Adieu, Claude Nobs - The Eccentric Swiss Genius Who Jazzed Up Sleepy Montreux

Local memories and a final salute from French-speaking Switzerland to the founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, who died on January 10.

"Funky Claude," as Deep Purple called him in their 1972 song "Smoke on the Water"
"Funky Claude," as Deep Purple called him in their 1972 song "Smoke on the Water"
Antoine Duplan

MONTREUX - There was a shop window in Montreux where you could watch “an incredible model train blowing steam.” Sixty years later, Claude Nobs’ eyes were still bright with excitement when he told the story of the amazing toy his parents couldn’t afford to buy him. But in the end, he got himself something much better than an electric train – he got himself a jazz festival, a fabulous machine blowing decibels and joy.

The Geneva Riviera and French-speaking Switzerland owe much to Claude Nobs. Without him, they would have remained provincial and uneventful. Fifty years ago, the most famous tourist event in Montreux was the Narcissus fair – a celebration of Narcissus flowers. Today, Miles Davis and B.B. King have their bronze busts on the quay and Freddie Mercury's statue looks out on the horizon. The visionary Claude Nobs opened his hometown to the world, gave it an economic push, and brought an exciting mythology to the site. He turned a sleepy lakeside city for retired Brits into a musical capital. And all the while, giving locals pure moments of amazement.

Nothing predestined this son of a baker to bring the blue notes to the blue skies of Switzerland, but his passion and unwavering resolve were able to move mountains. Right until he died last week at the age of 76, Claude Nobs stayed true to his motto – “Nothing is impossible.”

In spite of all the reasonable adults, accountants and the Montreux bourgeoisie who hated electric music with a passion, this visionary child fought relentlessly to carry out his cultural revolution. Deeply attached to his region, this citizen of the world managed to create the perfect mix between Delta blues and cheese fondue. He brought Black music into an unprecedented spotlight and put Switzerland on the map.

The Montreux Jazz Festival would not have had such an international aura without its generous director. He couldn’t bear to let a musician starve – his table was open to all and you could rub shoulders with the world’s greatest musicians.

Never mind his innate genius, would Claude Nobs have been able to live out his dream in today’s world? When he started, a handshake was enough to seal the deal. He became friends with Miles Davis by giving him his shirt – literally. This streak of eccentricity was inherent to the festival. The show will go on without its creator. But however successful it will continue to be, it has undeniably lost its soul with the passing of Funky Claude.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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