In the fall of 2000, prior to the announcement by General Motors that it was dropping its entire Oldsmobile line, an aggressive mail and Internet campaign was launched promoting 30 Years of Montreux Jazz Festival as a gift for test driving the Oldsmobile Aurora. Unfortunately, this four-CD set is much like what most huge jazz festivals had evolved into near the end of the 20th century: jazz in name only. This anthology is overflowing with blues (B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Luther Allison), R&B (Fats Domino, Dr. John, James Booker), an endless sleep inducing jam of the Average White Band's "Pick up the Pieces," long jams showcasing smooth jazz lightweights (Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Fourplay), and only a handful of tracks featuring the artists (such as Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaria, and the Modern Jazz Quartet) that one associates with classic Montreux Jazz Festival releases which appeared over the years on Pablo and Atlantic. There are also fine vocals by Dianne Reeves and Carmen McRae, who also plays piano while accompanied by Gillespie's trumpet on a touching version of "A Beautiful Friendship"; but also present is the tedious, vastly over-hyped and rather monotonous hit for Les McCann and Eddie Harris, "Compared to What," making yet another encore appearance. While a number of songs have previously appeared commercially, over a dozen tracks make their first appearance here. Whether or not this set appeals to a collector will likely depend upon its price and what genre of music he or she prefers; for the serious jazz fan, there's hardly enough worthwhile music to merit its acquisition unless found at a very low price.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden