Originally a pure jazz festival, it opened up in the 1970s and today presents artists of nearly every imaginable music style. Jazz remains an important part of the festival. Today's festival lasts about two weeks and attracts an audience of more than 200,000 people.
In the 1970s, the festival began broadening its scope, including blues, soul, and rock artists. In December 1971, Montreux Casino burned down (an event memorialized in the Deep Purple song "Smoke on the Water"). The festival was forced to move until the new Casino was ready in 1975.
Towards the end of the decade, the festival expanded even more, including music from all continents (with an emphasis on Brazilian music) and lasting a full three weeks. Santana came to Montreux for the first time in 1970; Van Morrison played in 1974. Other artists included Weather Report, Camarón de la Isla, Soft Machine, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Bo Diddley, Stan Getz, Airto Moreira, Joe Henderson, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Charles Mingus, Etta James, Sonny Rollins, Count Basie, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, B.B. King, Gilberto Gil, Ray Charles, James Booker, Hermeto Pascoal, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Rory Gallagher, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Elis Regina, Les McCann, Eddie Harris, Pasadena Roof Orchestra, New Order, Jaco Pastorius, Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band, André Geraissati, Korni Grupa and many more.
The initiator and—as of 2008—still the head organizer, Claude Nobs, has managed to bring an array of artists to Montreux, both established ones and newcomers (see, for example, ).
Miles Davis came to Montreux several times, also British hard rock band Deep Purple were invited as headliners for 5 times. Santana returned in 1980. Other notable artists at Montreux were Max Roach, James Brown, Wynton Marsalis, Art Blakey, John McLaughlin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Wayne Shorter, Al Di Meola, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Cliff, Mike Oldfield, Brian May, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Hagen, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Joe Cocker, Los Lobos, The Manhattan Transfer, Tracy Chapman, and Van Morrison again.
The expansion that began in the 1980s continued in the 1990s and the 2000s — Montreux transformed from a jazz festival into a world music festival. Quincy Jones coproduced the festival from 1991 to 1993. By 1993, the festival had outgrown the Casino and moved to the larger Convention Centre. The number of visitors rose from 75,000 in 1980 to 120,000 in 1994, and an "Off-festival" developed on the lakeshore promenades and in the cafés of Montreux.
Many "regulars" returned, but many new artists also appeared on stage: Sting, Bob Dylan, Fats Domino, Deep Purple, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Johnny Cash, Cheap Trick, Cheb Mami, Youssou N'Dour, Marianne Faithfull, Ice T, Jazzmatazz, ZZ Top, Simply Red, Eric Clapton, Marisa Monte, George Benson, Jazzkantine, Alanis Morissette, David Bowie, Paul Simon... In 1999, the festival saw more than 220,000 visitors.
The festival has also played host to some of the most well-known and talented student groups, including big bands and vocal ensembles.
The expansion has also prompted a DVD series to be released showing the sets of a number of great artists from a range of genres playing at the festival. The series, entitled 'Live at Montreux' includes performances from artists such as:
Three international competitions are organised by the Montreux Jazz Festival Foundation 2 every year: Solo Piano, Guitar and Voice. For each competition a jury composed of professionals and chaired by a world famous musician (in 2008: Fazil Say for the Piano Solo, Lee Ritenour for the Guitar, Patti Austin for the Voice competition) award the three prizes. In addition, a local competition, the Tremplin Lémanique, is aimed at jazz bands that are based in one of the regions of the Léman lake: the French departments of Ain and Haute Savoie and the Swiss cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Valais. All the information is available on: [www.fondation2.ch]. The yearly deadline to apply is April 15.
2008 Winners: Solo Piano Competition: Gaël Rakotrongabe (France) Guitar Competition: Jeff Miles (USA) Voice Competition: Sabine Kuehlich (Germany) Tremplin Lémanique: Red Planet
The Montreux Competitions are part of the free events of the Festival, along with the workshops, the archives projections, the exhibitions and the free concerts in the park. All these events are organised by the Montreux Jazz Foundation 2 - www.foundation2.ch.
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