More than reaching the age of reason, the Montreux Jazz Festival will have celebrated a maturity comfortably ensconced between its history and the pursuit of its craziest dreams. This 50th edition focused on the future drew approximately 240,000 festivalgoers was carefully programmed and drenched with sun, peppered with nods to the Festival’s roots, and above all featured sound and quality that were quite simply, remarkable.
50 YEARS, THE BALANCE
With its fine programming and a slate of special projects, this jubilee communicated not just its modernity but also its musical, technological, and sociological story, that of a little place called Montreux and the obsession of its founding dream: to bring artists from all over the world to a gem of a music box on the shore of Lake Geneva. Today, the Festival has a powerful heritage and continues to evolve. Throughout this anniversary rite of passage, the Montreux Jazz Festival showed that it is well-equipped to continue into the future with its always-original setup: a unique format, a rollicking destiny, artistic ambitions that give it a solid footing in the music festival business, standout acoustics, the capacity for renewal, and attentive hospitality for the artists and the public.
This year, summer weather dominated during three-quarters of the Festival, with an estimated 240,000 guests despite five days of sometimes drenching rain. In the busy concert venues, 95,000 tickets were sold over 16 days + the opening evening at the Casino.
The creative spirit of jazz permeated all of the artistic propositions at Montreux this year, even when that genre was not specifically in the spotlight. It all kicked off with the sumptuous starting tone set by Charles Lloyd and Monty Alexander at the Casino Barrière Montreux. Backstage and on, from the first day we found Festival habitués displaying their verve and generosity: Buddy Guy, ZZ Top, Van Morrison, Simply Red and Santana. Two completely different universal icons both came for the first time: Neil Young struck the heart of his audience with a cavalier concert that lasted three hours, bringing together emotional music-lovers of all ages in a packed hall. Muse served up numerous titles they had not played for ten years, wrapping with a carnival cavalcade that was perfect for the anniversary celebration. Others depicted a world in decay, proposing at the same time ephemeral catharsis: Anohni, as surprising as she was demanding, a consoling Patti Smith whose presence dominated a huge audience and moved them with tributes to all the unknown disappeared. PJ Harvey gave a striking concert-narration that was perfectly controlled from start to finish. Sigur Rós brought out atmospheric layers with talent, and Angélique Kidjo and her guests celebrated a continent and the entire female gender with a creation conceived especially for the occasion. For the first time ever, Lana Del Rey whispered a few notes from her song “Salvatore”, a cappella, at the request of her fans.
At the Montreux Jazz Club, effervescent young jazz musicians were on display with Alfredo Rodriguez, Christian Scott, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, but they didn’t steal the spotlight from Miles Davis’ old friends, who were simply staggering: Darryl Jones, Bill Evans, Dennis Chambers, and Dean Brown. Mind-blowing affinities were offered by the duo Barron-Holland and the friendships expressed around Ernest Ranglin.
At the Montreux Jazz Lab, with a sound quality that was just as impeccable, Flume, Moderat, Beirut, Feu! Chatterton, M83, and an unbelievably playful Mac Demarco set the audience on fire. As did the discoveries of Max Cooper, Jeanne Added, Mura Masa, Ry X, Vald, Son Lux and Rag’n’Bone Man.
NEW THIS YEAR: POOL PARTIES & STROBE KLUB
The return to the Casino Barrière was one of the landmark ideas for this 50th edition. The Pool Parties brought the eponymous pool back to life, and it was packed each Saturday with people dancing to DJ sets in swimwear, like back in the day…
The Strobe Klub, the new HQ for electronic nights, saw unprecedented success with particularly convincing DJ sets by Nina Kraviz, Rødhåd, and The Black Madonna, as well as live performances by Several Definitions and Maceo Plex.
The architectural changes at Music in the Park were a success, even if the new infrastructure still requires a better arrangement for shade, which in the past was provided by the ancient trees which, sick and posing a danger to the public, had to be cut down a few days prior to the Festival. The Silent Disco was so popular that a second will be improvised tonight, Friday 15 July.
The aftershows at the enlarged Rock Cave found their public over the course of the Festival. This site now offers an aftershow ambiance in an alternative to electronic music. The Festival will go further in 2017 to design a new space that will fully satisfy the desires of other audiences. In total on these two stages, 109 artists performed in 75 concerts at Music in the Park and 46 at the Rock Cave (including DJs).
As for educational projects, the workshops, creations, and competitions garnered record attendance: the winners of the competitions were American Esteban Castro, only 13 years old, for the Parmigiani Montreux Jazz Piano Solo Competition, Finland’s Olli Hirvonen for the Socar Montreux Jazz Electric Guitar Competition, and Lithuanian Arta Jekabsone for the Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition. The Prix de Public UBS was won by Zurich’s Philipp Saner, aka Silent Neighbor. All of these victors will participate in the 3rd Montreux Jazz Academy from 18 to 26 November 2016.
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!
MONTREUX JAZZ FESTIVAL 2017
30 June – 15 July