Another birthday: thirty-five years of Umbria Jazz, the perfect occasion to put together a whole host of stars, some of whom had become almost permanent presences at the Festival, as was the case of Sonny Rollins (and it only took an initial ten-minute solo to remind everyone of the greatness of the jazz from the past), and of Pat Metheny who this time joined forces with vibes player Gary Burton, his original leader and the man who first discovered him (he wrote for him when Metheny was only eighteen years old, after having listened to him at Berklee College of Music), and of Caetano Veloso, blending his magical voice with the piano playing of Stefano Bollani, who in turn was captivated by the incredible richness of Brazilian music: the two chose a highly intimate musical domain, one of refined sounds, reworking classical pop hits from the 1950s.
Brad Mehldau and Carla Bley also performed, the latter with a slimmed-down band and Paolo Fresu guesting. Another habitué, Herbie Hancock, revealed his new project “The River of Possibilities” dedicated to the music of Joni Mitchell, moving backwards and forwards between his Fazioli grand piano and his Korg keyboards. One memorable evening featured a splendid performance by Cassandra Wilson, the increasingly dominant figure among female jazz singers. However, the largest crowds turned up to see Michael Stipe’s R.E.M, Mario Biondi’s Italian soul, and Alicia Keys American soul.