I used to be right here for the jazz happening far, far beneath, in the direction of Lausanne; I hadn’t deliberate to climb a mountain by way of three-metre snowdrifts. However my new buddy, Bernard, had laid the bait: “You actually should get all the best way as much as the summit deck: the view is unimaginable.”
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A retired native charity employee, exhibiting off the realm to his South African son-in-law, Bernard had observed me stepping tentatively on to the snow outdoors the two,000-metre-high cafe beneath the height of Rochers de Naye. He glanced at my trainers doubtfully, then squinted on the deep snow on the slope forward, dazzling below a blazing solar. “However you do know you might break your leg when you fall by way of the crust and hit a rock?” I smiled. A joke, certainly? “It occurred to my nephew final month.” I finished smiling.

A gig on the primary stage, Chapiteau.
Though the close by Cully Jazz Competition on the shores of Lake Geneva was proving a pleasant base, I had determined to enterprise additional afield earlier than that day’s gigs started, taking the cog-wheel practice into the mountains, hoping for a stroll amid flower-laden Alpine pastures.
However this canton, Vaud, mentioned Bernard, had skilled a number of the heaviest spring snow for years, so I discovered myself slipping, sliding and lurching my method to the summit. After 30 minutes of lung-busting, ankle-twisting effort I made it to the deck. A 360-degree panorama awaited me: from the Eiger within the east to the Jura mountains within the west. I gazed on the scene in solitude for over an hour.
Someplace down beneath, musicians had been arriving and soundchecking for that night’s competition performances.

A view of the Alps from Rochers de Naye with the cafe and looping rail monitor within the foreground. {Photograph}: Adam McCulloch
The phrase “jazz” when used subsequent to the phrase “competition” usually misleads. Right here, there was gospel (the very good Blind Boys of Alabama), electro-funk, avant-garde, Nordic people, soul, a deafening act involving hippies thrashing electrified banjos and, nicely, some jazz. An open thoughts is required and, once in a while, beneficiant ears.
On the practice to Cully from Lausanne, an American couple had mentioned whether or not the competition has acquired too huge. “Final 12 months was loopy,” I overheard. However, for me, the proportions had been good. The village stood as much as the numbers nicely and the number of venues, meals stalls and bars absorbed everyone comfortably.

The water’s edge makes an excellent spot for a drink and a few meals.
Enthusiastic audiences from far and large flock to the village for the gigs. Somewhat like on the UK’s a lot bigger Love Supreme competition, they had been of all ages with comparable numbers of men and women. Only a few stroked their chins and mentioned “Good.”
The venues vary from the primary stage, Chapiteau, in a big marquee-like construction, to a former wine cellar, now late-night hangout known as Caveau, the place, on sax, I joined a revolving forged of horn gamers soloing over funk grooves laid down with esprit by the younger home band on most nights of the competition. The periods right here acquired a raucous, enthusiastic reception – partly, maybe, as a result of they had been free.

The vineyards profit from daylight reflecting off the lake. {Photograph}: Adam McCulloch
Cully itself is a winemaking village on the south-facing shores of the lake, on the foot of tumbling terraces of 1,000-year-old vineyards – the Lavaux Unesco world heritage website. A few of the vines infiltrate the streets, creeping throughout the facades of older buildings. Virtually each nook and cranny is used for grapes, a consequence of the steep valley wall placing area at a premium. The competition’s historical past is entwined with the vines: its early incarnations within the 1980s used wine cellars for gigs and audiences sauntered from venue to venue with a glass of the native white in hand. This custom endures.
Few festivals can boast settings as wonderful. Within the late afternoon, festivalgoers sit by the waterfront and luxuriate in avenue meals whereas considering the view throughout the serene lake into France, which typically appears shut sufficient to the touch and at others blurs with the mauve nightfall sky, melding to gold in the direction of the setting solar. Even noisy neighbour the Montreux Jazz Competition (equally eclectic however no relation), held in July on the jap finish of the lake, can’t enhance on the aesthetics, for all its belle époque attraction.

A centuries previous wine press in a wine/jazz cellar. {Photograph}: Adam McCulloch
The primary present I noticed was singer Lisa Simone, who has a love of Switzerland from her mom Nina’s sojourn within the nation within the 1980s. After her rapturously acquired soulful set, I set off up the road for edgier sounds on the Subsequent Step venue, a standing-only auditorium. Right here, Canadian singer-songwriter Mélissa Laveaux carried out songs reflecting her Haitian heritage, with infectious riffs and plush vocals. The jazz purists may need given her trio a miss however few might deny her robust id and sheer expertise.
Subsequent morning I joined a guided tour of the patchwork of terraced vineyards, all linked by meandering stone lanes and steps. The vineyards take up 700 hectares between Lausanne and Montreux, so there’s loads of scope for a significant roam. The improbable vista from these sunny slopes was the star, however nearer at hand vibrant flowers billowed from the traditional gneiss and sandstone partitions. Beneath the vines, splashes of grape hyacinths painted swimming pools of vivid purple.

Crowds collect for the night’s gigs.
Our two-hour stroll took in conventional Epesses village – a miniature Cully, however increased on the valley facet. It felt virtually below siege from the encroaching vines, with its tall homes crowded collectively. A few of the inhabitants got here from the 150 or so households who’ve been making wine right here for round 20 generations.
After descending again into Cully we stopped off for a swig of the native quaff in a courtyard belonging to the Potterat household. In a facet room, a centuries-old wine press sat incongruously in entrance of a stage arrange for a jazz quartet.
The white wines are made out of the chasselas grape, which has been grown right here for tons of of years – though the range cultivated right here initially, by 11th-century Cistercian monks, was purple. Definitely, the whites’ delicate, elegant tones, labored wonders on our sun-drenched group.
One other intense evening of gigs adopted: virtuosic guitar and violin-led jazz from Biréli Lagrène, Jean-Luc Ponty and Kyle Eastwood (Clint’s son), in addition to a joyous Center Japanese- and Latin-fused set from the Omer Avital Quintet.

Epesses village. {Photograph}: Adam McCulloch
After a late set at Caveau, I mirrored on one of many highlights of the journey. On the summit of Rochers de Naye, a shadow had handed over me. Three golden eagles (an grownup and two eaglets) spiralled on a thermal.
“You had been fortunate,” Bernard had instructed me as I shook the snow from my garments after stumbling again right down to the cafe. “Some folks right here have by no means seen eagles. They often scavenge, you understand? Maybe they had been hoping you’d break your leg.” He’d added: “I need to go to the jazz competition someday, however inform me, which do you like, the wine or the music?”• Lodge lodging and live performance tickets had been offered by Montreux-Vevey Tourisme and Hôtel Lavaux (doubles from £102 B&B). Two-hour guided excursions of the vineyards from £12, lavaux-unesco.ch. Cully Jazz 2019 is on from 5-13 April and options legendary US bass participant Stanley Clarke. Tickets from £31-50 for paid occasions; passes for all gigs over the competition £390; “Off-Competition’ gigs free (open air, cellars and Caveau). Fly to Geneva, practice to Cully takes one to 2 hours, change at Lausanne (from about £25 a technique)