The International Jazz Safari to Italy: RECAP

A week ago our donors hit the Umbria Jazz Festival (our second year) and had a wonderful time in Perugia. The city has a population of almost 200,000 but feels like a medieval village when you stroll within the castle walls.

The old buildings provided much needed shade while we enjoyed outdoor concerts, shopping and dining. This city hosts other events such as the Euro-Chocolate Festival in October and the International Journalism Festival every April…of course, of all the festivals and events that happens in Perugia nothing is more fun than it’s incredible jazz festival, easily one of the best parties on the planet for jazz fans.

Our first show was Jamie Cullum and as always, he was a true showman: Leaping off one of the world’s most expensive pianos (a 9 foot Fazioli grand) and working the crowd into a frenzy. He managed to sing his hit “Twenty Something” so perfectly it’s hard to believe he’s actually married with children and no longer in his twenties. After the show Jamie met up with us for a little Q&A and he asked me when he would be invited to come play in Toronto again. “Not soon enough” was my answer!

We also checked out the band Lettuce, Dee Dee Bridgewater and an ensemble simply called “Ladies” that featured Canadian’s Renee Rosnes and Ingrid Jensen and the incredible voice of Cecile McLorin Salvant, among others. A favourite concert for many of us was an unexpected treat…a set by two world-renowned trumpeters: Thomasz Stanko and birthday boy (celebrating his 75th), Enrico Rava. The back-up band was brilliant and many of the donors were thrilled to see Giovanni Guidi on the big stage after watching him twice at Jazz Bistro during our Italian Piano Series. To make the night even more magical, there was a big band tribute to Dizzy Gillespie that featured another great trumpeter, Fabrizio Bosso as well as the worlds most animated conductor, Paolo Silvestri.

Our seats for the stadium shows were perfectly located right in the middle of their outdoor arena. Some of us opted to go back on our nights off to see acts like Hirmoi and Angelique Kidjo. On top of that, many donors went to concerts on the street and in theatres to check out acts like Steve Wilson and Lewis Nash, Huntertones and Riccardo Fassi Tankio Band performing a tribute to Frank Zappa. Also, the street brass band “Funk Off” created parades through the cobblestone streets on a daily basis: Some great playing and synchronic dance moves!

Everyone raved about the food when we had a group meal at a tiny place called Civico 25 that delivered a traditional Italian meal (read: course after course of incredible delicacies!) It was a meal I will never forget – but then again, the entire trip is something I’ll never forget.

On top of the great food, wine and music, it was a joy to watch our donors become friends during the week in Italy. Many congregated on the rooftop (by the pool) in the early evening or after the performances. It was an amazing trip and I can highly recommend a trip to Perugia at any time, but of course if you can hit it during the Umbria Jazz Festival…consider yourself a very lucky person!