Lauryn Hill, Herbie Hancock, Black Eyed Peas Top Montreux Jazz Fest Bill

B.B. King, Herbie Hancock, Black Eyed Peas and Lauryn Hill are booked to perform at the Montreux Jazz festival, one of Europe's most prestigious summer music events, organizers said on Thursday.

Founder Claude Nobs announced the eclectic line-up of 1,000 musicians for the 43rd festival being held in the Swiss lakeside town from July 3-18.

This year's edition of 90 concerts promises a "360 degree musical panorama," favoring unique events over huge stars.

"It's a festival like no other. You don't have to buy a ticket to take advantage, there are lots of free events from noon to five in the morning," Nobs told Reuters.

"Expect the unusual. The unions aren't in charge and a concert finishes when it finishes," he said.

But hard economic times and competition from other festivals in Europe and the United States meant organizers "didn't want to be rug merchants and haggle over artists' fees," the Swiss said. "That forces us to go for exclusivity."

Susan Tedeschi will open on July 12 for blues legend King, who three years ago bid an emotional farewell to fans at Montreux on what was billed as his final tour of Europe.

"He's slowed down the pace of his tours, but wanted to do Montreux. It will be nice to see a good friend," Nobs said.

Aged 83, the 14-time Grammy winning King was born on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi and grew up in the segregated south. He and his famed guitar "Lucille" have enjoyed a career spanning more than six decades.

Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright and Angelique Kidjo are booked to headline an homage to American civil rights activist, soul singer and songwriter Nina Simone, who died in 2003. Hill will follow on the fabled stage of Stravinski Auditorium the same night, July 11.

Simone played twice at Montreux, the last time in 1976. Nobs recalled that a DVD issued from that concert captures Simone "who has a fit, insults the public, laughs and cries."

Rock groups Steely Dan and the Dave Matthews Band will lead all-American celebrations on July 4.

British pianist and jazz singer Jamie Cullum performs in Miles Davis Hall on July 7.

Nobs, noting that Cullum had played at Montreux four or five years ago, says he likes finding the "star of tomorrow." He is also looking forward to hearing African-American Eric Lewis, "who apparently demolishes his piano."

The McCoy Tyner trio and guitarist Jeff Beck appear on the Miles Davis stage on July 14 and July 17 respectively.

Returning veterans include Hancock, George Benson, David Sanborn, Solomon Burke and Marianne Faithfull.

Grammy winner Hancock will be accompanied by Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang and the Orchestre National de Lyon. Seats for the July 5 event, billed a world premiere, go for 300 swiss francs ($260).

There will be a three-night tribute to Chris Blackwell, who founded Island Records in Jamaica 50 years ago. His label is credited with turning the world on to reggae music.

The festival closes on a disco note with Donna Summer.

COPYRIGHT: (c) Reuters 2009. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.