Montreux festival reaches for the stars

Jethro Tull are performing for the first time since 1968. Montreux Jazz Festival

The programme for this year's Montreux Jazz Festival contains the usual galaxy of star performers, including two bands making their reappearance after an absence of 35 years.

This content was published on May 2, 2003 - 14:41

Jethro Tull and Yes were among the line-up in 1968, when the festival was in its second year and a much more modest event than it is today.

The 1967 budget for what began as an event for jazz purists was SFr10,000 ($7,400).

This year the figure is SFr15 million and the festival has long since embraced numerous other categories, including rock, blues and Brazilian music.

The American singer Tony Bennett will even be making an appearance.

Since its birth the event has grown into a giant beyond the wildest dreams of successive organising teams. It remains centred around its founder and driving force Claude Nobs, who is still festival director.

"Jazz purists as well as fans of rock, pop, reggae, world music and electronic sounds will not be disappointed," said Nobs. "As always there is going to be something for everybody."

Jethro Tull

Nobs told swissinfo he was particularly pleased that Jethro Tull would be coming this year.

"I last saw them 35 years ago and we became good friends," he said. "They were recording near Montreux last summer and when I met band leader Ian Anderson it was as though we had last seen each other ten minutes previously."

Friendship is the key to organising Montreux, added Nobs. "It enables us to get artistes to come here for a much lower fee than they would get at other festivals."

The unveiling of the festival poster is always an eagerly-awaited event.

This year Swiss-based artist Ted Scapa chose a walking double bass as his motif.

He told swissinfo: "It symbolizes that musicians are always on the road. The road is to be taken in a literal sense, certainly, but creativity itself is also a road.

"Artists are constantly looking for something, and their quest is symbolized by the two feet on the instrument."

Lakeside setting

Apart from its usual concert venues, the festival will also be on the move with concerts on special trains through the nearby mountains and on boat trips across Lake Geneva.

Open-air lakeside concerts - known as the "OFF Festival" - will feature up-and-coming younger performers, as will the Montreux Jazz Café, which like the open-air venues, has no entry charge.

One consequence of the festival has been to bring up to date the staid atmosphere of the resort - even though it still retains some period charm.

Paying tribute to director Claude Nobs, a local newspaper once noted: "If Montreux is no longer [simply] regarded as a place for retired English people, it's thanks to him."

The festival runs from July 4 to 19.

swissinfo, Richard Dawson

Key facts

Montreux Jazz Festival began in 1967 as a three-day event which attracted 1,200 visitors.
Last year 220,000 visitors attended the 16-day festival, which has long since embraced many other genres of music.
The festival employs over 1,000 staff including volunteers and has a budget this year of SFr15 million ($11.6 million).

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