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The Montreux Years

Colin Muirhead

I will always remember setting out from the UK in 1995 for my first major music festival; I was totally blown away by what I found in Montreux! Enticing music from the Yellowjackets and Tuck and Patti, the buzz and vitality on the Bahia Boat, beautiful scenery, interesting places to visit – and people having a great time at the festival. I knew I would have to return and I did, for another 12 visits. During that time, I had privilege of witnessing the likes of Quincy Jones, João Gilberto, Horace Silver, Diana Krall and George Benson produce fantastic music. Not only that, but – thanks to the festival’s workshops – I was able to put questions to amazing musicians such as Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, Joe Sample and Marcus Miller and receive thoughtful replies. Added to which, it was always lovely strolling alongside the lakeside on a sunny afternoon, catching a few tunes from the bands playing there or – as you can see in this photo from 1996 – admiring the colourful street parade that celebrated the 30th festival.

There’s no way that I could sum up all my experiences at the festival in this short text. But I have recently written a book that reflects on my Montreux Years. There you will find, for example:

• what happened in 1996 when a salsa-seeking audience discovered that Ray Barretto had decided to play jazz instead;

• which famous musician presented his show in 1998 “dans la langue de Voltaire – avec l’accent de Shakespeare, of course”;

• why Claude Nobs asked the president of Blue Note Records to stand in for him as compère one evening in 2002;

• and why Claude asked those of us still in the Auditorium Stravinski after a Sergio Mendes concert in 2006 to create the atmosphere of a jazz club, for a special final act …

Not only that, but – with the help of some of my many photos - I have looked back in the book at the places I visited in and around Montreux and the people I met there. And I’ve reflected on how my own life changed over the years that I went to the festival and why the final year - 2012 – was so special for me.

“The Montreux Years” is available as an eBook and as a paperback (ISBN-13: 978-1790812028) from Amazon. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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  • Sabrina Martinez

    Thank you to share your story. I'm very interested about your experience and I would like to know: why the festival is very important to you and how it has changed your life? Can you tell us more about this ;)

    • Colin Muirhead

      Thank you very much for your interest in my story Sabrina. The festival is important to me in many ways: it was something that I looked forward to each year, a time when I could relax down by the lakeside and in the hills overlooking it, visit interesting places, catch up with people at the hotel in Glion where I often stayed, and hear wonderful music performed live. The whole ambiance captivated me. However, whilst the lake and the mountains remained the same throughout my Montreux Years, other things changed. Sadly Claude and some of the great musicians I heard are no longer with us. Also, I wasn't quite the same person I was in 1995 as in was in 2012. Why? C'est la vie ... but something very special did happen in my life. Something that would take too long to describe here; after all, it's one of the main reasons I wrote the book!

Colin Muirhead 13
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Jan 25th, 2019
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