Claude Nobs, Montreux Jazz Festival founder, dies

R.I.P Claude Nobs

Claude Nobs, who founded the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, has died after a skiing accident.

The 76-year-old suffered a fall while practising cross-country skiing during the Christmas holidays. He had been in hospital but passed away on 10 January, a statement on the festival's website said.

It was from a visit to the New York offices of Atlantic Records that the first festival in his home city was born in June 1967, featuring musicians such as Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette. The festival was an overnight success, building over the decades on Nobs' passion for jazz, as much as his gumption and contacts abroad. From that meeting in New York, Nobs went on to gain career-forming introductions to musical greats such as Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin, who would make her first European tour at his request. The musical acts at the festival also would gradually broaden to include rock and pop.

                                                   © 2006 Béatrice Lang, Agentur Van Essel

At the age of 31, while he was director of the Tourism Office of Montreux, he organized the first jazz festival featuring artists such as Charles Lloyd, Keith Jarrett, Ron McLure and Jack DeJohnette. This new festival was an immediate success, and gained a reputation far beyond Switzerland. Nobs quickly transformed his festival into an international gathering place for lovers of jazz. In 1973, Nobs became the director of the Swiss branch of Warner, Elektra and Atlantic. On the live Jethro Tull album Bursting Out (recorded on 28 May 1978 in Bern), one can hear Nobs announcing "...herzlich willkommen in der Festhalle Bern!" (Welcome to the Festhall of Bern). During the 1990s, Nobs shared the directorship of the festival with Quincy Jones, and made Miles Davis an honorary host. The festival continued to diversify and was no longer exclusively devoted to jazz. In 2004, the festival attracted 200,000 visitors. On 25 September 2004, Nobs received the Tourism Prize of Salz & Pfeffer. The canton of Vaud gave him the "Prix du Rayonnement" for his contributions to music. He has also received an honorary doctorate. Nobs played harmonica on the opening track of the 1983 Chris Rea album Water Sign.

"For all of us, who were fortunate enough to cross your path, you will always remain the one who questioned certainties," the statement said. Organisers had previously said that Nobs' accident would not impact this year's event, which runs 5 - 20 July. "We carry, and will continue to carry on in your spirit, everything you taught us," Thursday's statement added.

Nobs even earned himself a mention as "funky Claude" who rescues children in Deep Purple's 1973 song Smoke On The Water. The song is about a fire that burned down the Montreux Casino, where the festival was held, during a Frank Zappa concert in 1971

                                             © 2007 Lionel Flusin - Montreux Jazz Festival

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