Montreux Jazz Festival – Archives

In 1967 the director of a tourist office in Montreux Switzerland, Claude Nobs taught us to dream big by organizing the town’s first ever jazz festival. It became an instant international success and a meeting place for great musicians from all around the world. The Festival quickly earned a notoriety for incredible shows, mind blowing imaginative coordinated efforts and implausible tales. Now known as Montreux Jazz Festival, the festival is the second largest jazz festival in the world and attracts hundreds of thousands of fans each year. It will be the 51st edition in 2017 and you can view it on our discovery map here

The Festival has invited incredible craftsmen into its pure grasp. Anyone who is anyone in music has played here: Dizzie Gillespie, Prince, Deep Purple, Van Morrison, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, John Coltrane to name just a few of many legends. Even David Bowie, Nina Simone, and Freddie Mercury came and lived in the area to record albums.

Sadly Claude Nobs, the founder and manager, is not with us anymore, but his legacy will continue to have a profound positive impact on millions of lives. In the words of Quincy Jones: “These people, they don’t go away, their spirit is always with us, I feel like Claude is with me every minute and Miles too”.

Other than visiting, to get a feel of at what makes Montreux Jazz such a unique place, who better to describe the event than the artists and legends themselves. The festival recently released a web series called Archives recording the greatest festival regulars reminiscing on being younger versions of themselves.

The visionary and genius behind Santana, Carlos Santana, is someone you may assume was always self-assured and confident overcoming his challenging beginning and ultimately unique guitar sound with great success. Although at such a young age, he admits, things were not always this way. We all have at least one Santana record, the way he holds the notes with such hypnotic tones is forever exotic. Carlos describes Montreux: “The best musicians played here, this is the best setting, there are many jazz festivals in the summer and this is le crème de la crème. Everywhere you go there is a consciousness of Claude Nobs symmetry. This wouldn’t be without his vision, without his heart“. He also decorates Montreux as “the most beautiful experiment of cross-pollination of different music.”

The legendary radical musician, political activist and co-founder of the Tropicalismo movement, Gilberto Gil, also pioneered experimenting with new forms of reggae in Portuguese spoken countries: “Reggae became one of the main popular forms of manifestation in Brazil”. After moving from Brazil in the late 1960s to London, Gilberto Gil has had an amazing career working with all the best jazz musicians and bands like Pink Floyd, he even helped form Glastonbury festival. With his incredible talent, he has performed no less than 14 separate years at Montreux. Some of his most notable tracks include Palco, Aquele Abraço and Domingo No Parque.

When Eric Clapton came backstage at the Hammersmith in London, Marcus Miller recalls how they unusually stayed in touch. They made contact and just started collaborating and playing together alongside David Stanborn, Steve Gadd and Joe Sample. Miller remembers asking: What shall we call the band? to which Joe replies ‘Legends’.

Montreux Jazz Festival in recent years has branched out to accommodate a vibrant collection of genres, with electronic and pop acts such as Petit Biscuit, RY X and Daughter.

David Sanborn expresses that “every musician around the world looks to the Montreux festival as a real highlight of their life whether they’ve played there two dozen times or once or twice whatever, just the setting is beautiful and you hear all kinds of music from all over the world. It’s an intimate club setting, having that intimacy with the audience creates the atmosphere that we always associate with Jazz.”

“That’s Claude Nobs philosophy: let’s bring some different people from different cultures, different music, different nations and let’s come together. In music, we are all one. It’s just these foolish walls we live in, with these foolish politicians and this foolish capitalist system but in music we are all one. We all know it, everybody knows it, if you go to the audience they all know it, they are all part of the music, music is home, music reminds us of where we all live really. I’m here every year because I love it, we get to hang out and we’re all family, it’s unique. 38 years ago? It’s unbelievable! Why didn’t you put the record out? Anyway it’s going out now.” – John McLaughlin

The producers of the Montreux Archive series describe the creation of the series as bittersweet memories for the musicians, who remember fondly their emotions in the past years with the friends who have come and gone. Giants of their time, they still look to future.

“The festival reminds us that as a rule, they don’t really like that. Memories, archives, concerts of yesteryear; they get dizzy from those years flashing past. Because they are living artists. They only think about the now, and the best concert is always the one coming up. And yet, with Al Jarreau, with David Sanborn, in the distant gaze of Dianne Reeves, in a certain movement of Carlos Santana’s head, with Quincy Jones and the others, something astonishing – and powerful – happens.

For in an instant, they understand that they are looking at something quite distinct from the picture album of the world’s greatest festival: it was a segment of the memory of a century’s music that was on display in the recordings we show them. Of course, seeing musicians once again, remembering a magical evening or a detail about a concert that was on a razor’s edge, they laugh, and share. But they are at pains to repeat that what they experienced, and what they hope to experience again, in Montreux, would be possible nowhere else.” – Christophe Passer

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Feature Image – Van Morrison