Bologna Jazz Festival


Talking about jazz and Italy these days will probably bring on the name of Umbria Jazz, the famous festival you can read about elsewhere on Italian Traditions. Not many people know, however, that Umbria Jazz only came about because of the closing of another, much higher profile, festival held in Bologna between 1958 and 1975. Come to think of it, it couldn’t have been anyway else – since that town has always been the real jazz capital of Italy.

Fact is, while the Umbria event grew into a monster and had to widen its scope to sustain the mounting costs, including other music genres and even other arts altogether, diehard aficionados worked to get back to basics. The Bologna Jazz Festival was instated in 2005 from the simple concept of bringing back a world-class event entirely focused on very high quality jazz. The city was quick to find a rekindled enthusiasm for its ancient musical love, and the festival became an immediate smash it continuing to this day for a connoisseurs’ public.

Beside five or six main concerts held in three different theatres and historic venues, the Bologna Jazz Festival features dozens of smaller yet no less interesting performances and a number of side events. Some of them, like the Mutti project (conservatory students and teachers setting up a big band concert of brand new compositions) or the joint awards with other festivals to seek out new talents, are pretty technical affairs only experts can fully appreciate. Others are designed to intrigue and pull in new fans, such as the museum exhibitions, the selection of jazz movies shown at the city cinetheque, or the full-featured jazz lessons where famous piano artists explain in an entertaining way the secrets of the works of household names like Porter or Coltrane.