Switzerland and the Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition

Switzerland and the Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition

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The Dutch often treat Switzerland like Americans treat Nevada: as the soil on which the highway is built that brings them to their destination. After paying a hefty 40 Swiss francs ($45) for a “vignette“, the Dutchman, impressed by his own savviness, will be out of the country again in a matter of hours, leaving the remaining 8763 hours of validity left on his toll sticker to go to waste. That, in a nutshell, was my only impression of this mountain state until two years ago, when I ventured into its capital Bern for a show.

If any of you have watched “In Bruges” you will have a grasp of what Bern felt like. In the movie two hitmen, bored to death, await further orders in the aesthetically pleasing but otherwise godforsaken Belgian town of Bruges. The parallel was striking. The picture above aptly describes the number of people roaming around on the streets on the night of the gig, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that the audience consisted of an equal amount of individuals. A pasta carbonara in what seemed to be the only place open at that time of night offered some solace, until the check came, because the Swiss like their prices like they like their mountains.

This July there will be a chance at redemption, as I’m delighted to be flying out to the Montreux Jazz Festival, to play as a semi-finalist in its annual jazz guitar competition. The only way I’ve known this place so far is through listening endlessly to Joao Gilberto trying bridge the 3-bar difference between his voice and his guitar accompaniment on his beautiful solo record Live In Montreux. On July 5 however, I will be physically present in this town to show my ability at pressing the strings to the frets of my guitar in the right order, all while simultaneously picking each of said strings with my right hand. Quite a task at hand as you will understand, so I will be spending the next few weeks diligently plucking away in my bedroom, dreaming of Switzerland.