MONTREUX, SWITZERLAND – “We all came out to Montreux…” but this celebration was of a different kind, in homage to “Funky” Claude Nobs, the man who made the name Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF) synonymous with musical innovation, new talent, and unhinged jam sessions.
This was the man Stephan Eicher and fellow artists took a bow to last night at Stravinsky Hall, as he sang “Je n’ai pas d’ami comme toi” – I have no friend like you – and finishing with a nod to “Smoke on the Water,” and the image of Nobs on the big screen.
The sheer range of acts on display last night itself was a testament to Nob’s gift for recognizing and promoting diverse talent spanning genre and age; Bastian Baker, in his teens when he first met Nobs in 2006, played alongside Swiss musical icons Pascal Auberson, Francois Lindeman, Dieter Meir and Eicher, all more than twice his age. Auberson shared an intimate dream sequence ending with “Thank you Claude,” while Lindeman’s bereaved piano playing was a sombre note to the evening.
Meier and his perfectly named band, Out of Chaos, made me think, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away…”
Other stand outs for me included Barbara Hendrick’s rendition of “Strange Fruit,” (with Ulf England’s haunting slide guitar), Andreas Vollenweider’s enchanting harp ensemble, and Paolo Nutini’s rhythm and growling alternately reminiscent of Al Green and James Brown.
The show will go on and the 47th MJF poster, by Oscar Oiwa was unveiled as the tribute to Nobs came to an end. But the absence of “Funky” Claude’s voice and persona was palpable last night in Stravinsky Hall; I think we all paused for an awkward moment as acts were introduced, fully expecting his funkiness to stroll out on stage.
Read more on the new MJF poster and the artist who created it on GenevaLunch.