By Everett Potter
Claude Nobs, the spirited founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, has died after a cross country ski accident near his home in the mountains above Montreux. I visited Nobs two years ago and was impressed by his accomplishments, his humility, and the amazing home and life he made for himself. Here’s my piece from 2010:
Claude Nobs stands outside his house near the village of Caux, Switzerland, in a chalet compound on a grassy mountainside perched above the city of Montreux. On this day, the 70-something concert impresario looks rather elfin-like. He has a wool cap on – it’s a chilly and wet spring day – and he uses two hiking poles, while his pair of Bernese Mountain dogs bound in the wet grass around him. Birdsong is the only noise.
“I hate to say which was my best show but I think it was Aretha” says Nobs, the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival. “She had King Curtis and an amazing backing band and in the end she just threw the backing band out and sat at the piano.”
Since 1967, “Nobs’s festival” has drawn the brightest lights in the worlds of jazz and rock, world music and hip hop. With the exception of John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong and Stevie Wonder, he claims to have gotten every artist he ever wanted to play this fabled festival.
The 45th Montreux Jazz Festival runs from July 1 to 16, 2011, with some of the biggest musical names in the world: Paul Simon, Sting, Liza Minelli, Arcade Fire, B.B. King, Bootsy Collins, Carlos Santana, Dr. John, Femi Kuti, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Lee Ritenour, Paolo Nutini, Youssu N’Dour and Ziggy Marley, among others. There are two halls, 16 nights of performances, and two thirds of the concerts are free. Nobs says that this year, his 45th, may be the last one, and that he may move on to “special projects,” leaving the hard work to others.