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Umbria Jazz ’09

Perugia, Umbria, Italy; July 10-19, 2009

Perugia, with its predominance of medieval and baroque design, is an unlikely locale for a festival of all-too-American, all-too-modern jazz music. The small central Italian city should, instead, be the setting for a period film on the life of Scarlatti or some long-forgotten Papal intrigue. And yet its most important civic event each summer is Umbria Jazz, a 10-day extravaganza of musical greats from across the world-special emphasis, of course, on the United States (being jazz’s homeland) and Italy (being Umbria’s).

During that time even Perugia’s most picturesque scenery was occupied by the music; Corso Vannucci, its grand thoroughfare, was filled daily with a street parade by the aptly named Funk-Off and appreciative mobs, not to mention the guitar- and saxophone-wielding buskers who serenaded café patrons with “Pent-Up House” and “Impressions.” Meanwhile, at either end of the plaza sat large stages to accommodate the daily schedules of free music, highlighted by the jump-blues burlesque of Britain’s surprisingly authentic King Pleasure & the Biscuit Boys and Chip Wilson, a New Orleanian guitar aficionado whose fingerpicked acoustic and high, gravelly voice imprinted his haunting American folk and roots music on the evenings at Giardini Carducci.

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