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Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival: Summer Music Festival Hosts Concerts and International Competitions

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The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the most prestigious music festivals in all of Europe. The festival features several weeks of non-stop music and non-stop partying, making it a prime destination for summer European travelers.

History of the Montreux Jazz Festival

The Montreux Jazz Festival was founded in 1967 by Claude Nobs, Geo Voumard and Rene Langel. First held at the Montreux Casino, the festival lasted for three days and featured mostly jazz artists including the Charles Lloyd Quartet with Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee and Jack DeJohnette. Twelve bands participated in the first European jazz groups competition.

In the 1970s, organizers began allowing artists from other musical genres such as blues, soul and rock to perform at the festival. Popular artists included Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Deep Purple and Prince. By the end of the decade, the festival further expanded to three weeks, including music from all continents.

Today, jazz remains the most important part of the festival, which attracts an audience of more than 200,000 people.

Montreux Festival Growth and Expansion

The festival’s expansion from the late 1970s has continued to this day, transforming Montreux from a pure jazz festival into a world music festival. By 1993, the audience had grown by 60%, forcing festival organizers to move the event into the city’s larger Convention Center and other venues such as lakeshore promenades and cafes. The Convention Center is home to the Stravinsky Auditorium and Miles Davis Hall.

Montreux’s popularity has prompted the release of a DVD series titled “Live at Montreux,” covering a variety of musical styles and featuring live sets from many great artists.

Montreux Jazz Competitions

Every year, the Montreux Jazz Festival Foundation 2 organizes three international competitions for solo piano, guitar and voice. Each competition is juried by a group of professionals and chaired by a world famous musician. In addition to the international competitions, the festival also hosts the local Tremplin Lemanique competition for jazz bands based in one of the French or Swiss regions surrounding Leman Lake.

The Montreux competitions are part of the festival’s free events along with workshops, archives projections, exhibitions and free concerts in the park..

Popular Musical Acts Performing at Montreux

Since its inception, the Montreux Jazz Festival has hosted a wide array of musical styles, featuring major acts such as (with years of performance):

  • Tori Amos – 1991 & 1992
  • Canned Heat – 1973
  • Johnny Cash – 1994
  • Ray Charles – 1997
  • Eric Clapton – 1986
  • Alice Cooper – 2005
  • Deep Purple – 1969, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2006
  • Al Di Meola – 1986, 1989, 1993 (2004)
  • Dr John – 1995
  • Steve Earle – 2005
  • Earth, Wind & Fire – 1997
  • Emerson, Lake and Palmer – 1997
  • Ella Fitzgerald – 1969
  • Rory Gallagher – 1975, 1977, 1979, 1985, 1994
  • Marvin Gaye – 1980
  • The Jeff Healey Band – 1999
  • Boney James – 1999
  • Jamiroquai – 2003
  • Jethro Tull – 2003
  • The Mahavishnu Orchestra – 1974 & 1984
  • The Moody Blues – 1991
  • Gary Moore – 1990
  • Van Morrison – 1974 & 1980
  • Muse – 2002
  • Mike Oldfield – 1981
  • Robert Plant – 2006
  • Bonnie Raitt – 1977
  • Lou Reed – 2000
  • Otis Rush – 1986
  • Carlos Santana – 2004
  • UB40 – 2001
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan – 1982 & 1985
  • Suzanne Vega – 2004
  • Weather Report – 1976
  • Wu-Tang Clan – 2007
  • Yes – 2003
  • Frank Zappa – 1971

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