The Estoril Jazz Festival closely reflects the personal tastes of its charismatic founder, Duarte Mendonça, whose lifelong passion for no-nonsense, straightahead jazz dates back to 1948 and is equaled only by his love of vintage racing cars. Mendonça has been bringing quality jazz to this idyllic seaside slice of Portugal since 1974 with relatively few concessions to the commercial side of things. And this year’s lineup was no exception to that hard and fast rule.
Unlike some of the higher profile European festivals that inundate listeners with an unending flow of music, forcing festival goers to hustle between multiple stages for several consecutive days, the Estoril Jazz Festival is a far more laid-back affair. Music is presented only on weekends, and only one band is showcased each night. That means that there is plenty of downtime for festival goers to luxuriate on the beaches of Estoril and Cascais, hop on a train to the culturally rich capital of Lisbon just 40 minutes away or otherwise hang out and consume massive quantities of grilled sardines while sampling the regional Portos, vinhos and muscatels before eventually getting around to checking out the bands. It’s hard to top for a relaxing getaway, but the pay-off is ultimately the music.