1972 Munich Olympics)