Altitude Jazz Festival

Altitude Jazz è un festival francese che si organizza da dieci anni ad alta quota in pieno inverno, tra Briançon, Serre Chevalier e zone limitrofe, nelle Alpi meridionali francesi.

Sono riuscite a conoscere gli organizzatori e a chiedere a Mathieu Michon di raccontarci questa bella storia di successo e creatività dedicata alla musica jazz.

Let's start by talking about how the Altitude Jazz Festival began.
The Altitude Jazz Festival is born 10 years ago and was originally thought as a way to create some "cultural ski offer" to tourists, right before the main french ski holidays.
That was the idea of both former tourist office director and former mayor of Briançon, friends with Fulvio Albano from the Torino's Jazz Club. So they made it, with a little money. There was only one week, and just a few gigs, with a very jazzy music, curated by Fulvio.
Right after this first edition, they wanted to separate it from politic and they decided to give it to an association of young volunteers. And then we came and we took it back as our own project.
This is a long time ago. And the story has changed a lot back since.  Year after year, the festival slowly evolved, trying different forms and durations.
I was positively impressed by the idea of organizing a Festival in the snowy mountains which also supports  the cultural tourism. In addition to that, I was fascinated by your original communication strategies. What ideas and intentions encourage you?
Actually, the festival doesn't touch really tourists, much too focus on snow and resort activities. Occasionally yes, but even now, no more than 10% of the audience are casual tourists.  Little by little, we hear people to choose their holiday the same week the festival takes place. We love to hear that, but that' not only why we do it. The most important thing for us is to create a festival run by locals, for the locals mostly, out of any money-making consideration.
Briançon has a special atmosphere. It's not only a turistic place. People live here all year long too. Because we are quite far away from big cities, people have to create things if they really want it to happen. That is in our culture, some kind of "do it yourself". That's why we have so many volunteers and a very motivated audience. Because this festival is made by all of us, for all of us.  If we don't do it, nothing is going to happen. That's the main idea...
So the idea to organize a massive party of two weeks, in a quiet moment, in a middle of the snowy mountains is very excited. I mean, out of all the difficulties of the organization !
So, for 6 six years now we run a two-weeks festival, with about 50 gigs. Half of the gigs are onstage and each day in a different place around Briançon. The other half are free in the bars and restaurants.
The music we program is about jazz music but with many other styles around like blues, electronic, afrobeat, éthiopic-jazz, swing, etc etc...  There 's a little everything for everyone.
These gigs are our base.  All around this, we do severals sides: master-classes, artists exhibitions, video series projects, gigs for kids, a cinema night, organic and local foodings, environmental commitment, gigs up there in the mountain...
Would you like to introduce us your staff?
Our staff is huge during the festival, about 80 volunteers. There is a lot of things to do: cooking, welcoming about 40 bands, setting the stages everyday in a différent place, communicate and thousand little details.  All year long, we are not so many... We have two people working on it, with a halftime salary. Anne and Simon. They do all the paperwork, politic relationships, requests for grants and they organize our association. On their side, we are maybe 4 or 6 people to decide what we want to do every year. From these decisions, everyone do his part of the job, voluntary.
With Simon and Sam, we choose the bands and the musical atmospheres we want. Whatever our personnal musical tastes, we try to set a very eclectic line-up, focused on discoveries and musical creativity.
We have between 40,000 and 50,000 € to organize 50 gigs, it's not very much, and all of the musicians are legally paid.  One important thing is that we all prefer to make room for "small" bands than dedicate half of this money to one big headline.
What line-ups and artists does the 2016 edition present?
If you like, you may find artists and line-ups  in our website :
Is there any unforgettable event during these 1o years of Altitude Jazz Festival you'd like to remind? 
Great memories are the music bring up in the mountain: musicians to create surprising gigs on the slopes, on the lifts, playing with the ski-resort equipments... Or to bring bands to play in very remote mountain huts, 3 hours walking or skiing to reach it, with a very motivated and open-minded audience...
And one other thing is to succeed to gather so many people every year, and see the smiles. That is our satisfaction !
Who are the Italian musicians you love?
Every year, we receive almost one thousand musical propositions. But a lot of these are not appropriate to us. About italians, we unfortunately know very few.  The jazz curated by Fulvio Albano is usually a bit "classical" and we are too eclectic and progressive to follow that line. We'd love to make room to some turinese bands but we just don't know them and they don't know us !
Personally, I go very oftenly to Turin to see some gigs but iy's more about indie-rock stuffs.
But it's all about networking.
Once we'll find italian bands, that will be just a begining... Let's spread the word!