This was the year of free jazz, and Umbria Jazz saw the arrival of two musicians who more than any others had helped liberate jazz from the shackles of conformism: Cecil Taylor and Archie Shepp. It was also the year of Charles Mingus’ second, and last, presence at the Festival. He had played in Todi the year before, when there had been scuffles between groups of extreme left-wingers and worshippers leaving the Cathedral.
With three times the normal crowds, the situation got out of hand, with people sleeping rough all over town, demanding free food and drink, and packed into every available corner: the concerts followed, as a sea of faces – rather than just a few thousand jazz enthusiasts – moved en masse from one space to the next, and the democratic jazz festival struggled with the burden of an overly democratic design. The programme was a spectacular one (and yet there were still people who criticised it at the time), featuring Count Basie’s Big Band which failed to reach Villalago due to the road jammed with cars, the returning Chet Baker after a long time in the wilderness, the heady Elvin Jones, and McCoy Tyner, Ted Curson, Billy Harper and a substantial number of Italian artists ranging from Gaslini to the jazz-rockers Cadmo.