Montreux Jazz Festival
montreux jazz festival

Jamaican reggae group Toots and the Maytals performing at the 15th Montreux Jazz Festival in 1981.

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The Montreux Jazz Festival began as an all jazz act in 1967, but by the 1970s it had opened up to rock and pop bands. Over the years, the festival's lineup has included names like Ray Charles, Alice Cooper, Eric Clapton and Ella Fitzgerald -- a pretty diverse range of talent. The festival is held each year in early July on the banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. It was originally held at the Montreux Casino. But when the casino burned in 1971, the festival traveled to other venues until the casino was rebuilt in 1975. A major musical expansion in the 1980s made staging the various acts in the smaller casino a logistical problem. So today, the Montreux Jazz Festival is headquartered at the local convention center.

The event is a long one; it runs for 16 days. Attendees may buy tickets by day, venue and even artist. Although it now features a wide range of musicians -- 1,000 total in 2009 -- the festival still likes to throw a spotlight on jazz, blues and reggae greats. For example, in recent years, that light has been fixed on B.B. King and Quincy Jones.