Umbria Jazz festival at-a-glance – a beginner’s perspective

piazza perugia scaled

The Umbria Jazz festival can be overwhelming for a newcomer, but if you study a bit in advance and are determined to avoid being swept up in the spectacle, you can see that the festival is actually comprised of many layers.

I arrived at the festival on a hot Monday night in July with my Italian friend Antonella. She told me that the crowd was actually fairly light that night compared how it had been the previous weekend. Even so, the piazzas were full of life and the relatively off night afforded an opportunity to take in the festival in a more relaxed way.

The types of activities that were available this year were extremely diverse: from the headliners like Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga all the way to improvised jam sessions at midnight and impromptu street performances; making for a very pervasive jazz experience. Strolling through the main piazza, Antonella and I came upon small groups playing to an appreciative crowd. Each of the small jazz ensembles effortlessly avoided drowning each other out, making for a very satisfying musical journey through the piazza.

There were many great events as part of the festival and there was also a diversity of venues. For example, we caught part of the Larry Monroe/Donna McElroy Nonet Band show on July 13th in the Giardini Carducci. The garden area they played in is a nice, open, friendly spot to enjoy music that has no cover and affords easy access to some amazing jazz music. The fans of jazz at the festival were both young and old, with many dancing or keeping time to the infectious beat of the music.

night concert in Perugia scaled

Later in the week Antonella and I attended the concert with the Robert Glasper Trio with Vicente Archer and Damion Reid along with Cassandra Williams’ “Coming Forth by Day” at the Arena Santa Giuliana and it was great. Antonella and I sat in the “Gradinata non numerata” (unassigned bleacher-style seats) that cost less than $20 USD and yet still afforded a nice view of the stage. Later we escaped to a beautiful open area to one side of the stage with tables and a large screen to view the performance. It was magical to be in that open air atmosphere.

The web site offered the option to purchase tickets online, which was a nice option for those who wanted to avoid the ticket lines. The process was pretty straightforward and easily done with a cell phone on a limited wifi connection.

There was a colorful display of posters from the previous Umbria Jazz festivals. It was amazing to see in such a palpable way the amazing history of the festival and to see how each poster reflected the particular era.

umbria jazz poster scaled

Simply strolling through the lovely town of Perugia can provide pleasant surprises, like the wonderful balcony café that we discovered one night at the new film which affords a birds-eye view of the hills surrounding the town. Summer festivals in Italy are wonderful and the Umbria Jazz festival truly offers something for everyone

The festival has ended, but for more information you can see this site:

[umbria, perugia, umbria-jazz, music, music-festival, travel, cassandra-williams, italian-travel]

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