AVAF at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2011

Andreas Vollenweider & Friends made their first appearance exactly thirty years ago at the Montreux Jazz Festival July 1981. Vollenweider returned to Montreux with friends new and old on 7th July 2011 for a very special concert evening.

Thirty years following that premiere in Montreux he has now been invited by festival boss Claude Nobs to give an exclusive jubilee concert on 7th July in the place where it all began, a special venue for special guests. Vollenweider has invited musicians from various periods of his creative life: key companions (some of whom were with him already in 1981), celebrated fellow travellers, and new and congenial musical partners, with whom Vollenweider will be causing a furore in the future. Wonderful friends indeed.

The line-up of the extended "AVAF-Orchestra" was based on the band of the "dream concert"  August 21st 2010 in Lachen, Switzerland. (A few minutes of video-excerpts from that concert are featured above in this article.)

It will still take a while, until we can show you video excerpts of the Montreux-Show. Again: do please be patient.

The line-up:

Andreas Vollenweider: harps, gu-cheng (Chinese harp) vocals

Walter Keiser: drums
Andi Pupato: percussion
Stefanie Peter aka Steff la Cheffe: human beatbox, vocals
Daniel Kueffer: saxes, bass clarinet, keyboards, vocals
Sandro Friedrich: flutes, ethnic wind instruments
Daniel Pezzotti: cello
Greg Galli: keyboards, piano, accordion, harmonica, vocals
Oliver Keller: electric & acoustic guitars, mandolin
Special guests:
Richard Bona (Cameroun): bass, vocals
Raul Midón (USA): vocals, guitar
Yimbelela feat. Vus’umuzi Nhlapo, Vuyo Tshuma, Loyiso Makhapela (South Africa): vocals
Clinton "Roachie" Outten(Bahamas/England): vocals
Andy Wright (England): bass

Naturally, any true anniversary concert means looking back, and the programme did feature a lot of music from the last 30 years. The extended “anniversary orchestraj provided an almost limitless palette of instruments, including all the exotic sound colours and theatrical moments that have always been so typical in Andreas Vollenweider’s music, and which have brought him worldwide recognition.

However, known as a restless seeker, Andreas Vollenweider did not get stuck in nostalgia but also offered a glimpse into the near future. Being a maverick and pioneer, Andreas Vollenweider once again demonstrated how he always finds ways to go beyond the limitations of space, time and style. Characteristic of Andreas Vollenweider, too, was the harmonic encounter of supposedly entirely disparate musical worlds, an organic fusion that seems like the most natural thing on earth.

As Andreas Vollenweider says, “It has always fascinated me to seek the familiar in what at first sight seems foreign, to focus on what connects the seemingly diverse. And I am continually amazed at how easy a bridge can always be built.”

Even in Andreas Vollenweider’s most complex acoustic architecture, there was room for highly expressive solos, both for Andreas himself and for his extraordinary musicians, as well as for intimate dialogues, for improvisations and unexpected developments.

“We deliberately keep the basis of our music very simple. It serves merely as a starting point, which challenges us to surprise each other time after time and again by creating new additional parts and melodic or rhythmical variations. This is a great way of keeping our music alive. It means that we frequently find ourselves spontaneously creating new music in the middle of a concert.”

If there is an ideal place any where in this world for musical universes to meet and interact, then it is without a doubt the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival — and this goes for July 7th too. Yimbelela of South Africa are a group of young vocalists who have already performed with AVAF in their homeland on various occasions. Yimbelela’s speciality is the blending of the characteristic South African tradition of chanting and their virtuosity in highly complex, tightly stacked harmonies akin to Jazz.

Richard Bona and Raul Midón opened the evening with their “Duvala Malambo Project”, later also joined the “friends” at some point during the concert. Richard Bona is certainly one of the great bass players of our times. With his melodic playing and wonderful warm voice, he brought to life the enchanting atmosphere of his native land of Cameroun. He enjoys a large following all over the world, much like Raul Midón, an extraordinary vocalist and guitarist based in New York. His guitar playing technique is very unusual, with an intense groove, and he uses his soulful voice in original ways, sometimes even sounding like a super-expressive flugelhorn.

And Montreux wouldn’t be Montreux without some surprise guests: Caribbean singer and composer Clinton "Roachie" Outten and London based Andy Wright on electric bass. They gave a taste of what will become the next Vollenweider experience.

"For me personally it was truly wonderful, like the closing of a circle and the beginning of a new one!" said Andreas after the concert.

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