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Montreux Jazz boss targets ‘iconic destinations’

After expanding the brand to Japan, China and Brazil, CEO Mathieu Jaton reveals what is next on the cards for the iconic festival

By James Hanley on 24 Jun 2024

Mathieu Jaton

image © Anne-Laure Lechat

Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF) chief Mathieu Jaton has revealed he is eyeing up “iconic destinations” for the brand’s continued international expansion.

The iconic Swiss festival returns to the Lake Geneva shoreline from 5-20 July this year. However, Jaton and the team are also exploring further overseas spin-offs following the festival’s successful debut in the US in Miami, Florida, earlier this year.

MJF has previously held international editions in Tokyo, Japan, Suzhou, China and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And Jaton, who has directed the event since 2013, tells IQ that there is much more to come on that front.

“The future of the festival is very interesting because next year we’re going to have at least six international festivals in iconic locations,” says Jaton. “Tokyo is coming back in ’24, as is China and Brazil, which will maybe move from Rio to Salvador, Bahia. We will also continue in Miami.

“We will open in Abu Dhabi at the Louvre. We’re going to have the stage on the sea facing the museum, which is going to be great. And the last baby is a Montreux Jazz Festival in Ibiza. We’re still processing, thinking and talking about it. It’s not definitely signed yet, but we have the date, we have the partners, we have everything.

“The goal is to bring jazz into the mecca of electronic music. I love the idea: the electronic music needs recognition from the jazz scene, and the jazz scene needs electronic music to be open to the word. So having Montreux in the middle is a very nice sign. I love that.”

“The goal is not to have 10 or 20 festivals around the planet. We’re looking for iconic destinations that make sense with our DNA”

The third Montreux Jazz Festival China is set for 25-27 October at Suzhou Culture and Arts Centre, while talks have also taken place regarding a potential MJF South Africa.

“We are having discussions [about an event] close to Cape Town,” adds Jaton. “But it’s not a strategic development in terms of us wanting a very big expansion and having 10 or 20 festivals around the planet – that’s not the goal. We’re looking for iconic destinations that make sense with our DNA.”

Montreux Jazz Festival Miami premiered over three days in March at waterfront venue The Hangar, with actor and rapper Will Smith joining event co-owner and ambassador Jon Batiste on stage for an impromptu rap performance on the second night.

“Miami was crazy. We were very happy with it,” says Jaton. “We decided to start small and beautiful in Coconut Grove with only 1,500 people. Jon Batiste headed the festival, and as an ambassador, he brought all of his friends. We got the appearance of Will Smith coming in and jamming with Jon, which was very much in the spirit of Montreux.”

Batiste headlined the first two days of the event, which also featured the likes of Daryl Hall, The Wailers, Cimafunk, Emily Estefan, Cory Henry, Mathis Picard, Daniela Mercury and Adrian Cota & The Winston House Band, topped off with the Legendary Montreux Jam Session, curated by Elmo Lovano.

“The American audience was quite surprised to see a little bit of a different way of doing things,” adds Jaton. “It was a really interesting first edition and we will continue in that vein.”


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