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Umbria Jazz Winter Festival, December 2011

Smaller in scale than Perugia, Orvieto's fest offers the best of Italy

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Umbria Winter Festival, 12-11
Michel Camilo and Danilo Rea, Umbria Winter Festival, 12-11

When it comes to jazz, Orvieto ain’t Perugia. They are both equally picturesque towns an hour apart in the province of Umbria, the verdant heart of Italy. And both boast of a history that pre-dates Roman antiquity. But the festivals that either city hosts-the winter and summer editions of Umbria Jazz, respectively-are two entirely different approaches and experiences. They also represent the steady dedication of the jazz fan and former haberdasher who started both, Carlo Pagnotta.

“I don’t have to book an arena!” Pagnotta says with a laugh, when asked to summarize the difference between the two seasonal festivals. From his perspective, the summer festival in Perugia is one filled with non-jazz distractions-negotiating fees with rock and pop music booking agents, juggling various levels of acts, dealing with a host of sponsors. Orvieto, on the other hand, is a much smaller city (population 20,000 versus Perugia’s 170,000) with fewer venues; its festival lasts for five days (versus Perugia’s 10) drawing an average of 35,000 people (Perugia normally pulls in over 100,000 each summer). Its festival focuses more on jazz alone, in all its stripes.

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