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Montreux Jazz Festival celebrates 35th anniversary

B.B. King (seen here at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2000) will be back again this year

(Keystone Archive)

The Montreux Jazz Festival is this year celebrating a double anniversary. Claude Nobs, its founder and boss is turning 65, and his festival is celebrating its 35th birthday.

To mark this special year, Nobs has assembled an especially impressive line-up of artists, including Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Beck, Neil Young, B.B. King, Van Morrison, Alanis Morissette and other world famous musicians.

Nobs is particularly proud of the evening performance of July 7, called "A Tribute to Sun Records".

Commenting before the event, he said: "This year, we have a very special project, which is to celebrate Sun Records' 50th anniversary. The company was a small Memphis label where Elvis Presley made his fist recordings. But other great artists such as Billy Lee Riley, Sonny Burgess and Little Milton were also on that label, and they will be here at the festival for an exclusive show."

Nobs founded the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1967 in an effort to put his town on the map. The festival started out with an $8,000 budget and lasted three days; today, its budget is $8 million and it runs for 16 days.

Since the beginning, the festival has hosted a wide variety of musical genres. Nobs says "jazz" in this case is not just a style of music, but rather a label which suggests top quality music.

"After the second year, people told me I was crazy to include other kinds of music in the festival, like rock 'n roll, salsa, and music from various ethnic groups. They told me I was going to kill jazz and kill the festival," Nobs told swissinfo.

The Montreux Jazz Festival, which is accompanied by over 200 free concerts at the "Off Festival" on the fringes, is paying special attention to families and teenagers this year.

"Besides the kindergarten, we have a new stage called "La scène bleue", which is a tent with music made by the kids themselves, with young DJs. The admission is free, and it's for kids between four and 18," Nobs explained.

by Jeff Nottage


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