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Montreux Jazz Festival 1998

bullet    Festival Overview
bullet   Buddy Guy
bullet   Tribute To Mahalai Jackson
bullet   Keb' Mo'
bullet   Kenny Wayne Sheppard
bullet   John Mayal



le 18 juillet, 1998 by "Toomey" Bonardelli

July 18, 1998




Montreux, Switzerland (APS): July always means Montreux to the music lover. The Montreux Jazz Festival combines jazz, blues, rock, house, and world music in a two-week event snuggled between Lac Léman and the Alps. During this time, music combines with the scenery to swell the boardwalk and streets with visitors from all over the world. As the Montreux Jazz Festival celebrated its 32nd year, there are no indications of wear. From its 3-day inception in 1967 to its present size and variety of music, it has become a mecca for performers and fans alike.

The two indoor venues of the Centre de Congrès were just part of this year’s festivities. The "Off" Festival, which included music workshops, acoustic presentations, three boats tours included over 1,500 musicians at these venues. In addition, the Jazz Café welcomed 500 artists from DJs to bands to jam sessions. One stage on the terrace of the Stravinski Auditorium and the other stage farther along the boardwalk, provided big band and university jazz bands throughout the afternoons and early evenings. The workshops were a great opportunity to learn a few tips from a famous musician or to get intimate with your favorite performer.

The two stages are the heartbeat of the festival, however, providing a collage of concerts for a variety of tastes. The first weekend showcased one of folk music’s legends, Bob Dylan on Friday and music from Brazil for the rest of the opening weekend.

Blues is quite popular at Montreux. There is the blues night along with other evenings with blues players on the bill with other styles of music. The Blues Summit on July 7, surpassed everyone’s expectations, lasting until after 1:00 am, including a jam session. Charlie Musselwhile opened the evening with his blues harp. Buddy Guy, with his flamboyant outfit, took a stroll thought the crowd much to the surprise of the audience and security. The show’s headliner, B.B. King began his set before midnight. With his expressive facial contortions and guitar prowess, he kept the audience going despite the hour. The finale included Charlie Musselwhile, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Keb Mo’, Herbie Hancock, and Montreux organiser, Claude Nobs for another classic Montreux event.

The next couple of nights showcased blues and various jazz forms with the same stars that jammed with B.B. King. In addition, a tribute to Mahalia Jackson by Mavis Staples and Lucky Peterson was an inspirational concert for the several hundred that packed the Miles Davis Hall.

Santana’s Latin rock was juxtaposed with Alfredo de la Fé’s Latin violin style. Cuba’s Alfredo de la Fé is the arranger for the well-known Tito Puente, but he has always had the desire to build a band and perform on the jazz circuit. Both bands provided the audience with an excellent evening of upbeat sounds.

Music ran the gamut from folk to rock like the sold-out performance of Björk to the Irish music of the Davy Spillane Duo and The Corrs to the rap/hip hop evenings with Kid Loco, Moloko, Urban Species among others.

Since Atlantic Records is celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary, there were two nights devoted to the labels’ artists. David Crosby performed in his new band which included his son. Jazz men Les McCann, James Carter, and George Duke were featured on another evening.

Phil Collins came back this year with his big band, performing several Genesis songs with that big band sound. The demand for tickets was so great another show was added. That evening was swinging, especially with the featured performers, saxophonist Gerald Albright and singer Oleta Adams.

Two Brazilian nights featured several bands from Northeast Brazil while a separate Latin night featured Marisa Monte, Gilberto Gil, and Novos Bahianos.

The Festival took precautions not to schedule a show during the World Cup Final. That evening they incorporated the game with Cuba night. After the opening act, the TV screens in the hall showed the football game and then the remaining two acts performed. The concert ended after 5am.

African Night, including King Sunny Ade revved the crowd while Ragga and Roots night, highlighting Positive Black Soul, and Fonky Family, Raggasonic and the Ruff Cut Band had everyone dancing the night away.

Jazz came in all packages from the superb Michel Petrucciani sextet to the avant-garde sounds of Al Jarreau to the funky jazz of Herbie Hancock and the original Headhunters. It was there too with Sadao Watanabe, the Atlantic jazz artists, Lee Konitz, and Erik Truffaz, among the many stars. Michel Petrucciani concert with the horn section and with only the trio for part of the evening garnered three standing ovations.

Outstanding jazz vocalists like Cassandra Wilson, who performed with a quartet, delighted the nearly-full Stravinski Auditorium. George Benson crooned through several tunes and impressed the audience with his "scat" singing. In addition to his singing abilities, Benson is known for, and that night verified, his guitar virtuosity.

The funk night brought back the famous Earth, Wind, and Fire in a concert with Tower of Power and Bootsy Collins. The evening was a return to the late 1970s, when danceable funky beats were the rage. The blue-eyed soul sounds of Tower of Power kept them and the audience moving to the beat. Bootsy Collins’ show was wild, constantly-changing pieces of theatre, including a guitar player in diapers. The audience remained in the auditorium for Earth, Wind, and Fire, who never disappointed them, playing their popular hits and even some new tunes.

The artistry was not only music this year, perhaps a first for Montreux. Joaquín Cortés, a flamenco dancer highlighted one evening with The Gypsy Passion Band. The Band was excellent and Cortés showed his dancing talents. However, the reviews in the morning newspapers criticised the measly half hour of dancing time on stage.

One obvious problem with the otherwise spectacular jazz festival was the mismatching of acts on occasion. Putting a blues-rock band like Kenny Wayne Shepherd on the bill Herbie Hancock caused some disappointments. Furthermore, Shepherd’s guitar-oriented sound contrasted with Hancock’s electronic keyboards and horns. A less critical mismatch featured Mavis Staples and Lucky Peterson’s gospel performance on the same stage with bluesman Keb Mo’ and folk/rock performer A.J. Croce. However, one can agree that the music all has the same roots.

Other events also permeated the Montreux Jazz Festival site. The "Off" festival included two stages along the lakefront showcasing big bands and college jazz bands. All afternoon and evening, lakeside strollers listened to music along the almost mile-long walk.

There were music workshops, where the performers would host a clinic, to explain their music and demonstrate their playing. B.B. King fielded questions from the audience and showed them some famous B.B. riffs. The horn section of Tower of Power hosted one workshop, along with pianist Les McCann and drummer David Garibaldi.

Acoustic evenings at the Montreux Palace were quite relaxing in the 4-star hotel. One could have seen Al Copley on piano and guitarist José Barrense-Diaz along with the a capella Les Silap’.

The Jazz Café, an eclectically-designed bistro, was the meeting place of almost everyone at some time during the festival. While a hang-out for teenagers, it also attracted the post-concert crowd to the music. Events in the café included videos of past Jazz Festival performances, concerts showcasing all types of music, and jam sessions, which included Carlos Santana and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. If that were not enough, the DJ played records until 5 am.

For the first time, the concerts and many interviews were available live on the World Wide Web, meaning that music lovers all over the world were able to see and hear the concerts as they were happening.

Two weeks of music, music education, and pleasant diversions occurred at the Montreux Jazz Festival.



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July 7, 1998


by "Toomey" Bonardelli

Energetic Buddy Guy Wows Montreux Crowd


Montreux, Switzerland (APS) Buddy Guy, Chicago’s famous blues club owner and performer, wowed the packed Stravinski Auditorium of the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 7, 1998. Guy’s over one hour show had all the stuff to satisfy any blues and rock taste. He performed songs from his recent Silvertone album "Heavy Love" to classic tunes like Hoochie-Coochie Man.

All has not been rosy for this blues player. His career has been checkered in spite of his musical history as a Chess session guitarist, four-time Grammy winner, and Billboard’s 1993 Century Award recipient. Buddy Guy, known by all in the blues world, was still struggling while his contemporaries were enjoying record deals and increasing notoriety.

In addition to being an unsigned guitarist for nearly ten years, Buddy Guy had been severely affected by the 1990 death of one of his students, Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was Eric Clapton who helped pull Buddy back on track.

In 1991, Silvertone Records released the first of many Buddy Guy albums. Today, somewhat more secure, financially and emotionally, Buddy Guy says "Damn Right, I got the Blues". At 62 years old, Buddy has been dubbed the caretaker of the blues. Over a year ago, he thought that there were a handful of blues musicians left to spread the word. "Today, the hand isn’t so full and it’s real [sic] important to get the word out..."

At Montreux that evening, Buddy Guy showed his years of experience and his years on the road, learning, playing, and influencing the blues. At one point, his electrifying guitar playing was pitted against the Hammond B-3 organ player in a battle of notes. Then he relaxed and slowed down on his original "Had a Bad Night".

Dressed in a wild colorful shirt, he danced along the stage, keeping the cameraman busy in pursuit. He used feedback to complement his solos and to create distorted chords, all seemingly at ease.

Guy could not resist a walk through the auditorium that took the crowd (and security) by surprise. That guaranteed the devotion of the audience and he had them for the rest of the evening.


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July 8, 1998


by "Toomey" Bonardelli

Chicago Musicians Honor Mahalia Jackson


Montreux, Switzerland (APS) Mavis Staples of the famous gospel/R&B Staples Singers, and Lucky Peterson performed at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival on July 8. The entire program was a tribute to Mahalia Jackson, America’s greatest gospel singer. While Mavis Staples interpreted Mahalia’s famous recordings, Peterson would take turns playing piano or Hammond organ. The result was an intimate evening of inspirational music.

In spite of an occasional cough, Miss Staples belted out some of Mahalia Jackson’s most famous gospel tunes. She opened with "Don’t Know the Trouble I’m in" and got the crowd to join in with "Whole World in His Hands."

Mavis Staples’ interpretation of Jackson’s music comes from a close relationship with Mahalia Jackson herself. The Staples family moved up to Chicago from Mississippi in the 1930s, an era of the exodus of many rural blacks to the northern urban centers. As a teenager in the 1950s, Mavis sang with Mahalia Jackson at the 44th Street Baptist Church. Their musical relationship grew over the years, and as Mavis mentioned at the concert, she was honored to sing with Mahalia one evening in 1969 at a New York City venue.

However, their musical relationship was more than the 1969 appearance. Mahalia had taken Mavis under her wing years earlier. It culminated at the New York show, when an aged Jackson needed Mavis to help her sing "Precious Lord". Staples mentioned to her Montreux audience that it was such an honor to sing that song, since Miss Jackson had sung it at Martin Luther King’s funeral. Incidentally, "Precious Lord" was Dr. King’s favorite gospel hymn.

The great Negro spirituals, performed by such legends as Mahalia Jackson, are also sung by many singers and choirs in churches across North America. Europeans’ exposure to this inspirational American tradition has been sparse, but very much welcomed that evening.

The show continued with Peterson’s powerful hands at the B-3 organ and Staples’ strong voice with "Summertime", the ballad from Porgy and Bess and "Wade in the Water". The crowd remained perplexed by the overwhelming presence of Mavis Staples and Lucky Peterson, supported with only a piano and an organ.


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July 8, 1998


by "Toomey" Bonardelli

Back to Roots Blues with Keb’ Mo’


Montreux, Switzerland (APS) Kevin Moore, or Keb’ Mo’, took the blues back to its roots with his performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 8, 1998. Keb’ Mo’ treated the audience to a virtually acoustic evening, both solo and with his band. For blues purists, the performer promises to capture a share of the blues market.

Keb’ Mo’ used his steel and acoustic guitar in a great interpretation of country blues from ballads like "Henry" to the more upbeat "Love Yourself". On that tune, to everyone’s surprise, Charlie Musselwhite, the Memphis harp player, entered the stage. They both also performed Robert Johnson’s "Kind-hearted Women".

This hot blues evenining continued as Kenny Wayne Sheperd walked on stage next to play with Keb’ Mo’, since anything can happen at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

To some extent, the presence of an accordion in this back-up band gave the concert a country feel. In addition, the general lack of amplifiers in the band gave the audience an original blues atmosphere; that is, before the blues left the Delta to the urban north.

Keb’ Mo’s roots are in South Central Los Angeles and he grew up in the gospel music of the Baptist church and in the 60s Rhythm & Blues and rock. In the 1970s and 1980s, he performed with Papa John Creach, jammed with Big Joe Turner, Jimmy Witherspoon, Albert Collins, among other greats.

In 1990, he performed in an LA play called "Rabbit Foot", as a Delta bluesman. This led to a serious study of classic and country blues. Finally, he released the "Keb’ Mo’" album on the newly-revived Okeh label (an Epic subsidiary) in June 1994.

Presently, Keb’ Mo’ has a new album release entitled "Just Like You". As the album promo states, Keb’ Mo’ builds a colorful and compelling edifice upon a contemporary blues foundation.

At Montreux, Keb’ Mo’ performed several tunes from his recent album, including the title song, which is itself a soulful blues ballad.

Keb’ Mo’, reminiscent of acoustic greats like Lightnin’ Hopkins, is a player to watch this coming year.



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July 8,1998


by "Toomey" Bonardelli

Young Kenny Wayne Shepherd Plays Prestigious Montreux


Montreux, Switzerland (APS) Kenny Wayne Shepherd performed at late show at the Stravinski Auditorium at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 8, 1998. The five-piece band, including a Hammond B-3 organ and lead singer, Noah Hunt, kept the audience in the hall, despite the 1:30 am start time. On a bill with Herbie Hancock, Shepherd was an about-face to what had come earlier.

Shepherd is the latest blues phenomenon in the music industry. He is only 20 years old, yet plays with the maturity of a long-time performer. Legend has it that at 7 years old, Kenny was at a Stevie Ray Vaughan concert and at one point, Vaughan lifted the little boy and sat him on his amplifier. The rest is music history, as they say. Shepherd begged his dad for a guitar and, once in hand, he practiced and learned. Whether it were B.B. King or Muddy Waters, or his favorite, Albert King, Shepherd absorbed every chord and solo of these artists.

At 13, he had to play live and on a family trip to New Orleans, he received a standing ovation for his performance - as the legend goes. In 1993, he was signed to Revolution Records and released "Ledbetter Heights". Its success led to, large hall and stadium gigs for Shepherd, where he was joined by already established guitarists such as Slash. Even in Montreux, this jam session atmosphere continued as Kenny Wayne Shepherd sat in with B.B. King the night before and with Keb’ Mo’ earlier in the evening in the other hall.

The Montreux performance was a powerful rock blues concert reminiscent of groups like The Cream. Hard tunes in your face started the set and then the band slowed things down to a mellow bluesy feel. Lead singer Hunt looked somewhat out of place as he sported a tie-dye shirt that one would see at a Dead concert, not a blues show. Nevertheless, Hunt belted out fine version of "Mean Old World" with his rough, edgy voice. Contrasting the loud, hard vocals of that tune, Hunt was mellow and suburb on the radio release "Blue on Black".

Late in the evening (about 2:45am), Carlos Santana and B.B. King’s drummer, Tony Colman, sat in for "Everyday I Have the Blues". Since Shepherd enjoys performing, he continued to treat the loyal fans to an encore of Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile, which included riffs from other Hendrix songs.

Although a stunning performer, one wonders if he is too young to have been invited to this famous festival so soon. He has not paid his dues, so to speak, although he has already been recognized by his peers. He toured with B.B. King a couple of years ago. But the questions remains, what will Shepherd be doing in five years? His attitude is good - he stated at his press conference earlier in the day, "If one plays with one’s soul, then it is cool". If he continues to do that, he will continue to develop his musical skills and also his audiences.



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July 11, 1998


by "Toomey" Bonardelli

John Mayall Delivers Hot Show at Montreux


Montreux, Switzerland (APS) The father of British blues, John Mayall, gave a straight-ahead, not-overdone blues show at Montreux’s prestigious Stravinski Auditorium on July 11, 1998. John Mayall, backed by his three-piece Bluesbrakers, performed solid blues-rock tunes from his own classics to blues standards.

Mayall, continually standing at his electric piano, belted out his 1967 song, "A Hard Road" and he never stopped after that tune. Playing harp and piano together, Mayall jammed on "Jack for the Highway", while guitarist Buddy Whittington sang the song. Mayall then hit the audience with the ballad "I Got a Padlock on the Blues", which is probably a statement on his inner self.

John Mayall is no stranger to the blues world, having released well-over forty albums since 1964. He continues to perform and produce albums in the 1990s. His recent album, "Blues for Lost Days", his third on label Siverstone Records, is complete with the type of electric blues that is familiar to Mayall fans. Yet, as his promo states, Mayall and the Bluesbrakers "slash their way across musical boundaries and purist limitations as they update the blues for a new generation." Nevertheless, he remains true to his blues roots.

In Montreux, the one hour and twenty minute performance ended with John Mayall scatting, playing harp, then back to scatting, riling the audience sufficiently that they demanded an encore. Mayall returned to the stage for a classic and fitting ending to the evening with "Ain’t No Brakeman on this Train".



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