Montreux Jazz Festival Founder Claude Nobs Dies

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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.

Nobs, whose enthusiasm for greeting musicians at his office and chalet home cemented his standing and boosted the profile of his home, also became known for occasionally taking the stage to play harmonica.

In an interview with Swiss video magazine NVP3D posted on YouTube, Nobs’ compared the mix of tradition and creative innovation that he sought at his festivals to the popular Swiss German breakfast dish Bircher Muesli, a combination of rolled oats, fruits, nuts and dairy products.

“Which means it’s going to be like a fruit panorama, like a rainbow of different music, and this is what I like about Montreux,” he said in the interview, published in June 2012. “To make it really with such a variety of sound, of smell, of views and scene, that it makes it a real experience.”

(Photo: AP)

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