Umbria Jazz: the rise of an icon
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Dreaming with open ears since 1973

UJ will blow out fifty birthday candles in 2023. Half a century, and it looks great. Umbria Jazz has not only made its mark on the history of jazz in Italy and around the world. It has also created, over time, a new formula of cross-cultural experience capable of embracing the most distant musical tastes and always maintaining the highest level of entertainment.

From the Hot Club to the rise of an iconic festival

“I would stop friends on the street, ask them for a 1000 lire and say: from now on you are a member of the Hot Club Perugia.”

Carlo Pagnotta, born in 1933, thus recounts the birth of the Hot Club Perugia. This idea took shape in the early 1950s from conversations in a record store in Perugia between him and a small group of jazz enthusiasts. From the experience of the Hot Club – the concerts of Louis Armstrong in 1955 at the Teatro Morlacchi and Chet Baker in 1956 at the Sala dei Notari remain historical – the urgency to create an event to provide a cultural alternative with international jazz names and a chance for tourism and notoriety for the beloved Umbria region.

So Carlo founded Umbria Jazz, of which he immediately became artistic director, a role he still has today. The year is 1973, and a history of great successes, challenging moments and an inexhaustible passion begins, leading Umbria Jazz to change, modify, and evolve, always remaining focused on the main objective of linking a global vision to the promotion of a great small region.

Over time, strengthened by its reception and the memory of its many editions, UJ’s DNA has preserved the spirit of such historic concerts as those of Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, the torrential live performances of Sonny Rollins, Sting meeting Gil Evans, the soft tenor sax of Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Ornette Coleman, elusive João Gilberto, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, the encounter with different styles of music, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Eric Clapton, Santana, R.E.M., Prince, Liza Minnelli, Elton John and many other monumental artists.

Umbria Jazz Winter: a winning bet

There is no doubt about it: trying to repeat the success of the summer Festival with another organised around the New Year was a real gamble (although a great many people set to work to try and prevent it backfiring), but the gamble paid off, and pretty quickly at that. There were a number of reasons for this: the chosen site of Umbria Jazz Winter – Orvieto – is a beautiful, friendly town that really needed such an occasion to spark off due interest; the formula adopted, namely not being subject to any obligations towards the more important summer Festival, not having to fill outdoor areas but just small, intimate venues; the opportunity to rotate a series of artists for the entire duration of the Festival; incorporating the New Year as an excuse to celebrate that festivity with the sound and rhythm of jazz; the choice of artists, with the focal aspect being quality jazz acts, devoid of contamination from other musical spheres, and the search for new talent on which to focus the public’s attention.

We can’t wait to explore the future of Umbria Jazz together, to the rhythm of a unique history!

Press play and take a journey into our history

Dr. Dixie Jazz Band (Arbore, Avati, Conte, Giardina, Gualdi) | Umbria Jazz 1984

Tullio De Piscopo Group | Umbria Jazz 1986

Umbria Jazz 1986, Perugia

Al Jarreau Band & David Sanborn | Umbria Jazz 1986

watch the complete playlist

Click on the official posters to time travel through UJ’s history!