Umbria Jazz Festival

Umbria Jazz Festival
The Umbria Jazz Festival, also known as simply Umbria Jazz, is an annual jazz festival held in the Italian city of Perugia, the capital of the historic region of Umbria and the province of the same name. It is regarded as one of the world’s most important jazz festivals.

The inaugural Umbria Jazz Festival was held from August 23–26, 1973. Its program featured performances by the Italian world music band Aktuala and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, one of the world’s most influential jazz bands at the time. Although the festival wasn’t as successful as it could be because of rain and poor promotion, the organizers decided that holding an annual jazz festival in Umbria was a good idea.

Since its inception, the Umbria Jazz Festival was radically different from other Italian jazz festivals. In the 1970s, jazz concerts were held mainly in small clubs, sometimes in theaters and concerts halls. In other words, jazz was considered music for small, intimate venues. The Umbria Jazz Festival changed this. Its organizers held concerts at city squares with a capacity of up to 20,000. They combined the music of New Orleans with the atmosphere of an old European city, and this unusual combination became one of the festival’s main attractions.

Over the years, the Umbria Jazz Festival has welcomed a lot of jazz and blues legends. Artists who have performed at Umbria Jazz include Burt Bacharach, B.B. King, Tony Bennett, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Bobby McFerrin, Charles Mingus, Carlos Santana, and many others. In 2015, the attendees of Umbria Jazz even had a chance to see Lady Gaga in an unusual role. She ditched her usual outrageous style to perform famous jazz standards with Tony Bennett (in 2014, they released a collaborative jazz album titled Cheek to Cheek).

The Umbria Jazz Festival is widely regarded as one of the best jazz festivals in Europe. It runs over 10 days in July and features more than 200 performances on six stages. Although the festival focuses on jazz, it also showcases other music genres and styles including pop, rock, gospel, rhythm and blues, soul, Latin American music, and more. Alongside world-class musicians, it features emerging Italian artists, giving them an opportunity to promote themselves in front of a wide and receptive audience.

Umbria Jazz Festival

Photo: Giancarlo Belfiore




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