Accessibility links

Montreux Marks 50 Years as the `Rolls-Royce of Music Festivals'

  • Reuters

Montreux Jazz Festival Director Mathieu Jaton talks during a news conference in Montreux, Switzerland, April 14, 2016.

Montreux Jazz Festival Director Mathieu Jaton talks during a news conference in Montreux, Switzerland, April 14, 2016.

The Montreux Jazz Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a
line-up featuring Van Morrison, Herbie Hancock and Patti Smith, as well as young bluesmen and electronic musicians stepping into the limelight.

Marcus Miller, Neil Young, Lana Del Rey, Jamie Cullum, Santana and Deep Purple are standouts at the June 30-July 16 event, which Quincy Jones, a former co-director of Montreux, calls "the Rolls-Royce of festivals".

"It's rare for a music festival to turn 50," MJF director Mathieu Jaton told Reuters as the program was announced in the Swiss resort where the late Claude Nobs founded the festival in 1967.

"We're bringing together people close to the DNA and savoir-faire of a festival known for its special creations, this time with a Quincy Jones evening and a Brazilian-African night, but also the young generation like Woodkid, inviting his own guest artists" he said, referring to a French singer-songwriter and video director.

It kicks off on June 30 with a tribute to "two jazz greats", Jaton said.

American saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who headlined the first edition in 1967, performs with his New Quartet, followed by Jamaican Monty Alexander, whose best-selling Live! album was recorded at Montreux in 1976.

"It will be held at the Montreux Casino, we're going back to our roots," Jaton said.

"Brazilian Dream" night, set for July 10, features artists Elba Ramalho, Hamilton de Holanda and Maria Rita, followed by Angelique Kidjo leading five African women.

"It underlines the trust that Claude Nobs had in Brazilian music. He brought Latin music to Montreux in the early 1970s. Every year we've featured Brazil," Jaton said. The July 8 show features Quincy Jones, now in his sixth decade of a career as a musician, composer and producer, during which he has worked with artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, whose album "Thriller" he produced. It will star Mick Hucknall's Simply Red and surprise guests.

The budget for the festival, whose tickets go on sale on Friday, is 28 million Swiss francs($29.1 million).

Creating stories

"We try to create stories, put artists on the same stage the same night," Jaton said.

Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, queens of rock, pair up on July 6, after Buddy Guy and ZZ Top share the stage for a bluesy American Fourth of July. English singer Anohni, formerly lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons, and French electronica duo Air have double-billing on July 1.

"The most obvious [double bill] is closing night with Deep Purple who recorded 'Smoke on the Water' while watching the Montreux Casino burn as Frank Zappa was playing [in 1971]. This will be Zappa's son playing and opening for Deep Purple, It's a nice way to put the bill together," Jaton said.

Neil Young returns on July 12 for the first time since 2001, "it was a dream of Claude to bring him back", he said. For aficionados, a "jazz night par excellence" stars John Scofield, Brad Mehldau, Mark Guiliana and John McLaughlin on July 3 at the Auditorium Stravinski.

At the Club, an intimate venue with 350 seats, highlights include Randy Weston on July 2, and New Orleans' Christian Scott followed by Mike Stern, Bill Evans and Darryl Jones — "three guys who played with Miles Davis", Jaton said.

Miles Davis played his last concert in 1991 at Montreux, months before dying, and is famously remembered for asking for a Ferrari to drive along lake Geneva, a wish granted by Nobs.