It can be said that music is the international language: music is a place where all people and their languages meet on common ground. Through all genres of music people can share and relate with each other their love and appreciation for music.
It was this summer that I shared my love for jazz music with thousands of others in Switzerland at the world’s second largest jazz fest. 2015 was the 49th year of the Montreux Jazz Festival and its legacy still lives strong. Throughout the lifetime of jazz music artists have flocked to Montreux to perform and provide quality entertainment. Founded in 1967 the festival was purely jazz orientated and boasted artists such as Ella Fitzgerald. In the 1970s they broadened their scope to blues and soul and the Montreux Jazz Festival began to grow and expand their audience. Highly reputable jazz artists kept returning year after year, together with rock artists in the ‘80s. As the event has grown in popularity the organisation has begun to focus on giving back to the community and finding new talents.
The Montreux Jazz Academy is a young scheme started in 2014 and provides classes with well renowned mentors and judges, and competitions in solo piano, guitar and voice, focusing on sharing the love for music with the wold and finding the best talents. The Jazz Foundation allows people to discover music no matter their nationality or income as all entries are free of charge, with the aim to create intimate sophisticated performances and find the hidden talents of the future. As Montreux Jazz has grown, the genres musicians can discover and learn about have become limitless and the diversification of the festival has come at no cost to the quality to the performances.
Whilst some people may think jazz music is dated they may not realise that elements of jazz are found in modern chart music. Elements of jazz can be found in the works of Sam Smith and Emeli Sandé. The festival comprises of big acts and small stages over two weeks. The festival is more than a few headlining acts, the organisation provides opportunities and showcases for new upcoming jazz artists. This year the line-up included the likes of John Legend, Aloe Blacc, Lionel Richie and Tony Bennett where each artist was in their element going back to their roots. Grammy Legend Award winner Quincy Jones co-founded the event between 1991 and 1993 and made an appearance this year to introduce 89 year old Tony Bennett who could still produce a captivating performance after 65 years in the industry, showing that all artists young and old return to be part to of the experience.
My personal favourite of this year was Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s performances from their Cheek to Cheek album where they recreated some classics such as “Anything Goes” and “I Won’t Dance”. In this intimate setting Lady Gaga displayed her talent in French and sang “La vie en rose” which was very well received by the Swiss audience. Whilst some may find this an odd pairing, the duets between the two really highlighted the professionalism of both artists. The Cheek to cheek tour was sold out around the globe, of which only 8 venues were in Europe, making the experience all the more valuable.
2016 will be the 50th anniversary and personally I am intrigued and excited to see what spectacles Montreux has to offer.