MONTREUX, SWITZERLAND – Scorching temperatures set the scene yesterday for the opening salvoes of the 46th Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF).
As with all great musical gatherings, it seems the festival has gotten a bit cushier, flashier – including Claude Nob’s newly inaugurated deck lounge – and maybe necessarily, more focused on crowd control, since I began going four short years ago.
That aside, the new and well seasoned talent on hand last night delivered the goods, with a few gems deserving special mention.
For me, the MJF opener was all about the Taj Mahal Trio show in Miles Davis Hall.
I grew up with the breezy blues of Mahal’s Giant Step playing on the turntable and still think summer, front porch and being exactly where I want to be, when I hear his smooth voice and playful guitar/banjo picking.
But he is every bit a “raw” bluesman as well with his baritone growl and stripped down imagery -”I’m makin’ tapioca for ya and I know yer all alone…”
Backed by the sublime Kester Smith on drums and Bill Rich on guitar, the sound in Miles Davis Hall couldn’t have been looser, or the trio any tighter.
Taj Mahal looks and sounds as good today as when I first saw him more than 25 years ago, moving with a fluidity that belies his 70 years.
The assortment of world class free shows at Montreux continues to set the festival apart.
Last night the Swedish vocal duo First Aid Kit (plus drummer) blew the doors off the Jazz Cafe with their delicious and hard hitting brand of folk rock.
I stumbled into the cafe during a break from the concert upstairs, drawn by the power of their voices. Check these guys out, they are fresh and on fire, and gonna burn that coffee house down.
Swiss meets Americana
“What is the value added of a Swiss musician playing the Chicago Blues?” I was asking myself at the opening of the Philipp Fankhauser set last night.
The musicianship was top notch, the riffs were classic, and yet there’s something cliché about a Northern-European singing about roadhouses and highways. Yet, his Swiss brand of Blues – with comic asides to the audience in Swiss-German – grows on you.
The depth of Fankhauser’s backing band and his highwayman’s soul make this act more than a novelty. In spite of my skepticism, what started as a slow burn worked into a minor inferno by the end of the night, with a highly appreciative Miles Davis Hall audience.
See other MJF reviews, which runs through 14 July, here on GenevaLunch.
Swedish style: First Aid Kit