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Bill Charlap & Gary Hobbs at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Wayne Shorter Quartet with Jason Moran at Umbria Jazz Melbourne 05

Melbourne, Australia, has hosted an international jazz festival since 1998 (with a year off in 2002 due to funding problems). It was a relatively modest event until this year, when Melbourne raised the bar by joining forces with the Umbria Jazz Festival of Perugia, Italy.

The festival in Perugia is one of the world’s largest annual jazz events. It has been running since 1974, always offers a lineup full of major names, typically attracts a total attendance of 200,000 and takes over the hill town of Perugia for most of two weeks. Many features of Umbria Jazz Melbourne 05, including its duration, were patterned on the Perugia model. There were free daily open-air concerts in a large public square-Federated Square, in Melbourne’s case, just off downtown on the Yarra River, offering lunchtime crowd-pleasers like the Italian group Funk Off and Dr. Bobby Jones & the Nashville Super Choir. Marching jazz bands wound through the streets of the city. There were noon and afternoon and evening and midnight performances in a variety of venues large and small, almost all of them within a block or two of Federation Square.

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