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Keith Jarrett Officially Banned from Umbria Jazz Festival After Outburst

Although pianist Keith Jarrett (pictured) has played at the celebrated Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy several times since 1974, festival artistic director Carlo Pagnatta recently announced that the pianist will not be invited back. Jarrett has always been known for his onstage tirades at the microphone, but he surprised and offended many with an implosive rant at his performance in the 4,500-seat Arena Santa Giuliiani on July 10.

Without provocation and before playing a single note, Jarrett flew into a bizarre, seething rage, opening with “somebody tell those a–holes to put away their f—ing cameras. … I see that red light there, and that means you, you, you,” and stabbing his finger toward various spots in the crowd. Among other caustic comments, Jarrett threatened to stop performing if he saw a single camera flash during the show, “and leave this goddamn city.” While the concert itself went off well, Jarrett dispensed with his traditional encores when a couple of flashes were seen in the far back section.

The next morning, Pagnotta put out the word that Jarrett would no longer be welcome at the festival, citing that the out-of-control pianist had grossly insulted the audience and the city of Perugia. Italian news agency ANSA quoted him as saying “as an artist Jarrett is sublime, but as a person he leaves much to be desired. It was unfortunate that we had to witness the schizophrenia of these two aspects.” Pagnotta later added, “although we have decided that his music will no longer be heard at Umbria Jazz, Jarrett remains part of the festival’s history.”

Three days later, Jarrett’s manager, Steve Cloud, sent a letter to Pagnotta conveying the pianist’s apology for “his choice of words … Keith accepts responsibility for the strength of his remarks, but apologizes for the impact they had with you and your audience.” Officials at the festival, though glad to get some response, felt that a personal apology to the mayor of Perugia was warranted.

Originally Published