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... the tales of two sisters

Dana lives in Seattle, and Tracie lives in Germany. We are businesswomen, writers and humorists. We write about life, dating, and today's modern women.

Montreux: Remembering the First Mind-Blowing Visit!

Staring out my office window this morning, coffee cup in hand, I can’t help but think that normally this time of year I would be in Montreux, Switzerland for the world-renowned jazz festival, hanging out with uncle Q and having a blast. Unfortunately, COVID-19 stopped the music this year. I have had the opportunity to experience Montreux time and again in a unique, intimate, once in a lifetime kind of way. Quincy Jones and Claude Nobs, the founder of the jazz festival, were like brothers. Together they are and forever will be the heart and soul of Montreux.

Recalling my first mind-blowing visit, today, I am sharing the post that I wrote the very first time I experienced this amazing venue in 2010 entitled Me and My Suitcase: GUMBO.

 

   

 Me and My Suitcase: GUMBO

Claude Nobs created the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1967. Perhaps the most famous festival in the world, this past July, the 44th celebration of the festival, there was…Gumbo!  

    

Gumbo is a stew-like dish that has an incomparably rich flavor and texture. It derives from the cooking traditions of the French, Spanish, Indian and African populations. 

Accordingly, as my uncle, music maestro Quincy Jones introduced the Quincy Jones Global Gumbo All-Stars onto the stage of the Stravinsky Auditorium, headlining the final evening of this year’s festival, he prefaced his introduction with these words, “…These are some of the greatest musicians I have ever performed with …There is such diversity here.  The collective is more important than the individual. And that’s what Gumbo is all about.” He then introduced the members of his “Global ensemble”.

The curtain rose with the vocals of Cameroon’s native son, Richard Bona. He sang in a falsetto voice. Strong and smooth and light as air. I didn’t understand the lyrics, yet somehow I did.  When he closed his eyes and put his hand to his heart I believed every word. We listened and watched, mesmerized, and wished his singing would never end. 

Alfredo Rodriguez from Cuba was highlighted next. As my uncle said, “He is astounding…One of the best piano players I’ve ever seen in my life.”  Alfredo played his own composition about his defection from Cuba and… BAM! He struck the keys and we were not prepared for the sounds that came at us so fast and furious from all over his instrument! Then, just as quickly, he made the dark scary bass keys creep up and encircle and haunt us until he eased up towards daylight and defiance and the treble notes laughed and seemed to say catch me if you can! By this time we were bobbing our heads and clapping our hands and yelling out, “Yeah!”  Suddenly he decided to tease the ivories and the sounds flowed seductively until thunder rumbled as his fingers moved with lightning speed up and down the keyboard and ended with a combined treble and bass da!da! da! as he sprang to his feet! We roared! Alfredo is 24 years old. Alfredo gave me goosebumps. And I’m not trying to be a cougar.

Lionel Loueke, from the West African nation of Benin, showcased his talents next, sensuously vocalizing and strumming his nylon-stringed guitar.  He was the king of cool.

Francisco Mela also from Cuba is a force to be dealt with when he lifts his sticks to play the drums. He moved us with the sheer power with which he played. He has become one of the most talked-about and in-demand Cuban musicians of his generation.

Percussionist Paulinho DeCosta hails from Brazil and has been on every album my uncle has recorded for the past 35 years-including Thriller. He plays 42 different kinds of percussion instruments. When he and Francisco combined forces to summon up the rhythm section, it boomed! 

Quincy then introduced Nicky Janowsky, from Canada. Her vocal cords are her instrument. “…doobedoodadoo—doobedadooweedooweedoo—wee -ow-ow-ow…” 

Uncle Q compares her singing and scatting talents to those of Ella Fitzgerald. She brought us to our feet as we clapped and whistled and hollered for her. Nicky is 16!

For the finale, Herbie Hancock joined everyone on stage and rocked it til the end. 

After the concert, we headed over to Harry’s New York Bar. It was midnight and time to eat!

We all received our menus and all decided on the Poussin Quincy Jones (Spring Chicken Quincy Jones). 

Claude invited us for lunch the following day.

“Baby, you gotta see this place,” Quincy said. “It’s so beautiful, God used to live there.”

Well, if it was good enough for God, it was for dang sure good enough for me. 

The village of Caux is nestled in the hills 1000 meters above Montreux. The panorama of Montreux, Lake Geneva, and the surrounding Alps are breathtaking. There are no omissions and no exceptions to the complete and utter beauty there.  

Once inside the main chalet, Roman Polanski came and shook my hand and introduced himself and his wife. Champagne was served. I loved this party! Swiss chef Phillipe Rochat and his team did ‘the culinary’ in the kitchen. Monsieur Rochat is the only chef in Switzerland with 3 Michelin stars. Lunch began with Croustilles de primeurs d’ete and ended with Tartes fines sables chocolat, citroin, framboise. I mean, if you’re gonna do it, do it right. Right?

I asked if I could take a small look around.  A collection of jukeboxes, the second-largest album collection in Europe, a glass elevator with purple neon lights, musical notes carved into glass stairs, 7 guitars signed by various artists set on a lit stage—I was in a funhouse!

My going away gift from Claude was a four-book anthology he has compiled: Live from Montreux, 40 Years of Music From the Montreux Jazz Festival. As if lunch wasn’t enough.

Before I knew it, I was standing on the train platform heading towards Lausanne. I thought about something my uncle told me as we hugged our goodbyes on the veranda of Claude’s chalet. I told him how incredibly proud I am of him.

“Baby,” he said. “Music can never be any more or less than you are as a human being. That means that no matter how much musical talent you have if you don’t live life if you don’t have something to say, it doesn’t go the full distance. You need to have a life experience too. Look at this incredible beauty here. This is what I’m talking about. If you leave your soul open it will expand on itself.”

And surely give you the freedom to open the door to your next journey, be it near or far…

With Uncle Q and friends in the Quincy Jones Suite at the Palace Hotel.

Alfredo Rodriguez

Francisco Mela

Claude Nobs

chef Phillipe Rochat

Glass elevator

The chef and his crew in the kitchen

panoramic view