Italy has always had a strong affinity for the jazz genre. From the early 20th century, its roots in Italian culture to the point at which today there are many festivals and jazz clubs all over the country. The jazz scene is particularly important in Milan and Rome (where there are notable jazz clubs to be found), but the trend has spread all over the country. Many home-grown Italian jazz musicians have won great acclaim for their innovative jazz works. Giorgio Gaslini, Gianni Basso, Guido Manusardi, Bruno Martino and Lelio Luttazzi – just some of the great jazz performers from Italy. Italy is also a country that can attract several distinguished jazz musicians from all over the world, including legends such as Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock.
This summer in particular looks to be a scorching one for jazz fans. Not only can they choose from a great selection of acclaimed jazz festivals, they can also visit some top jazz clubs all over Italy. Here is a selection of some of the best, a true must for all jazz connoisseurs.
Jazz Clubs and Bards
Jazz Club, Florence
It's not every day that you get a jazz club which has paid host to stars from the Robocopfilm and the TV programme, The Kids From Fame. But nevertheless, the acclaimed Jazz Club in Florence can lay claim to such a boast, having welcomed both Peter Weller and Leroy Johnson. The two men are also talented musicians and have performed at Florence's Jazz Club, as have thousands of jazz musicians such as Danilo Rea, Barbara Casini and Marco Tamburini.
The Jazz Club was founded in 1979, and for more than 30 years, has opened its doors to a huge membership base. It is open from September to June and hosts as many as five live sessions per week (between Tuesday and Saturday). Its Tuesday jam sessions are particularly popular, and alongside the music, every opening day of the week, customers can enjoy a selection of drinks, wines and snacks.
Moody Jazz Cafe, Foggia
Most people know the Spiderman story – by day a working photographer and by night a crusading superhero. Well, the Moody Jazz Café enjoys a transformation from popular café in the morning to a spectacular jazz club in the evening.
This rising hotspot offers both excellent food and drink and some top class jazz talent, along with that unique ambience that jazz clubs provide. Gracing the Moody Jazz Café’s doors in the last year have been talented musicians such as Enrico Rava, Ronny Jordan and Kenny Garrett.
Al Vapore, Marghera
Translated as steam, Al Vapore is one of the most famous jazz and blues clubs in Venice. A big plus point of Al Vapore is that entry to the club is free. Visitors can enjoy a heady mix of varied jazz and blues as well as top quality food and drink.
Fridays and Saturdays are strong evenings for jazz and blues performances (although Al Vapore does offer other styles of music too). It has seen performances from acts including Michelle Polga, Mauro Modin and Fabrizio Bosso, and continues to attract a good number of top-flight jazz musicians and singers.
Bar Caffe Doria – Jazz Club, Milan
For those who want a traditional English-style sophisticated bar for an enjoyable jazz experience, then the Bar Caffè Doria's Jazz Club is for you. The Bar Caffè Doria's Jazz Club is part of the Doria Grand Hotel in Milan. Its traditional take on English-style bars can be seen in its rich décor, which offers sumptuous tapestries and mahogany panelling. Every Tuesday and Thursday, this delightful locale plays host to jazz bands who can provide a variety of classic Dixieland, Ragtime and Swing jazz numbers.
Alexanderplatz Jazz Club, Rome
The Alexanderplatz Jazz Club describes itself as the “Temple of Italian Jazz” and its strong reputation would back up this claim.
This is the place to go if you are looking for great jazz acts, good value and a strong Mediterranean ambience. You can eat, drink, socialise with other jazz fans and enjoy a solid line-up of jazz musicians. The performances take place six days of the week, with music kicking off at 9.45pm from Monday to Thursday and a bit later at 10.30pm as the weekend kicks in on Friday and Saturday. Recent performers have included Eddy Palermo, Enzo Scoppa, Luca Mannutza and Denise King.
BePop Jazz Club, Rome
The Bebop Jazz Club is another of Rome's jazz treasures, an ideal haven for jazz fans. Ever since it opened in the 1990s, it has attracted musicians not only from Rome and Italy, but from overseas too. The Bebop Jazz Club has also broadened its jazz palette with an extension of jazz styles such as blues, R&B and jazz funk. The Bebop Jazz Club has recently enjoyed a brand new renovation, complete with new furniture, to further enhance the unique atmosphere. A season ticket is required, but at €15 for an entry pass to around 240 concerts and all artistic events and club performances, this is superb value. Alternatively, day passes can be bought for €10 or €5 for an evening jam on Monday and Tuesday.
BePop Jazz Club - Rome
28 De VIno Jazz, Rome
For a sophisticated place to enjoy excellent jazz music, 28 De Vino Jazz in Rome is a good choice. 28 De Vino Jazz allows customers to enjoy the best in cheese and wine, with an assortment of high quality cheeses and wines, alongside meats, desserts and cocktails. There's also room for tasty jazz performances. Guests have included Michela Lombardi, Riccardo Fassi and Volcano.
Blue Note Milano Jazz Club and Restaurant, Milan
The club's website proclaims that “Jazz history is made every night” and with a strong line-up of jazz musicians, that statement is true to its word.
The legendary New York jazz club has now also found a home in Milan. It has attracted some notable jazz greats including The James Taylor Quartet, Buster Williams and saxophonist Chris Potter (whose blistering work can be heard on Steely Dan's 2000 comeback album, Two Against Nature on the West Of Hollywood closing track).
The Blue Note Jazz Club has an acoustic feel to it in order to allow a close connection between the performer and the audience. It's a cosy environment where visitors can not only enjoy food and drink, but also the very best in jazz talent.
Top Jazz Festivals For Summer 2012
Vicenza Jazz Festival – May 4th-15th 2012
The Vicenza Jazz Festival has been a staple diary date for any jazz fan for 16 years. Introduced by the Department of Culture in the City of Vicenza in 1996, the Jazz Festival has welcomed such familiar jazz legends such as Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek and Herbie Hancock.
One of the great things about this festival is its diversity. It provides jazz fans with every single inch of this genre, with traditional, mainstream, electric, acoustic, contemporary, modern and established jazz. This year's list is similarly eclectic, with performances from Marco Tamburini, Stefano Battaglia, Dominic Miller and a tribute to the songs of Thelonious Monk.
Garda Jazz Festival – June 28th-July 15th 2012
The Garda Jazz Festival is now in its 12th year and is still going strong. It is a festival that allows visitors to take in a wide scope of different picturesque settings including lake-front terraces, rocks and castles. The Garda Jazz Festival has also included in recent years seminars with various jazz artists. International names on past billings have included Peter Bernstein, Biréli Lagrène and the Hamilton de Holanda Quintetto.
Sudtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige - 29th June-8th July 2012
It's a happy milestone birthday to this acclaimed jazz festival this year. The Südtirol Jazz Festival in the autonomous region in Northern Italy celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012 and is promising a memorable celebration. If past performers are anything to go by, it should be another cracking line-up. Past guests have included the Jamie Baum Septet, the Maurizio Brunod Trio and vocalist Sarah Jane Morris.
Umbria Jazz Festival – July 6th-15th 2012
The Umbria Jazz Festival needs no introduction for true jazz aficionados. The festival dates back to 1973, combining the sounds of new world jazz with the historic sights of Umbria to create something truly special. The Umbria Jazz Festival has attracted thousands of people to enjoy this unique festival, and has become so popular that there are now two jazz festivals to enjoy: the traditional July festival and a winter version.
This year's Umbria Jazz Festival boasts a truly stellar line-up with some all-time greats such as Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny and Sonny Rollins performing, as well as home-grown Italian talent such as Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani. There will also be a performance from one-time Police frontman and highly successful solo artist Sting, who will appear on the last day of what promises to be one of the strongest Umbrian Jazz Festivals yet.