Umbria Jazz

The beautiful town of Perugia is home to one of the most famous jazz festivals in the world, founded in 1973 as a very successful experiment by a local connoisseur and reborn in 1982 in its current form, attracting thousands of enthusiasts from all over the planet. The crowd has grown steadily up to a point where the whole town was paralyzed – sometimes even preventing the artists to reach the stages where they were scheduled to perform – so in recent years the festival has spread more or less informally to many other cities around Perugia to be more manageable.

The current format of the festival offers an extended program. While most concerts and workshops are of course focused on jazz, you can find many detours into blues, soul, world music and even rock – although the selection is always of very high quality, and oriented to a sophisticated public. This makes the overall atmosphere quite different from most other Italian festivals, and the “funfair factor” is considerably toned down in favor of an experience more focused on the actual music and culture.

This spirit derives also from the character of the two leading organizing figures. Carlo Pagnotta, the original founder, is a longtime jazz enthusiast with a penchant for following the international festival scene, whose style he imported along with the artists. Renzo Arbore, the art director and president of the Umbria Jazz association, is mostly known in Italy as a television celebrity hosting comedy shows, but he is first and foremost a jazz musician (clarinet) with a passion for discovering new talents. The result of the encounter of their personalities is an exciting mix of famous international stars and lesser-known yet impressive Italian musicians, allowing the participants to experience the full spectrum of the modern jazz scene – and of course a novel way to live thousands-year old cities, their architecture, culture and food.