The Montreux Jazz Festival takes places over 2 weeks each summer in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva. With ambitious programming choices and a warm welcome forged in the hospitality industry, the Montreux Jazz Festival offers a haven of peace to both artists and public—time seems to stop as the most improbable encounters become reality.
The Montreux Jazz Festival was created in 1967 by Claude Nobs, René Langel, and Géo Voumard, and has since become a landmark event. Not because it draws more than 250,000 visitors, or because those two weeks in Montreux make up one of the best-known events in Europe and beyond, but rather because the Festival has kept its soul intact throughout all this growth. At Montreux, the intimacy that encourages improvisation remains a top priority. Proximity between the biggest artists and their audiences in concert halls of reasonable capacity, comfortable surroundings, and a quality listening experience all combine to produce unique concerts and encourage memorable moments.
While jazz and blues are at the roots of this event, other styles of music quickly found their place as well, anchored by artistic encounters between generations of musicians and unique experiments. Montreux has seen historic performances by artists including Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder.
The three ticketed venues (Auditorium Stravinski, Montreux Jazz Club, Montreux Jazz Lab) showcase the Festival’s prestigious lineup of artists. However, from the very beginning Festival founder Claude Nobs wanted to offer access to music to everyone, and so a wide variety of free programming energizes the Festival site and provides opportunities for emerging artists to shine. Kicking off each afternoon with the open-air stage of Music in the Park and the workshops, and continuing until the wee hours with the Rock Cave and various after-show events, the Festival ambiance is in full swing on the lakefront promenades with their rich variety of food stands and on the terraces by the lake with their inimitable Alpine backdrop.
From the very beginning, motivated by a peerless commitment to sound quality, the Festival has painstakingly recorded all its concerts using the latest technologies. This unique collection of audiovisual archives includes more than 5000 hours of live music, and has been recognized by UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. More than 400 Montreux concerts have been published, like Les McCann and Eddie Harris’ famous 1969 Swiss Movement or the unbelievable concert by Nina Simone from 1976.
Following Claude Nobs’ passing in January 2013, Mathieu Jaton took up the reins of the Festival. With a unique identity in the world of music, each year the Montreux Jazz Festival forges a new chapter in an odyssey built on audaciousness and dreams without limits.
President: François Carrard
Vice President: Pierre Landolt
Members: Thierry Amsallem, Patrick Aebischer, Pierre Keller, André Kudelski, Xavier Oberson, Peter Rebeiz, Laurent Wehrli
General Direction: Mathieu Jaton
Secretary General: Viviane Rychner Raouf
Top Events of Switzerland | Swiss Music Promoters Association | Yourope The European Festival Association |International Jazz Festivals Organization | European Talent Exchange Program |International Live Music Conference | De Concert! Federation
Honors and Awards
Swiss Night Life Award 2015 "Best Festival", Swiss Recycling Award 2014, 2011 Prize for professional integration of persons with handicaps from the Association des Entreprises d’Insertion Professionnelle (AEIP).
It would be a Herculean task to name all the artists who have performed on the various stages of the Festival since 1967. A simple list would not sufficiently honor each of them, as they have all played a part in making Festival history. We have developed several tools to help you relive the greatest moments of the Festival:
This digital platform provides access to an audiovisual treasure trove containing not only the archives of concerts recorded since 1967, but also an array of videos produced by Montreux Jazz TV. This tool puts all the Festival content at your fingertips, along with editorial content. New material is regularly made available.
This search tool inventories each concert performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival since 1967 and provides the set lists from these shows.
A retrospective of the last 49 editions in the form of short videos.
The little city of Montreux has been a favored destination of the English since the 19th century, with Lake Geneva at its feet, its head in the mountains, and the sun as its guardian angel. Few travelers passing through the region can resist the temptation to stop for a while to enjoy all Montreux has to offer.
Back in the day, the participants in the “Rose d’Or” TV contest were particularly fond of Montreux. The only thing missing was something to do in the evening. Enter a certain tourist office employee named Claude Nobs. Truly passionate about music, he made it his mission to improve the situation, and did so with such panache that a few year later the decision was made to create a whole new event. Thanks to his enthusiasm and audacity, the man who first convinced the Rolling Stones to perform outside Great Britain was able to make the case for a festival dedicated to jazz and other musical genres in the Swiss Riviera.
The Montreux Casino hosted the first Montreux Jazz Festival over three days in June, 1967: fifteen performances on the paying stage, and already jam sessions at all hours in the gardens. A highlight of that edition was the Charles Lloyd Quartet introducing Montreux to not only that master saxophonist, but also to pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette.
Cards on the table: you had to be a little crazy to take this risk. Claude and his friends René Langel and Géo Voumard refused to listen to reason—they never wanted a little festival. Not for glory, not for money, but because of their love for the music. The Festival showed great vision in recording all its concerts from the very beginning, and has never stopped doing so, always using the best technologies available at the moment.
By the second year, the event had lengthened to five days. It kept on developing, and grew more and more successful. The recording of the legendary concert by Les McCann and Eddie Harris at that edition, Swiss Movement, became the first jazz album in history to sell more than a million copies. That live performance, and the many which followed, helped forge the Festival’s international reputation.
70s and 80s
There were always going to be bumps in the road, and these also took their place in the legend: the Casino caught fire during a Frank Zappa concert in December of 1971, forcing a temporary move to the pavilion at the Palace in 1972 and then to the Convention Center for the next two years. The fire became the subject of a worldwide hit, “Smoke On The Water”, composed by members of Deep Purple who witnessed the scene. The return to the entirely rebuilt Casino marked the arrival of new musical genres: folk and country.
The 1977 edition was the longest ever, lasting from July 1st to the 24th, and marked the arrival of “world” music forms including Brazilian music and disco. The fifteen years that followed saw the Montreux Jazz Festival established firmly in the hearts of music-lovers as a worldwide reference. Miles Davis was at home in Montreux. B.B. King regularly displayed the power of the blues. Herbie Hancock and Carlos Santana showed off their fiery fingers and creativity.
The Festival has never been one to rest on its laurels: the 1990s marked a spectacular turning point. In 1993 the Montreux convention center (now known as Montreux Music and Convention Center – 2M2C) became the new site of the Festival, making it possible to offer programming in two venues: the Auditorium Stravinski, and the New Q’s. The latter “little” hall exposed the public to less well-known artists and more unusual genres. Claude Nobs’ “American Brother” Quincy Jones was instrumental in this transition, co-producing the event from 1991 to 1993. 1991 is also remembered as having featuring the historic last concert by Miles Davis with the Gil Evans Orchestra and the George Gruntz Jazz Band conducted by Quincy Jones.
The public loved these changes and grew larger at each edition. In 1998, the second venue, renamed Miles Davis Hall, was even more dedicated to emerging music, from electro to acid jazz by way of hip-hop. That same year the bar of 200,000 visitors to the paying and free stages was surpassed.
2000 - 2015
Starting in 2003 a new hall in the Casino Barrière made it possible to offer an even larger spectrum of music. Despite frequently uncooperative weather, the Festival continued growing until the 40th anniversary celebrated in 2006—by then, it was already routine for more than 220,000 visitors to make their way to Montreux.
In 2007, Lausanne’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and the Claude Nobs Foundation, curator of the archives presided by Thierry Amsallem, joined forces and skills to begin a unique project to digitize the audiovisual tapes in high definition. It’s a colossal task, the aim of which is to preserve the archives and to make the most of them for the benefit of future generations. A further aim is to make the archives accessible to as many people as possible while respecting copyrights, through the development of interactive diffusion technologies, not only to celebrate this artistic heritage, but also for educational, research, scientific, and cultural uses.
Trained as a chef, Claude Nobs took his passion for gastronomy and his sense of hospitality far beyond the Festival: in 2008, the Montreux Jazz Café was born, designed as a restaurant where cuisine and music could combine in an outstanding way. 2008 was also the year of creation of the Fondation 2, an entity dedicated to educational projects such as the workshops, and to musical creations in unusual settings. This recognized not-for-profit foundation also organizes the famous piano, guitar, and voice competitions.
In 2013 the sudden passing of the charismatic Claude Nobs left the Festival in mourning for its founder. This period saw amazing tributes pour in, and sparked a creative rebound marked by significant decisions and changes that had been conceived by Claude Nobs himself the previous autumn. The Montreux Jazz Festival, guided by its powerful DNA and led by its new director Mathieu Jaton, redesigned its architecture and continued to look to the future, handling the transition with the care you give to a precious vinyl record:
On the A-side: three paying venues with very specific identities. The Auditorium Stravinski, its stage still bearing the footprints of dizzyingly impressive artists. It would share the main line-up with two other spaces with their own individual vibes: the Montreux Jazz Club, an intimate space perfect for jazz, soul, and spontaneous jam sessions, steeped in old-school class; and the Montreux Jazz Lab, a ferocious stage adapted for live streaming, pulsing to the rhythm of the hottest artists of the day and new discoveries from all possible genres
On the B-side: more free programming than ever, but carefully remastered. The neon lights of the redesigned lakefront promenade “strip” evoke the history of the Festival’s core musical genres.
In June 2013, the archives collection of over 5,000 hours of recordings of Montreux Jazz Festival concerts is included on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. It’s a real testament to the development of live music over half a century, and that’s why it’s the first audiovisual library to receive world heritage status.
In becoming the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation (MJAF) in 2014, the Fondation 2 took on a whole new dimension. Of course, it would continue to organize its competitions and its unusual, intimate concerts. But now the MJAF would forge ties and support tomorrow’s talents all year round, most notably through the new “Montreux Jazz Academy”.
In 2016, the Montreux Jazz Festival is celebrating its 50th edition. A half century of sublime living music in this extraordinary little city. The emblematic 2016 poster by Giovanni Riva, like all the projects and collaborations for this forward-looking jubilee, are steeped in the historic bonds between the Festival, the artists, and the public.
The Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation – MJAF (formerly Foundation 2) is the educational wing of the Montreux Jazz Festival. This registered not-for-profit foundation was born from a desire to discover talented new artists, encourage cultural exchanges, and create a space for encounters between artists and the public.
During the Festival, the MJAF organizes the high-profile voice, guitar, and solo piano competitions, as well as workshops and musical creations in unusual spaces.
It also fulfils its mission of forging ties and nurturing tomorrow’s headliners all year long. Since 2014, the MJAF has organized the Montreux Jazz Academy, an intensive week-long residential program for a dozen talented young artists chosen from among the top finishers at the competitions held during the Festival.
The goal of the Montreux Jazz Academy is to offer these artists tools for their professional careers, while also encouraging them to step outside their comfort zones by providing them with a space dedicated to exchanges and experimentation alongside renowned mentors. Through these encounters and the ideas and self-examination they engender, the Montreux Jazz Academy has resulted in numerous musical projects.
The Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation’s central message is that the future of jazz is bright, and it’s happening in Montreux!
President: Xavier Oberson
Vice President: François Carrard
General Director: Mathieu Jaton
Artistic Director: Stéphanie-Aloysia Moretti
Members: Patrick Delarive, Pierre Keller, Julie de Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Reber, Stephanie Rada Zocco, Wendy Oxenhorn
General Secretary: Viviane Rychner Raouf
Trained as a chef, Claude Nobs took his passion for gastronomy and his sense of hospitality far beyond the Festival: in 2008, the first Montreux Jazz Café was born in Geneva Airport, designed as a restaurant where cuisine and music could combine in an outstanding way.
Conceived to be ambassadors of the Festival, the Montreux Jazz Cafés offer an atmosphere and dishes crafted with the very passion so characteristic of those inimitable Montreux moments. On the menu: the famous B.B. Burger, Coquelet façon Quincy Jones, and the succulent Ella’s Cheesecake.
The Festival’s audiovisual archives, included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, are another key element of the Montreux Jazz Cafés, which are built around exclusive access to this content. All our guests can enjoy fine dining while exploring concert footage that is generally not available anywhere else.
The history of these Cafés imagined by Claude Nobs is still being written: several locations have opened all over the world. Montreux Jazz International SA manages the international development of the Montreux Jazz Café brand.
To discover all of the Montreux Jazz Café locations and their menus, please visit montreuxjazzcafe.com.
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Public benefit foundation for the preservation and valorization of the Montreux Jazz Festival audiovisual collection included in 2013 as part of UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.
From Aretha Franklin to David Bowie, Ray Charles or Prince, over 5’000 hours of concerts were recorded in audio and video since the creation of the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1967 by visionary Claude Nobs.
The collection covers many Jazz greats as Errol Garner, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson or Herbie Hancock. Most of them have composed anthology pieces, as a result of extremely rare jam sessions. Due to its universality and its intercultural dimension that library of “live” records has no equivalent in the world.
" Its the most important testimonial to the history of music, covering jazz, blues and rock " Quincy Jones
1991, 1992, 1993, 1997 and since 2002 editions of the festival are recorded in High Definition. Festival even experienced 3D in 2010 in partnership with the Nagra Kudelski Group and 4K 3D in 2012 with NVP3D and RTS.
Since 1967, many concerts were published by artists and record companies on LP and CD, broadcasted on radio and TV around the world under the label Montreux Jazz Festival. In 2004, Eagle Rock and Montreux Sounds created the concert series "Live at Montreux" releasing more than 140 different concerts on DVD, Blu-ray and CD. Since 2007.
Since 2007, the "Montreux Jazz Digital Project", in partnership with EPFL, aims to preserve and make available all the recordings of the Montreux Jazz Festival in a dedicated location in the heart of campus called "Art Lab".
President: Thierry Amsallem
Vice-President: Mr. Laurent Wehrli
Members: Prof. Patrick Aebischer, Olivier Audemars, Joëlle Borgatta, Eric Merk
Secretary: Simon Lepêtre
Sponsoring is an essential source of financing for cultural events. However, the degree of integration regarding these partnerships varies from one event to the next. For years the Festival has relied on a strategy of close collaboration with its partners, whose presence brings added value to both the public and the artists.