With less than a month before 250,000 music aficionados take the small Swiss town by storm, the hype is already bubbling for the 49th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival. It’s prestige and glittering history of the best current artists in the world makes it a milestone in most musicians’ careers. Here, ON the blog looks at some of the big names, obscure anomalies and international revolutionaries at the festival.
Tony Bennett, who has more albums than the Montreux Jazz Festival has years (Bennett 57 – 49 MJF), is still keeping it fresh. This year, at 88, he is returning with Lady Gaga to the shores of Lake Léman to perform tracks from their latest album Cheek to Cheek as well as some jazz standards, in keeping with the overarching vibe. This pairing is likely to draw a huge and eclectic crowd, with the younger generations dancing among the more stationary fans of Bennett’s timeless crooning style. The shows they have already put on have received stellar reviews, with the unlikely chemistry between the two being one of the main talking points.The headline act promises to be lively, nostalgic and memorable.
Born out of the South African “zef” counter-culture movement, Die Antwoord (the answer, in English) are one of the groups which demonstrate MJF’s ability to accept such a variety of genres. Tracks such as Baby’s on Fire is an assault of sound that leaves you feeling disorientated with a video which gets as close to being banned as possible. Their live performances manage to offend as much as their planned videos through their stage energy which is reminiscent of The Prodigy and clothing that well… Let’s just say they wouldn’t be welcome at the Flanders household. It’s a wonder they don’t give out wasabi smoothies at concerts to offend the sense of taste as well as sight and hearing. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Die Antwoord are a band with true passion who demand to be noticed.
Brazilian musicians and activists Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, as important in the political world as they are in the music world, will be returning to Montreux on July 15th. They are no strangers to the festival and are always fan favourites with their blend of styles that comes from their troubled backgrounds. During the military dictatorship which ruled Brazil until 1985, the creative duo were imprisoned together due to a general distain towards their leftist ideas. After being forced out of Brazil, they spent time in exile in London, where they were able to work on their fusion of musical genres, such as reggae, rock and american jazz which were circulating around the English capital. As stalwarts of the festival and with a beautifully diverse repertoire, Veloso and Gil are not to be missed.
The latest sensation to burst out of the U.K., Sam Smith, will be performing at the MJF for the first time this year. His rise to fame, which began in 2012, has been rapid, considering he has already collected four Grammys, three BRITs and plenty more. The Montreux Jazz Festival is a fitting stage for him as he has had a passion for jazz since he started singing at the age of nine and one of his first teachers was the jazz singer-songwriter Joanna Eden. At 23, he is right at the dawn of his career and is sure to continue imposing his mark on the mainstream music scene.
La Famille Chedid has music in its veins. An assembly of father Louis and children Matthieu, Anna and Joseph, the family has four voices and eight hands at its disposal to bring their multi-instrumental talents together for the first time. All four are artists in their own right: Louis’ singing career spans 40 years, while Matthieu (with the very non-SEO-compatible stage name “-M-“, seriously, try googling it) is already a star on the French rock scene. Anna and Joseph (stage names Nach and Selim respectively) have both released their first solo albums in recent months. Expect an impressive live show; Matthieu Chédid all is especially well-known for his spectacular live performances featuring costumes, fire and screaming guitar solos.
So, if you’re heading to the MJF this year, be sure to look out for these game-changers, along with powerhouses such as Quincy Jones, Santana, John Legend, Lenny Kravitz, Lionel Richie and Mary J. Blige.