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Montreux lives up to its name

Detail from the festival poster by Burton Morris (Montreux Jazz festival)

This year’s Montreux Jazz festival promises to be a bumper one with over 350 concerts and events – jazz, rock and pop – taking place over just 16 days.

Among those performing at the lakeside event are Alicia Keys, Dido, Phil Collins, Carlos Santana and rock legends Status Quo and Deep Purple.

The festival, in its 38th year, is one of Switzerland’s largest and is expected to be a sell-out.

More than 85,000 tickets have been sold so far and the organisers are hoping that they will reach the magic 100,000 number by the end of the festival.

One of the highlights is expected to be a series of three concerts by this year’s guest of honour, guitar legend Carlos Santana.

“There will be a Santana blues night with guests, and then Santana wants to introduce his son, Salvador Santana, so people will also be able to see father and son together,” Stephanie-Aloysia Moretti, coordinator of special events, told swissinfo.

Peace

Moretti said the last concert is called “Hymns for Peace” and would include special guests such as jazz pianists Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock.

Also on the agenda is a tribute to Grammy-winning soul singer and “father of soul”, Ray Charles, who died last month aged 73.

On July 9, Patti LaBelle, Van Morrison, Solomon Burke and Zucchero will be coming together for a special evening’s entertainment in Charles’s honour.

The Jazz festival should certainly live up to its name this year - the Casino Barrière has been set aside exclusively for jazz musicians and will be open throughout the festival.

All that jazz

The organisers aren’t risking a repeat of last year, when they were criticised for not having enough jazz on the programme to keep aficionados happy.

Among those featured are singer Bobby McFerrin, the guitarist Cornell Dupree and the Michel Camilo piano trio.

For those who can’t get or afford a ticket, the fringe has plenty to offer. Indeed, of the 350 events, 250 are free.

Apart from the Montreux Jazz Club and Jazz Café, there will also be special jazz boats running cruises on Lake Geneva and jazz trains following scenic routes in the mountains.

The Montreux Jazz Under the Sky, formerly known as Festival Off, brings together 200 bands who will be performing on outdoor stages in front of a jury.

And there will also be the chance for the public to meet some of the event’s top names such as BB King and Chick Corea, at special music workshops.

Humble

With a scheduled 375 events in 16 days the festival has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1967 when it lasted just three days.

It now boasts 14 stages, 2,000 musicians and a budget of SFr16.5 million ($13 million) – SFr1 million more than last year and double the amount ten years ago.

But the organisers pour scorn on any suggestions that the festival is getting too big or losing any of its unique character.

“All our halls are very small… with 3,000 people, maximum,” Moretti told swissinfo, adding that outdoor concerts, tend to attract around ten times that number. “You have a kind of intimate atmosphere here which is certainly different.”

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

Key facts

Budget: SFr16.5 million.
Tickets sold: over 85,000.
Visitors in 2003: 240,000.
Events: 375 - of which 250 are free.
Stages: 14 of which 3 include entry charge.

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