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Live Review: 46th Umbria Jazz Festival

Europe’s wildest jazz party sets records for revenue and attendance

Kenny Barron performs at the 2019 Umbria Jazz Festival. (photo: Tim Dickeson)
Kenny Barron performs at the 2019 Umbria Jazz Festival. (photo: Tim Dickeson)

When you have made many trips to Perugia, Italy for the Umbria Jazz Festival, you never get a sense of which years are bigger than others. They are all crazy (“pazzo,” in Italian). The main drag of the hill town, Corso Vannucci, is all but impassable every night because of the crush of revelers. The music starts every morning at 11:30 a.m. when the marching band Funk Off parades down the Corso followed by early-rising (by jazz festival standards) merrymakers including children and dogs. The music ends after 1 a.m. on the free stages at either end of the Corso, at which point the hardest of the hard core transition to Jazz Club Méliès, where the nightly jam session carries on until 4 a.m.

But Umbria announced that in 2019 the total proceeds of 1,600,000 euros and the total estimated turnout of 500,000 were records. There were other impressive numbers: 300 events, 12 venues, 95 bands, and almost 500 musicians. 

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Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad has a BA from the University of Utah and an MA from the University of Iowa (where he attended the Writers Workshop). He taught English at Central State University in Ohio, then left the academic world for the private sector. His affiliation with publications such as JazzTimes, Stereophile, The New York City Jazz Record and DownBeat has enabled him to sustain active involvement in two of his passions: music and writing.