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Montreux Jazz Festival 2016

Ian Patterson By

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Montreux Jazz Festival 2016
Various Venues
Montreux, Switzerland
July 9-12, 2016

No matter at what point, or for how long you dipped into the Montreux Jazz Festival during the seventeen days of its 50th edition, the sense of history was palpable. Charles Lloyd was present, just as he was in 1967. Deep Purple and Dweezil Zappa formed a poignant double-header on MJF 50's final night, recalling the 1971 fire at the old Montreux Casino during a Frank Zappa concert that gave birth to Purple's rock anthem "Smoke on the Water."

Heavyweight names—and old friends all of the MJF—graced the program in significant numbers: Quincy Jones; John McLaughlin; Van Morrison; Al Jarreau; Carlos Santana; Monty Alexander; Angelique Kidjo; Randy Weston; Buddy Guy; ZZ Top; Joao Bosco; Simply Red -representing the MJF's long association not just with jazz, but with blues, soul, rock, pop and 'World' rhythms.

Workshops and giant photos paid tribute to David Bowie and Prince, who passed away within a few months of each other. Both enjoyed a special relationship with the MJF and its legendary founder Claude Nobs.

Nostalgia and tribute, as might be expected, were not in short supply, but so too was the sense of continuity, with the free Music in the Park stage providing a platform for school and university bands from Switzerland, Holland, France, the USA and the UK—an MJF tradition that goes back to the early 1970s—where big-band standards from Glen Miller to Weather Report rubbed shoulders with full-on tributes to Snarky Puppy and Frank Zappa.

The same stage also showcased a kaleidoscopic range of artists, from up-and-coming talent like the UK's Chris Read Quartet to veteran ensembles like French popsters Les Innocents. Cuban son and Brazilian capoeira set feet and pulses racing, while vocal ensembles, Celtic folk and alt-rock bands meant there was something to suit just about all tastes.

Musical diversity, as ever, was apparent at every turn, not just on the main program either, but in the dedicated rock club, the dance venue Strobe Club and in the form of the numerous buskers who enlivened the lakeside promenade, where food and beverages, merchandising, and arts and crafts stalls did brisk business. Reggae, Senegalese kora, didgeridoo, rock and folk practitioners all brought their unique spice to the festive atmosphere.

Yet, to suggest that the MJF, even in this landmark edition was rooted in nostalgia would be to miss the bigger picture, which is, and always has been, one of innovation, education and inclusion. A workshop to create a giant MJF canvas, a delightfully fun photo-bombing booth—where anyone could 'bomb' iconic photos from the MJF archives—a jazz choir and dance workshops were just some of the special participatory projects this year.

The internationally renowned MJF voice, guitar and piano competitions once again encouraged some of the best international talent, helping to provide a successful launching pad for a fortunate few. The presence in the Montreux Jazz Club of sixteen-year old Chinese pianist A Bu—winner of the MJF Solo Piano Competition in 2015—was testament not only to the leg-up the MJF can give to emerging talent, but also a sign of the growing reach of jazz in an area of the world not usually associated with the music.

Naturally, the figure and legend of the late Claude Nobs, the spiritual father of MJF—and one of its founders back in 1967—loomed large throughout the festival's 50th edition. It could hardly have been any other way. From the stages, musicians paid verbal and musical homage to Nobs, the indefatigable Director of MJF for the guts of those fifty years until his death in 2013.

With an avenue and a bar named in Nob's honor, and a wonderfully quirky mechanical sculpture on the lake shoreline dedicated to Nobs, there were plenty of permanent monuments to the founding-father of MJF dotting the Montreux landscape.

More than anything, however, MJF 2016 was about huge crowds of all ages and nationalities digging the musical feast. And what a feast it was!

Day 10: Saturday, 9 July

Pedro Martins

Winner of the prestigious Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition in 2015, Brazilian guitarist Pedro Martins was making his third appearance at the MJF, at the head of a quartet comprised of bassist Frederico Heliodoro, drummer Antonio Loqueiro and keyboardist Felipe Viegas. Martins lifted the wraps on new material from his as-yet unreleased CD, produced by Kurt Rosenwinkel, the follow-up to his debut, Dreaming High (Adventure Music, 2013).

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