Montreux Jazz Festival celebrates 50th edition

Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:54pm EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) - The Montreux Jazz Festival kicked off its 50th birthday edition on Thursday night, marking its half-century with a nod to its origins.

Charles Lloyd, an American saxophonist who performed at the first edition in 1967, opened the celebrations at the Montreux Casino with his New Quartet -- accompanied by Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums.

"It's a beautiful thing, 50 years .... It was just a village when I came here. I was a little boy then," the 78-year-old Lloyd from Memphis, Tennessee, quipped at the end of the nearly 90-minute set during which he played tenor sax and the flute.

Jamaican Monty Alexander followed on stage with a tribute to his best-selling Live! album, which was recorded at Montreux in 1976. "Forty years ago I was playing piano in this casino .... I'm very happy to be playing for you tonight," he said.

Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Prince and Deep Purple have given legendary concerts at the event, which former co-director Quincy Jones calls the "Rolls-Royce" of festivals.

"It's with emotion and pleasure that I welcome you to the Montreux Jazz Festival writing its 50th year of history. It was a dream to open the festival with the first artist to grace the stage, of course Charles Lloyd," said Mathieu Jaton, director.

He has been at the helm of the festival since the 2013 death of founder Claude Nobs, who organized the first three-day event while working at the Montreux tourism office.

Transgender singer Anohni, formerly lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons, is booked for Friday with a show billed as "Hopelessness", the title track of her first solo album.   Continued...

U.S. saxophonist Charles Lloyd performs during the 50th Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse