Best Of the 53rd Montreux Jazz Festival | Montreux Jazz Festival 2019

"Blown away", "moved to tears", "so proud", "like a dream": if you met a member of the Festival team on 29 June 2019, they'd have said something like that. Elton John's concert at the Stadium La Saussaz wasn't just historic because it was a one-off but also because of the artistic quality of the superb show during which he dedicated a song to Quincy Jones. After his concert, Elton John asked for a souvenir of the Festival to hang in his living room. And what a symbol: the words Elton John stayed "engraved" on the grass of the stadium.The popularity of this concert – hundreds of people watched from surrounding balconies, gardens and vineyards – set the tone of a radiant Festival where unique moments and spontaneity made memories across all stages.


Let's start with the Festival's smallest stage. The jam sessions at La Coupole at the House of Jazz were pure magic from 11pm until 5am. Perfectly planned tours are flavor of the moment but the Festival is - more than ever – somewhere where spontaneity and improvisation are encouraged and showcased. We saw Janelle Monáe standing on the tables to sing, then singing "Juice" with Lizzo and Jon Batiste. We saw Rag’n’Bone Man singing the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter". We saw Chilly Gonzales mastering synthesizer and piano at the same time. We saw Bon Iver, Jacob Collier, Shania Twain, Imelda May, Kamaal Williams, Lolo Zouai, and the young musicians of the Montreux Jazz Academy.
These special moments once again illustrate the privileged relationship that the Festival has with its artists. In Montreux, they find a timeless bubble far from the hectic pace of their tours. Musicians meet up here, taking the time to appreciate their stay and to honor the legends who have played here before them. They often become the Festival's best ambassadors.

At the Auditorium Stravinski, we saw Lizzo telling the legendary stories of Aretha Franklin in Montreux, Janelle Monáe electrifying the crowd, Janet Jackson remembering her childhood with Quincy Jones, Bon Iver turning the crowd at the Strav into a gospel choir, Rag’n’Bone Man giving Montreux two tracks that have never been performed live, ZZ Top paying homage to Claude Nobs with a touching video, and Joan Baez and Anita Baker saying goodbye to the Festival they know so well.

At the Montreux Jazz Lab, Ibeyi dedicated their show to their dad, new hip-hop sensations Koba LaD and Scarlxrd got the crowd jumping, dancing and singing in a manner rarely seen in Montreux, Loyle Carner, Tom Misch and FKJ got together on several songs, and Rita Ora shared her love of the Festival and showed her classy mastery of pop music.

At the Montreux Jazz Club, last year's gamble of increasing the visibility of jazz at the Festival payed off with excellent attendance rates. The venue was praised several times for its comfort and acoustics. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah stood out with his engaged speeches and his role as mentor and musical director of the Montreux Jazz Academy, Seun Kuti got the crowd dancing in a magnificent finale, young singer Rahh ran on stage to join Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea played encore after encore, Joe Jackson played an electrifying concert, and Chilly Gonzales and Melody Gardot felt at home in front of an ultra-reactive crowd.


The Terrasse ibis MUSIC and the Liszto Club debuted this year with undeniable success. The Terrasse ibis MUSIC was a crowd-pleaser with a crazy party atmosphere, filled to capacity for concerts and DJ sets – some artists even ended up jumping in the lake!
At the Liszto Club, a young crowd enjoyed all types of music, loving Kamaal Williams's urban jazz just as much as J.I.D's frenetic hip-hop and Vladimir Cauchemar's sublime sets. Le Balcon du Liszto Club with its program of Swiss DJs was a runaway success too.
The Music in the Park concerts are always very popular with a mixed crowd, offering quality music and benefitting from this year's exceptional weather.


The strength of the program was felt throughout the Festival both in terms of artistic coherence and ticketing figures. There were a lot of unsold tickets in the lead-up to the Festival, but ticketing during the event accounted for 15% of total sales, a much higher figure than in previous years.
Although box office budget targets were not entirely met by the end of the Festival, the excellent performance of F&B thanks to the weather and the winning program in the free venues should mean the Festival's books will be balanced at the end of 2019.


The 2019 Festival was marked by the death of a member of the Festival family. Pierre Keller came up with the idea of the "carte blanche" Festival posters in 1982 and was a very active and highly appreciated member of the Foundation Board since 1995. He not only revolutionized the visual identity of the Montreux Jazz Festival. He turned it into a piece of art. The Foundation Board and the whole Montreux Jazz Festival team payed homage to him during the event by remembering the works of art he commissioned. Goodbye and thank you Pierre.


News originally published on Montreux Jazz Festival website.