Arriving in Switzerland to play the Montreux Jazz Festival for the first time in the summer of 1971, I expect an exotic country Swiss chocolate, numbered bank accounts, buried Nazi gold ... amazing the things we have in our heads. Montreux partly lives up to the image. What a marvelous atmosphere and what a beautiful place: snow-capped mountains across the lake, palm trees, the famous Palace Hotel. It's somehow very Mediterranean and Swiss at the same time.
Then I meet Claude Nobs. Already I know about him: in 1967 he'd founded Montreux Jazz, which by the time I get there is already legendary. He greets me with a kind of elegant nonchalance, and a twinkle in his eye. I notice that everyone including the greatest musicians treats Claude with affection and respect. They all know just how much he loves music and musicians. (One time, as Miles Davis was about to go onstage, he praised a shirt Claude was wearing, and Claude literally gave him the shirt off his back.) Within 24 hours, I discover that this man knows as much about jazz musicians as I do, actually more. I see his record collection. Stunning! He has records from everyone. And not only jazz, but from every kind of music. (I am truly jealous of his record collection, and believe me, mine is pretty good.) His eclectic taste is reflected in the festival as well: by the time of my visit, he has infuriated purists by opening it up to include blues, R&B and soul.
By 1974 I have gotten to know Claude quite well, and I pay him a visit for a few days at his home in Montreux. He receives me like a prince and treats me as such. I get the full treatment, driven around the canton in his Aston Martin, and treated to cooking worthy of a Michelin star in his youth he was an award-winning chef. But the best is yet to come � He introduces me to his collection of videos from the festival and what a collection! Amazing images, and with hi-fi sound. I see Davis, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner � not only the greatest jazz artists but all the greatest R&B and even pop artists: Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell, Chaka Kahn, the list is endless. Of course, lots of people have a passion for music. What's inspiring about Claude, now 68, is that he's made his passion into his life, shared it with millions of concertgoers, nurtured veteran musicians and given unknown artists exposure they would never have had otherwise. Claude's passion changed the face of music in Europe.