by "Toomey" Bonardelli
33rd Montreux Jazz Festival: A Multitude of Happenings
Montreux, Switzerland (APS): Whether you arrived here to drown in a variety of music or to seek the serenity of the lake and mountains, all can be found in this resort area. For two weeks in July, 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 33rd 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.
This year’s festival provided a collage of concerts for a variety of tastes. The first weekend showcased one of rock’s superstars. Elvis Costello teamed up with a variety of artists to kick-off the festival at the Stravinsky Auditorium. In the smaller hall, Miles Davis Hall, an evening of reggae entertained music lovers.
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, a train tour to Gstaad, 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 Stravinsky 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 indoor stages are the heartbeat of the festival, however, providing a collage of concerts for a variety of tastes. In the Stravinsky Auditorium throughout the festival, audiences were exposed to a variety of music. Blues is particularly popular here, with B.B. King’s show a constant sell-out over the years. His show is marked with a jam session where musicians from past and future evenings come on stage to perform with the master.
King’s most famous crossover hit, "The Thrill is Gone" ended part one of the show. Then the famous jam session began. The jam included Jonny Lang, George Duke, Edgar Winter, Gordon Coop, Ken Wilson, Gary Moore, Rick Derringer, and even festival founder and organizer, Claude Nobs. The first tune, Memphis Slim’s "Nobody Loves Me" lasted forty-five minutes. Everyone had a chance to solo - twice! The next song was a slow blues and short; just fifteen minutes to perform. Finally, the grand finale was "When the Saints go Marching In" had the audience singing along.
On other evenings, blues performers Jeff Healey took the stage with Marianne Faithful, while Gary Moore performed with Blondie and Italian rocker Gianni Nannini. Meanwhile young bluesman Robben Ford performed in the Miles Davis Hall with Cory Harris. A special tribute to blues great Jimmy Rogers, not only included the legendary Rogers band but also performing guests such as Taj Mahal, Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds), Lucky Peterson, Jeff Healey among others. Van Morrison’s band opened the show, while Canadian newcomers Wide Mouth Mason ended the evening.
Besides Elvis Costello, rock music held the stage for several evenings with Blondie, Jovanotti and R.E.M., Alanis Morisette, along with new-comer Eagle-Eye Cherry and 60s/70s star James Taylor. However, the styles kept changing over the course of the two weeks. There was Latin rhythms with Oscar D’Leon, Chico Cesar, Milton Nascimento, Ney Matogrosso, Daniela Mercury, and others. Funk and soul were here too with Al Green, the Blues Brothers, and Fred Wesley Jazzfunk Explosion with Pee Wee Ellis.
For North Americans who are inundated with Anglo-performers, the festival provides the fan with opportunities to explore music from all over the world (versus world music). In addition, the festival gives fans from this side of the Atlantic, exposure to European jazz or rock performers. Khaled, an Algerian, sings Rai music in his native Arabic, while hit European hit is a song about his daughter, sung in French. Natacha Atlas, an Anglo-Egyptian, also performed here with a band using North African and Western instruments. In a workshop earlier in the day, Altlas explained how her music combines the traditional Eastern music scales with Western music. The results provide a unique texture and flow to a song. Furthermore, rap, hip-hop and a variety of industrial, and even DJs perform here, mostly in the Miles Davis Hall.
Jazz came in all packages from the Stanley Clarke to the avant-garde sounds of Herbie Hancock. Pat Metheny was there along with Davis Sanborn, Dave Weckl, Kenny Garrett. One of the most interesting evenings, for those who are into out-there music, was a night hosted by German record label ACT. The first act "Ottomania" was a combination of Turkish and German jazz and was, admittedly an experiment. You must experience it! Next, Christof Lauer brought back the tuba as the bass instrument into a jazz band. The highlight of the evening was the NDR Bigband who performed Ellington and had the last living Ellington player as a guest: Clark Terry.
The concerts were not the only events at the Montreux Jazz Festival. There were free 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. Natacha Atlas, David Sanborn, Pat Metheny, and Kevin Mahogany, were among the workshop hosts. The most interesting set of workshops was a five-part session on the development of jazz. Entitled "Navigation sur les Grands Courants du Jazz", Gimelfarb described the Dixieland roots of jazz, through to the swing era, to bebop, and the modern directions of jazz.
Acoustic evenings at the Montreux Palace were quite relaxing in the 4-star hotel. One could have seen Dan Knight and Kenny Drew, Jr. on piano and trios and quartets, like Gui Mallon Ensemble, French Jazz Quintet among the sixteen shows.
If that is not enough, 3 jazz cruises, named the Gospel, Salsa, and the Samba Boats were another event along with a train ride on the Panoramic Express to Gstaad up in the mountains. The boat rides had three bands on each of the levels and the bands performed for a boat-load of fans during a three hour tour. The train to Gstaad featured comedy performers and skits throughout the ride up the mountain and then a reception of wine and cheese for the guests at the end of the two and one-half hour trip.
Other events also permeated the Montreux Jazz Festival site. The "off" festival provided 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.
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 performers from the main concerts upstairs, like Wide Mouth Mason, Edgar Winter. If that were not enough, the DJ played records until 5 am.
One obvious problem with the otherwise spectacular jazz festival was the mismatching of acts on occasion. Putting a Latin band, such as Oscar d’Leon on the same bill with rocker Jovanotti and Rai singer Khaled caused some disappointments. The festival organizers have addressed the problem and such mismatches are much fewer than years ago. This year also, the main act has inserted in the middle of the evening program, due to the tendency for the shows to go on to 3 and 4 in the morning.
Furthermore, the many music-related and other sponsors of the festival, from MTV, CNN, and Swiss radio stations to Chrysler, Barclay, Swatch, Hennessy, Switcher, Swissair were there to promote their products in the foyer of the Centre de Congrès.
Two weeks of music, music education, and pleasant diversions occurred at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Tradition Continues as B.B. King Jams with Other Bluesmen
by "Toomey" Bonardelli
Montreux, Switzerland (APS) B.B. King’s excellent performance concluded with an hour-long jam session at this year’s Montreux Jazz Festival. On July 7, 1999, the Stravinsky Auditorium was filled with blues lovers who came to see King and to find out which musicians would join him on stage for the big jam. Also on the bill were the Johnny Lang Band and the Edgar Winter Group.
In his fiftieth year in show business, King does not show any signs of slowing down. However, he keeps telling the audience that he must sit down during the performance since he is 74 years old.
B.B. King was born on September 16, 1925 on a cotton plantation in Itta Bene, in the Mississippi Delta. By 1947, King arrived in Memphis, which supported a large, competitive musical community. Living with his cousin, Bukka White, one of the most renowned rural blues performers of his time, B.B. learned more about the blues. During that time, he performed on black radio stations and subsequently got club gigs as a result. He also landed his own radio show, where he took the name Beale Street Blues Boy or the short version, Blues Boy or B.B.
In the mid-1950s, while performing in Arkansas, a fight broke out and the hall caught fire when a kerosene stove tipped over. As everyone fled the burning building, B.B. realized that his acoustic guitar was still inside and so risked his life to save it. He later found out that the fight was over a woman named Lucille, he decided that would be the name of his guitars.
During his stint in the army, King was introduced to the music of Charlie Christian and T-Bone Walker, electric guitarists. That is when King decided to play the blues.
At a workshop given by King the day after the concert, he described his style. He mentioned that over the years, he has developed a unique guitar style by borrowing from Lonnie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker, and others. With these influences, he integrated his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left-hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable to today’s artists. His approach and phrasing has been a model for thousands of players including Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Jeff Beck.
The sound is richly melodic, both vocally and in the "singing" that comes from his guitar. As B.B. King states, "When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille."
His awards, honorariums and honorary doctorates, along with record sales and attendance at concerts are all indications of his influence on the music world. He has developed his audience over the years. King has been touring internationally since his number one hit in 1951, "Three O’clock Blues", averaging 275 concerts a year.
The band opened the show with "Let the Good Times Roll" and half-way through the song, B.B. King enters the stage. By the beginning of the next tune, "Why I Sing the Blues", you know why you have dished out your 80 CH Fr. King is definitely a performer that one must see to get the complete experience. The facial gyrations, the way he bends the strings, the rapport with his sidemen and the audience are not captured on albums. This year’s tour is in support of a new record, "B.B. on the Bayou", which includes B.B. King signature style on songs called "I’ll Survive" and "Bad Case of Love".
The band, which included a Hammond B-3 organ and a horn section, provided the background for B.B. King’s best friend, Lucille. King’s most famous crossover hit, "The Thrill is Gone" ended part one of the show. Then the famous jam session began. The jam included Johnny Lang, George Duke, Edgar Winter, Gordon Coop, Ken Wilson, Gary Moore, Rick Derringer, and even festival founder and organizer, Claude Nobs. The first tune, Memphis Slim’s "Nobody Loves Me" lasted forty-five minutes. Everyone had a chance to solo - twice! The next song was a slow blues and short; just fifteen minutes to perform. Finally, the grand finale was "When the Saints go Marching In" had the audience singing along. As B.B. King and all the musicians were taking their bows, a large cake with the words "Fifty Years" was wheeled onto the stage. Everyone felt elated so to be part of a landmark of a performer so amiable.
Sixties Soul Highlights Montreux Jazz Festival
by "Toomey" Bonardelli
Montreux (APS) Soul, funk, and gospel were the buzzwords at the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 13, 1999, when the Blues Brothers, Al Green, and Fred Wesley headlined the evening. The wooden floor was vibrating all evening as the audience danced, stomped or tapped their feet.
The Blues Brothers, developed by Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, both on TV and the movies opened the evening. While the famous frontmen are no longer in the band, some famous sidemen do remain. Guitarist Steve Cropper, from Booker T. days and the original 1978 movie was there, along with Lou Marini on saxophone and Alan Murphy on trumpet. Some performers from the new movie Blues Brothers 2000, now tour with the band, like Tommy "Pipes" McDonnel.
The show opened with the Blues Brothers’ string of 1960s soul hits: "Secret Agent Man", Taj Mahal’s "She’s Complicated", Jr. Wells’ "Messin’ with the Kid" to the tribute to Cab Calloway and his famous song, "Minnie the Moocher". No Blues Brothers show would be complete without the standard "Sweet Home Chicago", very well-know to the crowd.
The show continued with guest Eddie Floyd, famous for the tune "Knock on Wood". Although Floyd’s vocals sounded as if he had lots of effects added, he belted out several classics including "Soul Man" with Claude Nobs, the festival’s organizer. At one point, Floyd pulled a girl from the audience and danced with her. Audience members who had dressed up as the Blues Brothers, were invited onto the stage for the encore. The set ended after 10 pm with "Everybody Loves Somebody", a classic Blues Brothers tune.
Al Green provided the gospel portion of the show. Today, Green concentrates his energy as a full-time pastor at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis. Although he phased out performing pop music in the 1980s, he has done some commercial work lately. In 1994, his duet with Lyle Lovett, "Funny How Time Slips Away," won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration. Greatest hits albums were released in 1997 and 1998. In the 1980s, he devoted his time to his church and made some gospel recordings in his own studio. In 1985, he starred with Patti LaBelle in a religious musical. Between 1981 and 1989, Green won 8 Grammys, nearly sweeping the Best Soul Gospel Performance category for the entire decade.
The band was hot, giving us an emotional and energetic show. Green walked out with a white suit and song the songs than made hit the hot singer of the 1970s. He did start with gospel songs, then moved into "You Make me Feel Brand New", "Let’s Stay Together" to "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" Half-way though the show, he witnesses to the crowd, saying there is more to rock and roll and hitting the bed. "I’m a sinner; forgive me my sins and fill me with your Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen". He asked the audience to repeat. "You have a Saviour, when you need Him", then he began "Take Me to the River". He stopped in the middle of the song to do a medley of songs that describe why we do the things we do. "Bring it on Home", "I’ve Been Loving You Too Long", "My Girl", "Dock of the Bay" filled the hall. By midnight, he ended his set and apologized that his voice was not in top shape since he had 17 concerts in the last while. Nevertheless, he provided an enthusiastic audience with an encore.
As it got later in the evening, Fred Wesley and his funky band entered the stage. If you know this performer, you have ventured on a wild ride of varying music styles. He has gone from funk to jazz, then back to funk. He worked with James Brown, then was in Bootsey Collins’ Rubber Band, touring with the P-Funk people. But then again he was in the Count Basie orchestra in 1978. Well, Wesley is back doing a mélange of funk to R&B to jazz to hip-hop and even classical. This project includes his son, a keyboardist and percussionist, but also include some of Wesley’s old friends. From the P-Funk days is Bootsey, Bernie Worrell, and vocalist Gary Cooper. From the James Brown days are vocalist Bobby Byrd and Vicki Anderson and guitarist Herlon Martin, the guy who gave the "chink" sound of the James Brown style. Add some new talent and the Wesley band is an amalgam of old and new.
Overall, the band was melodic, funky, and grooving, but the changing tempos and the "out" solos were had to take at 1:30 in the morning. Pee Wee Ellis, the guest saxophonist, provided great honking solos. Fred Jr. played the bagpipes to an old-time funky tune, "Pass the Peas". The show continued past 2 am--a great evening of soul, funk, and gospel.
Mélange of Blues Artists Pays Tribute to Jimmy Rogers
by "Toomey" Bonardelli
Montreux, Switzerland (APS) On July 5, 1999, the Montreux Jazz Festival played tribute to the late Jimmy Rogers, with a wide variety of artists from all over the world.
The Jazz Fest went all out for this tribute, with Ahmet Ertegun as the MC for the evening. This Atlantic Record executive produced the tribute which included Jimmy Rogers’ core band: Ted Harvey on drums, John Koenig on Guitar, Johnnie Johnson on piano, Bob Stoger on bass, and Jimmy’s son, Jimmy D. Lane on guitar.
Jimmy Rogers was the last living link to the first Chicago band of Muddy Waters, where he remained a well-known blues performer boasting a seminal 1950s Chess Records catalogue, both behind Muddy Waters and on his own. Rogers lived all over the South and settled in Chicago in the 1940s. Rogers was playing harp with Blue Smitty when Muddy Waters joined them. When Smitty split, Little Walter was welcomed into the configuration, Rogers switched over to second guitar, and the famous electric Chicago style became history.
Late in the evening, the core band led the way with "She Loves Another Man", among others. Then the guests began to come out one at a time. First was Kim Wilson, lead vocalist and harp player with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. He performed "West Helena" and "Walking with Myself" and had been on stage since the beginning of the set. Next, Van Morrison, who had performed with his band earlier in the evening entered the stage. Then young Shaun Verrault from Wide Mouth Mason, came out to play "Sloppy Drunk". Jordan Cook, the 15 year-old guitarist played "Rock Me". Lucky Peterson, who wowed the Festival audience last year with Mavis Staples and the Tribute to Mahalia Jackson, explored his blues roots here with I’m Ready for You, I hope You’re Ready for Me". Another young blues performer, Robben Ford, who was performing in the adjacent hall, came over to do "Cross Cut Saw".
Johnny Johnson, the pianist from Chuck Berry fame, was highlighted on the next song, "Honky Tonk Train Blues", doing a solo performance for a by-now stunned crowd. Another Canadian, Jeff Healey, joined the many other Canadians that were already on stage. This seasoned performer, has a great sense of humor and performed several tunes like the famous "Hoochie Coochie Man". If that were not enough for the audience as the evening approached midnight, Taj Majal entered and performed harp on several numbers, including "Rollin’ and Tumblin’".
It is one a.m. now and all the artists came out for the finale. "Everyday I Have the Blues" had everyone on the feet and wildly enthusiastic despite the hour.
The Stravinsky Auditorium show also included Van Morrison’s band who opened the evening, along with Wide Mouth Mason, a Canadian blues-rock band that began their set just before 2 a.m.
Van Morrison and Wide Mouth Mason Share Stage at Montreux Jazz Festival
by "Toomey" Bonardelli
Montreux, Switzerland (APS) On July 5, 1999, the Stravinsky Auditorium was host to a plethora of musicians and acts that was one of the best at this year’s Montreux Jazz Festival. The evening began with Van Morrison and his seven-piece band, including horns and a Hammond B-3 organ for that special sound. Morrison has a cult following in the US and is clearly appreciated in Europe. Morrison grew up playing guitar, sax, and harmonica as he listened to his dad’s blues and jazz records. In 1966, after performing in Irish bands, Morrison made it to New York, where he began his solo career. Morrison produced several albums including Moondance, Tupelo Honey, and St. Dominic’s Preview, while touring with his Caledonian Soul Orchestra.
In 1973, he returned to Ireland to explore his Celtic roots. His subsequent album in 1974, Veedon Fleece, was milder and was his last release for the next 3 years. In 1977, he returned to the pop world with A Period of Transition, co-produced by Dr. John. He settled in London and produced several albums in the following years. His spiritual quest and interest in these matters found its way into his songs and to the albums of the 1980s. The 1990s has seen Van Morrison investigating blues and jazz; Too Long in Exile (1993) and How Long Has this Been Going on (1995). In 1998, a collection of unreleased songs recorded between 1971 and 1988 was published in The Philosopher’s Stone. In the same year, a Grammy was given to Morrison for his collaboration with John Lee Hooker on Don’t Look Back.
His Montreux performance was as eclectic as ever, with Morrison quiet between songs or sometimes mumbling. He babbled about Joe Turner’s songs: "...people who don’t know, don’t get it", then he moved into "Get on Up", the intro to "Sex Machine". The show ended as abruptly as it began.
Ending the evening after the Tribute to Jummy Rogers (see accompanying article) was Wide Mouth Mason, who started at 1:45 am. Claude Nobs, the festival organizer, invited the remaining audience onto the stage to sit around the band. The band is a trio withy a wide variety of influences. "Our sound is whatever comes out when the tree of us play together", says each of the band members, Shaun, Earl, and Safwan.
They grew up together in Saskatoon, remote from the centers of music. Nevertheless, they were touring western Canada within a year of forming. In 1997, they released an album and even performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Their performance here tonight indicates that they continue to reach new levels of success. Among accomplishments since their debut, they have won several Canadian music awards and have opened for the Rolling Stones in Toronto, Milwaukee, and Detroit.
Their show this evening was heavy on the drums early on, due more to the sound engineer rather then the wishes of the band. The band played a lot of blues since the evening was a blues night. They were extremely tight in all their tunes. On "Companion Leave me Dead", the high-pitched vocals gave the song a very pop sound, not the blues songs the audience had been hearing up to that point. "We like to keep people guessing and challenging ourselves musically," says Shaun, explaining the move from one style to another. The band is rising fast and the momentum has not slowed yet.
Web Master an article of Toomey's
August 24, 2003