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Montreux Jazz Festival 2003

bulletFirst Weekend
bulletNatalie Cole
bulletFirst Week
bulletSecond Weekend
bulletSecond Week
bulletThe Pretenders, Van Morrison

Le 8 juillet, 2003

First Weekend at the Montreux Jazz Festival

Montreux, Vaud (APS) Bonjour tout le monde. C'est la fin de la première semaine du festival ici à Montreux. Le festival a commencé avec Jethro Tull dans la grande salle Stravinsky et dans l'autre salle, Miles, on a entendu la musique reggae. Toutes les salles étaient complèts et on savait que le festival était ici pour 2003.

Les montagnes sont grandes, le lac est manifique, est les casse-croutes avec les repas du monde sont partout. Quel bel endoit pour un festival.

Jethro Tull does not have a record deal anymore, but that hasn't stopped the band from being creative over the last decades. Ian Anderson decided to divide his show into two parts, the first being devoted to new and quite eclectic music. The flute is still not a common rock instrument and the music was melodic and had a certain edge, somewhat different than what I was expecting. The second part was classic Tull for those who came for the "..Locomotive Breath..." song. Music from Stand Up and other 1970s albums could be heard. Incidentally, This Was the first Tull album which was Ian Anderson's tribute to American Blues.

Several reggae bands played in Miles until the wee hours. The sweet smell of reefer permeated the air all night long.

Saturday was the big day for Radiohead, who performed with no opening act and had the audience yelling for more electronic wizardry from the band. Radiohead has a growing and devoted audience base --surprising since there has not been much airplay in North America over the years.

The jazz was in force on Sunday in the Stravinsky Hall, with Natalie Cole and George Benson who played until 2:30am. Natalie opened with Unforgettable that she sang with her dad, thanks to the wonders of technology. She went though many standards from Ella Fitzgerald to Count Bassie and included a bossa nova tune that she wrote.

Downstairs in the Miles Davis Hall, it was Electro Pop music with British pop stars Echoboy and Goldfrap. Reminiscent of 60s pop to a degree, the sounds parted company with that genre thanks to today's electronics mixed into the sounds of the instruments. That is it for the first weekend.


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Le 6 juillet, 2003

Natalie Cole has her Special Spot

Montreux, Vaud (APS) Natalie Cole got a late start at the salle Stravinsky on Sunday night, but she captured her audience with a solid interpretation of her chosen tunes.

The opening song was a perfect choice and today, technologically facile. She walked onto the stage singing "Unforgettable", the signature tune of her dad, and as the crowd began to cheer, it was Nat King Cole's voice which continued. After the "duet" was over, the audience had already been won over.

In an elegant white pantsuit, Natalie continued with "It's almost Like Being in Love" and onto a Count Basie tune, "Two for the Blues". The arrangement was pure Manhattan Transfer, with the scatting and harmonies from her two backup singers, Michael Mishaw and Catte Adams. Her six-musician band also was tight and gave her the freedom to take the songs where she felt like going.

Natalie remarked to the audience that she was always fascinated by how Ella Fitzgerald took a simple nursery rhyme and turn it into a jazz tune. Then she performed "A Tiskit, A Tasket" with the same upbeat enthusiasm as Ella herself. Juxtaposed with that song, she moved right into "Get Your Kicks on Route 66", another of her father's classics. When she sang of a hurt and scorned woman with Dinah Washington's "Ask a Woman Who Knows", there was an eerie hush in the hall, and most men would not dare glance at their date.

The "sentimental medley" as Natalie called it, was extremely calming. From "Sentimental Reasons" to "Tenderly" and concluding with "Autumn Leaves", these hits sent out a warmth over the crowd. A surprise was her rendition of "Nature Boy", performed with the evening's headliner, George Benson, who entered the stage from the side after she began to sing. (Benson had the pleasure of starting his show at about 1am).

Showing that she can break out of the standards, Natalie performed an original Bossa Nova tune and for her encore, she sang a rough version of the blues standard, "I'm a Woman". In spite of numerous Grammy nominations, there may be doubts left about living in the shadow of Nat. However, her Montreux performance indicated that Natalie Cole is a star in her own right.


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le 9 juillet, 2003

Successful Tour for Central Illinois Jazz Orchestra

Montreux, Vaud (APS) The Central Illinois Jazz Orchestra is heading back to Peoria today, but all of its members must be feeling a glow as they sit on the plane. Wednesday's performance at the Renaissance Bar of the Royal Plaza Hotel was their finest show according to audience responses and also among members of the band. The Renaissance Bar is part of the Festival Off of the Montreux Jazz Festival, with different bands every evening.

The CIJO has been touring France and Switzerland since June 30, performing at famous festivals like Vienne (Côte du Rhône) and Montreux. They interspliced this festival with special shows in resort towns like Brienz (Switzerland). The Bradley University Jazz Ensemble was also part of the tour and performed at the same venues.

The Renaissance Bar show was CIJO's second concert of the Montreux Jazz Festival. The day earlier, they performed by the lake at the Rouvenaz stage. The early performance managed to stop the crowd as they strolled along the boardwalk. The cheers from the crowd must have inspired them for the Wednesday performance, since all members were "right-on" that evening.

Dr. Todd Kelly, the band leader, called the tunes and the soloists were at their best. It seemed that all the members had a solo and were able to shine throughout the course of the set. One definite highlight was the trumpet solo by Dick Garretson, almost an institution in the music scene in Springfield, his home town.

The rhythm section kept the groove all through the one and a half hour performance, as pianist Terry Brennan shined on every song. There was dancing for every tune as this crowd was not going to let was fine music go to waste. As the set continued, the band kicked ass and the room got hotter and hotter.

After the performance, Todd Kelly stated, " These guys have made me proud. They have been performing well thoughout our trip, but tonight they played their hearts out." Drummer John Sluzalis walked off the stage, his shirt soaking wet from his high-energy performance and mentioned to me as I stood at the side, "That was it : our last performance. I did some major playing, it feels great." The rest of the band members were also grinning from their performance and the enthusiastic response from the crowd. Unwinding after the show, band members were laughing and downing their well-deserved beers, reviewing the highlights of their last concert.


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Le 14 juillet,2003

The First Week at the Montreux Jazz Festival

Montreux, Vaud (APS) As the first week of the famous Montreux Jazz Festival comes to an end, many people experienced many types of music. The shows ran the gamut from jazz to blues to pop and electronics. There were no shows at the Casino Barrière, so the audiences would have to wait until Friday's show with Michel Jonaz to experience that intimate setting.

The Stravinski Auditorium hosted Bonnie Raitt and the Blues Brothers, along with a tribute to Rufus Thomas, by friends and family members. The show was the only blues show this year, compared to the amount of blues that the festival usually has. Meanwhile, the Miles Davis Hall heated up with Cypress Hill and Blackalicious. Everyone was soaking wet when they left the hall. The combination of the heat wave that this part of the continent has been experiencing and the packed hall raised the temperature to close to 100 degrees. Since that evening, the air conditioning has been on in both halls and in the Centre du Congrès also. This is the first time that I remember that the air contioning being noticeable in all the years I have been covering the festival. In addition, while rain has hurt the outdoor Off festival in past years, this year no rain has fallen.

The Stravinski Auditorium switched gears on Tuesday and hosted the famous German rocker, Herbert Grönemeyer. Not Elvis, not Johnny Halliday, not David Lee Roth, this singer had passion in his tunes from beginning to end. He usually plays big stadiums, but treated Montreux to his music in this much smaller setting.

The rest of the week at Stravinski had popular Morcheeba and Craig David, who had all the young girls screaming. David has sprung to stardom on his R and B and rap combo songs, which all sound alike. The first two songs indicated he had a thing for the days of the week.

As the first week came to an end in the big hall, people were coming from all over for the Brazil nights that began Friday (July 11). Over in the Miles Davis Hall, the music spoke to the younger audience in general. The Flaming Lips headlined on Tuesday, while more pop rock in the form of Turin Brakes, The Stereophonics, and Nada Surf had the fans enthralled.

By Friday, the Montreux youth wanted more. Tricky, the high-energy former member of Massive Attack, hit the stage and did not stop until he exhausted his fans. The air conditioning was working to the max that evening. An orgy of music occured at Montreux this week, but more is to come: two more weekends and another full week. Beware music lovers and party animals!


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le 15 juillet,2003

The Second Weekend at the Montreux Jazz Festival

Montreux, Vaud (APS) The second weekend at the famous Montreux Jazz Festival highlighted Brazilian music, along with tours to Algeria and back to the eastern part of the Continent. There was also pop and "post" rock and even a crooner to complete the weekend.

The large Stravinski Auditorium hosted all three Brazil nights, beginning with the Gala on Friday with Chico César, Gilberto Gil, and Maria Bethània. The Brazilian community came out in full force. T-shirts with the Brazilian green and yellow flag were seen everywhere along with many flag wavers. Impromptu drummers and performing Brazilian musicians could be heard along the boardwalk, since it was Brazil "come out and play" all over Montreux. Brazil's famous songwriter, Antonio Carlos Jobin was honored by Joao Gilberto in a Sunday evening concert.

Over in the Miles Davis Hall, the crowd bounced non-stop as Tricky, formerly of massive Attack performed his techno-post rock high-energy music on Friday. The Orchestre National de Barbès highlighted Saturday evening with a stage full of musicians. The crowd danced continually to the Algerian beat and was disappointed by the short set. But Mercan Dede, a Turk who calls Montréal home today, along with Susheela Raman held the attention of Hall attendees.

On Sunday, the Miles Davis Hall changed gears and hosted a packed room with King Crimson. While classic rock was heard, the band performed much new music. No one complained.

This was the first weekend for the shows in the intimate Casino Barrière. The original Montreux Jazz Festival was held at the Casino, before it burned down. (You can relive that fire over and again in that Deep Purple song.) While the casino was rebuilt soon afterward, the Centre du Congrès has been the site for the festival for many years.

Several years ago, the new casino agreed to hold concerts. This year Michel Jonasz opened the 1000-seat venue on Friday. The next evening, Biréli LaGrène returned to give tribute to Django Reinhardt. His guitar partner who played the rhythm never lost the beat as LaGrène did the solos. They were an excellent pair along with his violin player. Later on in the show, famous high-tech violinist Didier Lockwood performed, but the contrast was too much for me, although the audience ate it up.

The weekend continued into the week with a special performance by Tony Bennett, who ended his European tour in Montreux on Monday. Clearly, Bennett loves to perform and appreciated the laudits from the fans. He clapped back to the audience as they cheered his every tune. Bennett performed no less that 25 songs in the evening and to end the night, he put down the microphone and sang as they did in the 1940s. The room remained quiet and attentive. At 75 years old, he does not appear to be worn out as he maintained enthusiasm throughout his entire performance.


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Le 16 juillet,2003

The Second Week at the Montreux Jazz Festival

Montreux, Vaud (APS) The second week trend really started on Sunday night in the Miles Davis Hall. It changed gears from earlier in the week when the hall hosted a packed room with King Crimson. While classic rock was heard, the band also performed much new music. No one complained. The nostalgia continued on Monday night with Yes, which included all originals members: Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White, and Jon Anderson.

The Yes press conference earlier in the day informed us that the band is celebrating 35 years as a band and they are planning a big media and product blitz by the end of the year. A video, a new album, a tour are coming to capture the euros, dollars, and pounds of the middle-class who enjoyed their harmonies in the 1980s.

The highlight of the week had to be Jamiroquai on Wednesday evening in the Auditorium Stravinski. Just as with last year’s show, he was full of energy and his delivery was superb. He talked with the audience, making sure all eyes were on his show. He went through his most popular tunes but also made sure that this year’s show was different from last year’s offering.

The Miles Davis Hall hosted Joe Jackson Band, Laurie Anderson, The Roots and Gilles Peterson during the week. While not sold-out like so many of the Stravinski shows, they remained popular attractions at this year’s festival.

The Casino was where the traditionalists and purists would hangout. Tony Bennett performed a spectacular one and a half hour show, which included 25 songs from ballads to swing numbers. "The Best is yet to Come", "If I Ruled the World", "All of Me", "I Got Rhythm", "Who Can I Turn to?", "But, Beautiful" were just a few of the standards Bennett performed. All these were as familiar as his big hit, "I Left my Heart in San Fransisco".

The house is overwhelmed when he puts down the microphone during "Fly Me to the Moon" and belts it out the way it used to be done.

The John Abercrobie Quartet and the Charles Lloyd Quartet performed on Tuesday while Cassandra Wilson ended the Casino concerts for the 37th Montreux Jazz Festival.


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Le 19 juillet, 2003

Hard Meets Mellow at the Montreux Jazz Festival

Montreux, Vaud (APS) Saturday night at the Montreux Jazz festival was rocking. From the hard rock sound of the Pretenders to the roots rock and blues of Van Morrison, the Auditorium Stravinski was nearly sold out.

The Pretenders headlined in Stravinski, providing the loudest concert to date. After upsetting security by telling the crowd to move toward the stage, Chrissie Hynde went into her two hour set. From upbeat rock to songs about junkies and gamblers losing it all, she delivered her emotions with power. In spite of one tune that Hynde forgot the second verse ("Bad Boys Get Spanked"), the band stayed with her and knocked out the tunes one after another.

While the sound in general was fine, on a few songs, there seemed to be too much reverb to enhance the vocals. The sound engineer could have toned down the reverb on "Back on the Chain Gang" and "Precious".

The audience was in a video she was tapering that evening and so she asked them to cheer wildly during "It’s About Losing". The official ending was "Middle of the Road" with Hynde on harp. The band came back for 25 minute encore. The show was high energy and enjoyable, but something wasn’t right. Chrissie Hynde seemed lost a couple of times and there were a few little glitches in the show.


In contrast to the Pretenders straight-ahead rock and roll, Van Morrison performed his blend of blues and rock. He has been in Montreux a couple of years ago and is always a crowd pleaser. The few numbers highlighted men in zoot suits performing " When You’re Smilin’".

Van Morrison went through his list of hits from "Moondance" to "Fade Away" and of course, "Brown-Eyed Girl". This year’s performance had many roots rock style tunes, 50s stuff and shuffles. "St. James Infirmary" was particularly great. His encore took us to the 1960s with "Gloria".


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Last Updated  August 24, 2003
August 26, 2004
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