At Montreux, the music doesn’t give in to capricious weather. While the particularly uncooperative weather this year had an effect on the number of visitors, the overall experience at the 48th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival was above all marked by a deluge of music in our outstanding indoor venues.
All over the Festival, in the concert halls and under the umbrellas at Music in the Park, the music never stopped playing no matter what.
At Auditorium Stravinski, the musical heritage of the Festival was alive and well and on display, with an epic performance by Stevie Wonder and the guitar and imposing stature of Robert Plant. OutKast, Pharrell Williams, Massive Attack, and Damon Albarn showcased the worldwide influence of another musical generation.Projects that could only happen at Montreux gave this year’s Festival a special vibe: Stephan Eicher’s declaration of everlasting love spilled generously out of the Auditorium, through the backstage, and out the loading docks, while Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley set the stage on fire through the sublime energy of the Daptone Super Soul Revue.
At the Montreux Jazz Club, the successful structural improvements made this year made it possible to host jazz in a perfectly adapted, intimate, cozy space. The performances by Ayo, Mulatu Astatke, Jack DeJohnette, Buika, and Benjamin Clementine absolutely owned the new space, which enjoyed record visitor numbers.
The Montreux Jazz Lab generated multiple sold-out evenings with artists such as Metronomy and Goldfrapp, crowd-entrancing experiences like Darkside and Moderat, and the emotionally intense pop of London Grammar. The performances by Agnes Obel, Olafur Arnalds, Chet Faker, and Ry X proved that the acoustics of the Lab also work for more intimate shows.
Live the Lab, the new project featuring live streaming of some of the Lab concerts this year, got off to a great start, finding tons of fans eager to take part from afar.
The proven quality of the programming in the three main venues, each with a clear identity since the structural changes introduced in 2013, is abundantly complemented by an attractive and varied program of free programming such as in the Rock Cave and the aftershows at the Lab. Some of these were hugely popular, featuring artists with massive followings or who are just breaking through, for example Timber Timbre and Gramatik. It would have taken a lot more than a rainy Monday night to stop people from a chance to see artists like these!
We are also proud that not a single concert at Music in the Park, with an outdoor stage open to the sky, was canceled this year.
The welcome reserved for the artists has always been a key value of the Festival and its Founder, and is a big part of Montreux worldwide reputation. Judging from what the artists have to say this year, this important tradition is alive and well in 2014. First-time artists like Temples and Lykke Li talk about Montreux like an experience they always dreamed of having, that they needed. Van Morrison and Buddy Guy both mentioned how at home they feel, and that the warm welcome is just like it was during their earlier visits to Montreux. The Lab had never before received so many thank-you messages from artists and managers mentioning a special “je-ne-sais-quoi” unique to Montreux.
In Caux, the Picotin chalet continued to represent an inspiring and necessary link to the Festival’s history every single day by welcoming visiting artists, whenever their jam-packed touring schedules allowed, to this inimitable spot. Apparently from up there, the gray skies and nature unchained were an impressive spectacle–Robert Plant, fascinated by the view, insisted on eating in the rain.
The free jams at the Montreux Jazz Club add to this unique welcome reserved for artists by providing them with an opportunity to play whatever they wish, after their shows, in a perfectly adapted space. This year, after-midnight jams were not-to-be-missed events–the unexpected shows by Woodkid and Jamie Cullum, and the spontaneous, particularly British humor of Paloma Faith will not soon be forgotten. Finally, everyone on the stage and in the audience was amazed by the sound quality achieved in each venue this year by Meyer Sound.
The other mission characterizing the Festival is seen through the educational projects of the MJAF, which offer other ways to experience music. The workshops were particularly popular, both for historical musical surveys of more conversational events featuring artists form the Festival lineup. The unfiltered encounters with Monty Alexander and Laura Mvula were particularly moving. At the Chalet d’en bas, a museum space where the Festival archives are displayed, was also quite busy this year.
The Creations really stood out this year as they made their experimental mark on new spaces by celebrating young Swiss musicians in a partnership with Pro Helvetia. These spaces where freedom reigns are emblematic of the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation’s missions aiming to increase support available to young artists.
Similarly, the public competitions in piano, guitar, and voice played out to full houses. The juries all noted the extremely high levels of artistry this year in all three categories. The 10 winners of these three competitions, announced throughout the Festival, will take part in the brand new Montreux Jazz Academy this fall from 26 October to 5 November. This professional immersion with famous mentors will be followed up by a gala event on 6 November, details of which will be announced shortly. Patrick Rouiller, winner of the Prix du Public UBS, will also participate in this launching pad for new international jazz talents supported by the Festival.
In Montreux, no matter how unruly the weather, the soul of the Montreux Jazz Festival remains the same year after year.
The 49th Montreux Jazz Festival will be held from July 3 to 18, 2015