Claude Nobs: making the impossible possible.

Author:Widmer, Marion
Position:Business: entrepreneurship
 
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Retirement is but a foreign concept for charming 76-year-old visionary Claude Nobs. He is busy organising the 46th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival, will see the opening of the Montreux Jazz Cafe at Harrods in London this summer, and has just received an award from the Jazz Foundation of America for his humanitarian work. However, he began his professional life as a chef. What, you might ask, is his recipe for success?

The Roils Royce of jazz festivals

Born in 1936 and raised in Montreux, Claude Nobs developed a passion for music before he was able to read. However, as a teenager, he decided to do an apprenticeship as a chef. "When I was 17, I was thrown out of my parents' house and I had to decide what to do with my life. I asked myself whether I wanted to get up as early as my father, who was a baker, instead, I decided to become a chef," Nobs remembers.

At the same time as training to become a chef in Basel, he received a second education. "For two and a half years, I regularly listened to the radio programme Pour ceux qui aiment le Jazz ('For those who love jazz'), which was directed by Daniel Filipacchi," he says. With this musical education under his belt, the creative and ambitious mind moved on to become Director of Montreux-Vevey Tourism.

In 1967, driven to create a music festival that "fosters the experience of music rather than its simple consumption," Nobs organised the first Jazz Festival in Montreux. It attracted prominent participants such as Keith Jarrett.

Only a few years after this first successful edition of the festival, Deep Purple honoured Nobs in their hit single 'Smoke on the Water', which refers to the tragic burning down of the casino in Montreux during a Franz Zappa concert in 1971. The band described Nobs' heroic attempts to save guests with the words: "Funky Claude was running in and out/Pulling kids out the ground."

'Funky Claude' was appointed director of Warner Switzerland in 1973. It was a move that put him in a position to garner yet more famous musicians' performances in Montreux. Since then, the creme-de-la-creme of the international music scene, including the likes of Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones, have staged legendary concerts and jam sessions in the picturesque town on the Swiss Riviera. The Montreux Jazz Festival, described by producer Quincy Jones as the "Rolls Royce of Jazz Festivals," has become one of the most influential music festivals in the...

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