The Montreux Jazz Festival is an annual music festival held in July on the shores of Lake Geneva. This is the second largest Jazz festival in the world after Montreal. Founded way back in 1967 by Claude Nobs, Geo Voumard and Rene Langel along with some help from Ahmed Ertegun one of the founders of Atlantic Records. Initially a pure jazz festival the very first festival was held at the Montreux Casino and went on for three days. This was the place to be, it featured famed jazz artists like Nine Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis.
The Early Years
While it may have started out with strictly jazz act in the early 70’s other acts started playing the festival too. Organizers also included soul, blues and rock artists of the day. Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Marianne Faithful have all played there. Originally the festival was held at the Montreux Casino and the venue caught on fire during a performance by Frank Zappa. The whole event is immortalized in the song “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. By the end of the 70’s the festival was three weeks long and it included musical acts from virtually every continent.
In the 80’s the Montreux Jazz Festival really started to grow. More and more styles of music were add although Jazz still remained central to the festival. Throughout the 80’s jazz legend Miles Davis headlined several times. With the addition of more rock bands, Status Quo and Deep Purple have both headlined the festival multiple times. Other notable acts that have played Montreux in the 80’s were Marvin Gaye, Elvis Costello, Steve Ray Vaughn, George Clinton and a ton of other incredible acts. Here is Eric Clapton playing in 1986.
While the expansion of the festival may have been started in the 80’s it still continues today, it has really transformed from a strictly Jazz festival to an international music festival. From 91-93 Quincy Jones was one of the co-producers of the festival. The number of attendees in the 80’s was roughly 75,000 people and today it tops out at more than 120,000 attendees. It generates millions of dollars in revenue for the local community and it is one of the must-see international jazz festivals. Next summer pack your bags and head over to Switzerland and get in on the fun, you will love the atmosphere and of course the music.