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Montreux Jazz Festival 2010: Grand Geneva Finales

Phillip Woolever By

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Montreux Jazz 2010
Montreux, Switzerland
July 15-16, 2010
Planet Jazz

For a city with census figures at under 25,000 citizens, Montreux throws one hell of a party. For summer music fans, its heaven.

The 44th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival wrapped up this season's two week engagement on some very high notes. Constant capacity crowds witnessed inspired collaborations and programming exemplified a continuing standard through another July jubilee that proved Montreux Jazz remains at the pinnacle for any type music festival. The scene is a recurring, golden era evolution all its own. That was as crystal clear as the shimmering shoreline water that captivated thousands of well-attired attendees from all sectors of society, united in musical passion.



For at least a few drifting days it seemed like the whole world, or maybe just everyone in that part of Switzerland, had a prevailing love of jazz. Evening traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, seemed only to be headed toward the music. Consistently exceptional promotion featured custom banners throughout town. Buses were decorated with bright new images of musical notes or performers. Advisory signs and signals atop modified barricades simply stated "JAZZ" with florescent arrows pointing the way to the center of the action in the convention complex area. Many persons of the beautiful persuasion were inspired, en masse, to follow that wild call of horny howling in the garden of bops and beats.

Interaction with frivolous fringes of the crowd indicated that for many jazz fans, Montreux has remained a unique designer destination. An estimated total attendance of around 200,000 turned the usually serene, flower laden walkway along Lake Geneva into a throbbing mass of rare proportion and presentation. If there is a more comfortably compact, constantly fashionable locale for jazz to be found, it would be surprising.

The upscale vibe included glamorous waterfront lounge areas or exotic dining stands alongside interspersed, guzzling swarms around a Swiss army of Heineken stands. It was a massively melodic mob scene but completely orderly and well mannered. Disability access was probably limited in some outside areas simply due to the crush, which made squeezing by a not too harsh chore at some bottleneck standstills. It was a reasonable price for massive social interaction along the lines of a beehive.

Overall, the festival sold approximately 85% of the available tickets. Auditorium Stravinski, cavernous home to most of the top dollar concerts, was reportedly sold out for 14 of 17 shows. There was brisk business at many of the dozens of lake front vendors in a street fair atmosphere. Inside the main complex, souvenirs, liquer and more caviar to be consumed than imagined possible were dished out in abundance.

In between and all around the more prominently featured pay events were some exceptional free shows, including an excellent variety of performers in the Parc Vernex outdoor band shell. DJs or film screenings filled the Jazz Café and Studio 41, where dance/trance parties ran from before dusk to after dawn. In what was billed as a "world premiere" the high-demand, standing room sold out show by Quincy Jones's global project was broadcast for free in 3D at the neighboring, regal Petit Palais, complimentary 3D glasses included. Little touches like that keep the customers coming back for more.

Some of the very best musical moments of the two week gala were saved for last, and the throngs danced in appreciation with greater numbers and abandon than during some earlier nights. Heading into the final weekend of a 16 day waterfront party that was blessed with mostly beautiful weather and beautiful people, Mark Knopfler gave a deep, subtle performance that ranked as one of the festival's finest, then a night later the still expanding elder statesman Herbie Hancock headed a stage full of all-stars who joined his Imagine Project in a classic set.

There was no huge frenzy similar to last year's surprise short notice grand finale sets by Prince. When Daniel Lanois' motorcycle accident forced his collaboration with Brian Blade and Trixie Whitley, deemed Black Dub Collective to cancel, replacement Emmanuelle Seigner brought along her recently released US fugitive husband Roman Polanski, which caused a minor paparazzi fart. Is Seigner two years younger than Polanski's conviction based victim? It seemed like the majority of festival attendees were just fine without any drama, tabloid worthy or not. Montreux must mean mellow.

Thursday, July 15: Money for Something

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