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Montreux Jazz Festival boss on Claude Nobs’ legacy

Montreux Jazz Festival CEO Mathieu Jaton has spoken to IQ about the legacy of the event’s celebrated founder Claude Nobs, 10 years on from his passing.

The 57th festival will be held from 30 June to 15 July, with headliners including Bob Dylan, Lionel Richie, Lil Nas X, Sam Smith, Iggy Pop, Norah Jones, Seal, Joe Bonamassa and Nile Rodgers.

Jaton says ticket sales are pacing ahead of last year’s event, which attracted an estimated 250,000 fans to become MJF’s most-well attended edition yet.

“We’re very confident and very proud of the lineup, and sales are going great,” he tells IQ. “We had record sales for last year and tickets are moving faster than last year, which is a very good sign. A lot of the concerts are already sold out, which is cool, so I’m a happy man.”

Montreux Jazz Festival won the top festival award (Ligger’s Favourite Festival) at the 2023 Arthur Awards earlier this year, and the Swiss institution is the subject of a new documentary mini-series, They All Came Out To Montreux. The three-part presentation, which premieres in the UK tonight (Friday 16 June) at 10.15pm BST on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer, details the history of the event and Nobs, who died in January 2013 following a skiing accident.

“You see the passion, love and authenticity of Claude’s relationships with artists very clearly”

“This year is the 10th anniversary of Claude passing, so it is a very good timing that this documentary will be released finally internationally on the BBC,” says Jaton.

They All Came Out To Montreux features more than 40 testimonies, 30 performances and a variety of previously unseen images, is directed by British filmmaker Oliver Murray, executive produced by Quincy Jones and produced by BMG and Beyond TNC. MJF announced a multi-faceted global partnership with BMG in 2021.

The series has been made in association with MJF’s media company Montreux Media Ventures (MMV), which was launched in 2019 to develop year-round content and events for corporate clients, labels and brands.

“The most emotional thing for me is that you see the passion, love and authenticity of Claude’s relationships with artists very clearly in the documentary,” says Jaton. “That’s what makes Montreux completely different because Claude was not a businessman; he was not a regular promoter; he was an artist lover on a human level.

“The most beautiful heritage Claude gave us except for the festival, the brand and all the things he created, of course, is the love of everybody around him. When he passed away 10 years ago, the first call I got was from Quincy [Jones] and he said, ‘Claude was my brother, Claude was one of the people on earth that I loved so much. Now, we have to continue his patrimony for the future and I will be with you whenever you want.’

“Montreux is always trying to keep to that spirit of Claude, which is the heart before the business”

“Most of those artists could have said, ‘Okay, Claude passed away and that’s sad, and now I’m doing something else.’ But no, the loyalty of those people is still there and that’s amazing, and that’s exactly what this documentary shows – all those relationships, which are key in the DNA of Montreux, are real and authentic.”

Jaton, who began working for the festival in 1999, discloses a conversation he had with his mentor shortly before Nobs’ death at the age of 76.

“Two months before Claude passed away, he told me something very important,” remembers Jaton. “It’s bizarre when you think back because he passed away by accident, but he said to me, ‘You know why I chose you? I know that you understand the DNA and spirit of the festival, and you will transform it into the future.’ And that’s exactly what we’re doing – not looking to the past, but only looking to the future – transforming the festival every year, but keeping that DNA and the legacy of Claude.

“The legacy of Claude is not only the big names, it’s really a mindset: a mindset of hospitality; a mindset of passion, of love. We know the music business now is just that – a business – but Montreux is always trying to keep to that spirit of Claude, which is the heart before the business.”

 


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