The Umbria Jazz Festival is one of the most influential jazz festivals in the world. It is a ten-day festival that has occurred regularly since its formation in 1973, with the only exceptions being in 1977, 1979 - 1981 and 2020, the latter due to coronavirus restrictions.
Umbria Jazz, first formed in 1973, was a travelling festival with free tickets. The concerts were originally performed in many places in Perugia besides Umbria, including Todi, Assise, Città di Castello, Foligno, Orvieto, Terni and Gubbio.
The first Umbria Jazz Festival occurred in 1973. The festival was previously only open to jazz performers with Sun Ra, Count Basie and The Weather Report headlining. The festival was an immediate success. The concerts bought large crowds to sleepy Perugian towns and villages.
This success was controlled for a few years until 1976 when the festival, headlined by Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie and George Coleman, was the scene of political riots. Musicians Chet Baker and Stan Getz were booed, while many numbers of police descended on the festival. Police were so overwhelmed by the political activism, they cancelled the festival the following year.
The police reluctantly agreed that the festival would return in 1978, although with heavy capacity restrictions. In an attempt to quell the numbers, they hold simultaneous shows in two different cities. However, the festival becomes nigh on impossible to manage and the organisers reach an impasse after the festival concludes.
In 1982, the festival returns, to great celebration. This time, it is managed by the Associazione Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana (the Italian Association of Recreation and Culture or ARRI). Local authorities were no longer in control of the festivities. In another response to the issues from the late 70s, the Umbria Jazz Non-Profit Association is formed.
The festival is tentatively re-launched in 1982 and to the organisers’ delight, everything goes well. The Umbria Jazz Foundation is then launched, twinned with increasing ticket prices for the festival. For the first time ever, the festival balance sheet becomes profitable. At the same time, they roll out slots to artists from other genres such as Elton John and Simply Red (pop), Eric Clapton (rock) and James Brown (blues).
Umbria Jazz Festival 2022 took place from 8th to 17th July. Tom Jones, Jamie Cullum, Marisa Monte, Jeff Beck and Diana Krall were the highlights of the ten-day event. Jazz is still by some distance the primary genre of music being performed, although this is followed by joint blues and pop.
The venues of the festival include the Teatro Mancinelli (the main concert hall), the gorgeous Duomo di Orvieto cathedral, the intimate Museo Emilio Greco, the Arena Santa Giuliana, the Ristorante Al San Francesco, the outside Historic Centre, the 13th century Palace of Seven and three venues in the Palazzo del Popolo.
During the ten-day period, there will also be impromptu concerts in bars, restaurants and in the street. Some of the concerts take place in the open air, so jazz lovers without tickets congregate in the city square.
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