Theo Zwicky

Another chapter in the great book of Zwickys. From The Guardian on 2/1/17, “Theo Zwicky obituary”, an affectionate reminiscence by Peter Vacher:

My friend Theo Zwicky, who has died aged 89, was Europe’s best-known collector of jazz films and photographs. His archive, Mr Jazz Photo Files, in Zurich, was consulted extensively by magazine editors and jazz writers, myself included, when it came to finding rare illustrations for their books and articles.

Theo was born in Zurich, son of Elsa (nee Fuchs) and Fritz Zwicky, but, as a quite private person, never spoke of his early life. [Note: Fritz Zwicky is a high-frequency name in Switzerland, and I have no easy way to pick out information about this particular one, except that I can say for sure that he was not the famous astrophysicist.] His focus in conversation or in print was always on his passion for jazz and its memorabilia. He amassed a treasure trove of jazz lore that was equalled only by that of Frank Driggs in the US. He was assiduous in tracking down rare and original photographs, often in his earlier years travelling to the US and befriending veteran musicians, who raided their scrapbooks and lent him their career images.

He was dedicated to ensuring that he identified everyone in photographs, often canvassing opinions from a variety of witnesses. He would bring obscure images to festivals and circulate them among fellow enthusiasts and musicians just to be sure. He amassed a formidable library of jazz on film, and he frequently put together special film recitals for jazz club members and societies. He also researched the lives and careers of selected bands of musicians and published a number of brilliantly detailed histories.

By profession Theo was a graphic designer who worked for a variety of Swiss companies, and this explained his meticulous grasp of detail and concern for image accuracy. He and I met well over 30 years ago, at the Nice jazz festival, keeping in touch and exchanging photographs over the years. Impatient for responses, Theo was often insistent – albeit that his demands were leavened with humour – expecting the same degree of dedication among all his contacts. We encountered each other earlier this year at the Ascona jazz festival and Theo told me in his unvarnished way that he had to contend with cancer and any number of other health problems. Even so, he still seemed upbeat and positive.

He is survived by his long-term companion, Marlyse Fanconi, his son, Daia, from an earlier relationship, and a grandson. His photographic collection has been left to the jazz archive in Eisenach, Germany, while his film collection is to be housed in the movie archive in Berne.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even know of TZ’s existence until this obituary appeared. An interesting person. In the picture, he looks really Swiss and really like a Zwicky.

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