The allure of the Montreux Jazz Festival | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 29.06.2017
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Culture

The allure of the Montreux Jazz Festival

The renowned Montreux Jazz Festival has drawn jazz lovers from all over the world to the town on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, for 51 years. The 2017 edition runs from June 30 to July 15. Here's a peek at the lineup.

With more than 200,000 annual visitors, the Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF) on Lake Geneva is the world's biggest jazz festival after the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal.

Internationally renowned musicians flock to Switzerland every year, though the festival name is a bit misleading these days, with Montreux's legendary jazz performers long joined by the best pop, rock and electro artists.

Lana Del Rey, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Johnny Cash and PJ Harvey have performed in Montreux in addition to jazz greats like Miles Davis, Al Jarreau, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie.

This year, fans can look forward to seeing and hearing Lauryn Hill, Macy Gray, Till Brönner, Emeli Sande, Grace Jones (pictured above), Morcheeba, Tom Jones, Herbie Hancock , Beth Ditto, the Pet Shop Boys, Usher and Peter Doherty.

 Deep Purple perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival (picture-alliance/abaca/Loona)

Deep Purple played in Montreux in 2011

From Claude Nobs to Mathieu Jaton

The festival, founded in 1967 by pianist Geo Voumard and radio journalist Lance Tschannen, was headed for 46 long years by Claude Nobs, deputy director of the Montreux tourism bureau. After his death in 2013, Mathieu Jaton took over as director.

Over the decades, ticket prices steadily went up, while at the same time the spectrum of musical styles and the length of the festival expanded. The very first MJF was a three-day event. Ten years later, the festival lasted for a record 23 days - whittled down to about two weeks in recent years.

Merchandising has followed hot on the heels of the festival's increasing popularity: the Montreux Jazz Shop offers t-shirts, smartphone cases, caps, bags, umbrellas and mugs. The official festival poster by French illustrator Malika Favre is on sale for 230 euros.

The festival also offers numerous free concerts: in the park and by the pool, jam sessions, workshops and parties supplement the program.

Pushing the limits

Montreux is famous for jam sessions that wrote music history; for instance, the performance in the early 1980s by Queen and David Bowie that resulted in the joint song "Under Pressure".

Band Die Antwoord (picture-alliance/dpa/J.C. Bott)

South Africa's Die Antwoord performed on the Lab stage in 2015

Last year, the lineup was particularly stellar for the festival's jubilee 50th anniversary, with Carlos Santana, Deep Purple, Simply Red, Quincy Jones, ZZ Top, Slayer, Van Morrison and Patti Smith - to name but a few - on the bill.

Back in the early days, the visionary Claude Nobs initiated a novelty in the music business. To conserve this musical heritage for future generations, he made sure all the concerts were recorded. More than 5,000 hours of live concerts make up the first audiovisual library, archives that UNESCO has since added to the Memory of the World Register that safeguards documentary heritage.

nf/bb/db (dpa, montreuxjazzfestival.com)

 

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