Claude Nobs, 76, founder of Montreux Jazz Festival

Mr. Nobs’s passion for jazz led to the festival’s success.
Laurent Gillieron/Keystone/file 2006
Mr. Nobs’s passion for jazz led to the festival’s success.

GENEVA — Claude Nobs — 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 — has died. He was 76.

The Jazz Festival said Mr. Nobs, a native of Montreux, died Thursday after sustaining injuries in a fall while skiing.

Mr. Nobs worked his way from being a chef and director of Montreux’s tourism office, where he ­organized charity concerts, to overseeing one of the best-known music festivals.


A visit to Atlantic Records in New York led to the first festival in his home city in 1967, featuring musicians such as Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette.

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The festival was an overnight success, building over the decades on Mr. Nobs’s passion for jazz, as much as his gumption and contacts abroad.

An early incident involving the rock group Deep Purple, which was in Montreux to record an album, became forever linked with Mr. Nobs. During a fire at a Frank Zappa concert in 1971, Mr. Nobs rushed to save several concert-goers. Deep Purple’s hit song, ‘‘Smoke on the Water,’’ would memorialize Mr. Nobs as ‘‘Funky Claude’’ pulling young fans to safety.