Claude Nobs, 76, the founder and general manager of the Montreux Jazz Festival, whose passion for music and artistry introduced generations of legendary musicians to international audiences on the Swiss stage, died Thursday after sustaining injuries from a fall while cross-country skiing nearby on Christmas Eve. The Jazz Festival announced his death.
Nobs, a native of Montreux, worked his way up from being a chef and director of the community's tourism office, where he organized charity concerts, to overseeing one of the most iconic music festivals in the world.
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.
An early incident involving the rock group Deep Purple, which had come to Montreux to record an album after performing with Frank Zappa, became forever linked with Nobs.
During a fire at Zappa's concert in 1971, Nobs rushed to save several young concert-goers. Deep Purple's hit song, "Smoke on the Water," would memorialize the accident — Nobs as "Funky Claude" pulling kids to safety.
Two years later, Nobs became director of the Swiss branch of Warner, Elektra and Atlantic, a position that gave him added clout to introduce heavyweights on the Montreux stage.
By the 1990s, he was sharing festival-directing duties with the music producer Quincy Jones and bringing in Miles Davis as an honorary host.
—Times wire reportsCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun