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The music man

Christian Jott Jenny, the founder of the Festival da Jazz St. Moritz, talks about his relation to music and to St. Moritz.

Interview: Sabina Hürzeler

Mr Jenny, you are a singer, actor, producer, and the founder and artistic director of the Festival da Jazz in St. Moritz. Do you remember the very first concert you ever went to?

My parents took me to all kinds of concerts from an early age. My first conscious memory is of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor at the Tonhalle Zurich with my mother. It remains an important work for me to this day because it roused a primal fascination for music in me.

The Festival da Jazz celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2017. How did the idea for the festival come about?

I wanted to bring jazz back to its source: the club. Nowadays, you have to go to concert halls to hear great jazz bands … I think that’s absurd, even though I understand that it makes sense economically. At the Festival da Jazz in St. Moritz, guests rub shoulders with world stars in a club atmosphere that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. We are a jazz boutique.

What makes the Festival da Jazz special?

If you want to attend, you have to put in some effort, like going to Bayreuth: Our festival, too, takes place on a green hill far from the city … That means that those who make their way to St. Moritz are willing to sacrifice time and energy for music. The reward is a relaxed atmosphere, a whisky with the artists at the bar or a chat in the sauna with The Manhattan Transfer …

Herbie Hancock, Nigel Kennedy, Al Jarreau, Ahmad Jamal, Chick Corea, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Randy Crawford, Klaus Doldinger, Othella Dallas and many more: The list of artists who have performed in St. Moritz goes on and on. What is your personal concert highlight of the last ten years?

That’s really hard to say, because I draw up the festival programme in a way that ensures I never get bored. There has to be plenty of variety, since I attend more or less all 64 concerts … But, of course, there have been key moments, where I found myself standing behind the bar with Rolf Sachs, tears streaming down my face. There were moments like that with Al Jarreau and Ahmad Jamal. Or when Dave Grusin struck up a tune for me on my birthday.

Which concert would you love to announce at the Festival da Jazz 2018?

Keith Jarrett and Kamasi Washington.

If I have just one weekend in St. Moritz: What three things must I absolutely see or do?

The stunning view from Muottas Muragl across all the Engadine lakes; a walk through the woods in the early morning to the Lej da Staz and then on to the small stage in the Tais forest in Pontresina, where concerts have been held for more than 120 years; and finally, a drink at the world’s oldest sports bar, the Sunny Bar at the Kulm Hotel.

Which restaurant do you recommend for dinner in the Engadine region?

In a romantic setting? – The Restorant Lej da Staz. Or the Stüvetta at the Hotel Walther in Pontresina.

What is the best place to go for drinks and wind down the evening after a concert?

The new QN Bar at the Hotel Schweizerhof. You can have a smoke there without being arrested on the spot …

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