LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Stevie Wonder will headline the Montreux Jazz Festival, fulfilling a longtime wish of its late founder Claude “Funky” Nobs, in its 48th edition which also brings red-hot Pharrell Williams to its famed stage.
The line-up for the July 4-19 festival, unveiled on Thursday, includes former Blur front man Damon Albarn, hip-hop duo Outkast, the veteran Van Morrison, Massive Attack, and R&B Californian newcomer Banks.
Nobs, who died after a ski accident in January 2013, tried to bring Wonder to Montreux, one of Europe’s most prestigious summer music festivals, but the 1 million Swiss franc ($1.13 million) purse was out of reach at the time.
At the presentation, Mauritian pianist Jerry Leonide, who opens for French drummer Manu Katche on July 14, played a few bars of “Superstition” as Wonder’s name flashed on an electric board.
“We tried to get Stevie many times. This time we made a collective offer through the International Jazz Festival Organisation, along with Istanbul and North Sea in Denmark,” Montreux festival director Mathieu Jaton told Reuters.
Seats for Wonder’s concert at Stravinsky Auditorium on July 16 go on sale on Friday for a whopping 450 Swiss francs ($510), with standing places at 185 Swiss francs. Tickets for Williams’ show on July 7 will cost either 135 or 370 Swiss francs.
American producer Quincy Jones, co-director with Nobs in the 1990s, calls Montreux the “Rolls-Royce” of festivals. This year’s budget is 25 million Swiss francs for the event that draws some 250,000 fans to the lakeside resort.
Pharrell Williams, booked for July 7, features on Daft Punk’s dance track “Get Lucky” with Nile Rodgers, which won the record of the year at the Grammy Awards in January.
He is still on the airwaves with “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, who plays Montreux on July 13, and Williams’ upbeat R & B hit “Happy”, the lead song from the “Despicable Me 2” animated film for which he composed the music.
“You hear Pharrell Williams everywhere on the radio and television. He has produced incredible pieces. He is the artist we had to get this year,” Jaton told Reuters.
“Happy” returned to the top of Britain’s music charts for the third time on March 2, becoming the first single in 57 years to do so, the Official Charts Company said.
Chris Rea returns to the Montreux stage for the first time in 14 years on July 5, Morrison plays on July 15, and Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter are booked for July 18.
Mexican duo Rodrigo & Gabriela open on July 8 for Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame.
“Hard rock brought them together,” Jaton said of the unusual double bill.
The festival’s archives of nearly 6,000 hours of music contained on 10,000 recording tapes are being digitized to preserve the history of Montreux concerts by jazz giants including Miles Davis, Ray Charles and B.B. King.
“The digitizing is nearly done. The archives were recognized by UNESCO last year as part of the world’s cultural heritage,” Jaton said. “We have the same spirit and way of doing things, but of course we miss Claude.”
($1 = 0.8860 Swiss francs)
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan