An iconic performance that offers insight into why Gil’s influence, critique, and charm made him so dangerous to the fascist Brazilian government in the late ’60s.
Montreux, Switzerland, hosts the Holy Grail of jazz festivals on its summer shores. The Montreux Jazz Festival started in 1967 by locals in the music industry, who teamed with Atlantic Records cofounders Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun. The partnership ensured a pipeline of visionary musicians including Miles Davis, Peter Tosh, Nina Simone and Herbie Hancock.
The festival’s early events occurred at the Montreux Casino, but it infamously burned down in 1971, apparently during a performance by Frank Zappa. Members of Deep Purple were in the audience, and proceeded to write “Smoke on the Water” after the incident. In the early ’90s, the festival expanded with help of famed producer Quincy Jones. Before the pandemic, each year about 250,000 jazz freaks made the pilgrimage to Montreux.
The video below is from 1982. It’s the second performance of Gilberto Gil at the festival, and here he plays some of his funkier tracks. Gil was one of the main drivers of the late 1960s psychedelic Tropicalia movement in Brazil, but across the years his style crossed into many genres, and this performance demonstrates that beautifully. With signature charm and ease, he wins over the audience. One of the most endearing moments is a call-and-response among Gil, his band and the crowd.