Italy makes you think pasta, wine and Michelangelo? You are missing out on a few, but the one that can be most surprising is that Italy should also make you think... jazz!
The current Montalcino JAZZ & WINE festival is the perfect place to discover for yourself some of the knack and talent that is populating the Italian jazz scene. The festival has been going strong for the last 13 years and as every year the program of JAZZ & WINE brings together international jazz celebs with Italian top players.
To be clear: EVERY single one of this year's 9 gigs is more than worth your money. So if you happen to find two spare weeks, come for all of them and enjoy the free time between concerts by indulging in Montalcino's Sangiovese wines (the famous Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino).
If you don't belong to those lucky ones, try everything you can so as not to miss my two favorite gigs:
DANILO REA's piano solo night (Saturday 16th of July) and the BILL SMITH & ENRICO PIERANUZI duo (Friday 22nd of July). Anybody who ever fell in love with a Bill Evans record will thank god that they have been there.
DANILO REA brought the house down when he played a solo piano night at the Guggenheim museum in New York in 2006. I only read about it, but his past gigs at Montalcino JAZZ & WINE made me understand why (and I guess the 15€ entree fee in Montalcino may have been slightly higher at the Guggenheim).
ENRICO PIERANUNZI may not need an introduction, as this fine Italian jazz pianist has played with Chet Baker for years. His performances at Jazz & Wine have always been stellar. I'll never ever forget the night he played with drummer Paul Motion at a winter JAZZ & WINE edition at Castello Poggio alle Mura (Banfi's Wine Estate - the main sponsor of the event).
If you'd like to know more, a good introduction to some of Italy's top Jazz pianists can be found in this JAZZ TIMES article.
Ps: whatever night you come, remember to dress warm. Montalcino's beautiful fortress (the concert venue) is always subject to a cool breeze at night - even during July's heat waves. And if you forgot to bring your jacket (or you just didn't believe me), look out for the woman with the big bag full of blankets and pashminas. I've been disturbed far too often by the chattering of teeth from the neighboring table.
MONTALCINO JAZZ & WINE 13th - 24th of July 2011