Quincy’s blast at Umbria Jazz Fest and reviews

Ron Scott | 7/26/2018, 11:10 a.m.
Most recently, Umbria Jazz 18 celebrated its 45th anniversary as one of the most popular jazz festivals in the world. ...
Quincy Jones Ron Scott photo

Most recently, Umbria Jazz 18 celebrated its 45th anniversary as one of the most popular jazz festivals in the world. Aside from its wealth of participating musicians, the picturesque Perugia is the capital city of both the region of Umbria in central Italy, crossed by the river Tiber, and the province of Perugia (that dates back to 310 B.C.).

It covers a high hilltop 1,617 ft. (493 m) and part of the valleys around the area. The top of the hill with its cobblestone streets (watch your step when walking or dancing) is where the action takes on the piazza in the midst of a historical museum and churches, with its string of cafes serving wonderful food, a host of delicious gelato shops, local crafts people and street musicians, dancers, trios, puppeteers and jazz singers.

The music venues were located in this joyful madness, including the de Cesarino, where the nightly jam sessions played on until after 4 a.m. each night (causing me to miss that free breakfast). However, the main outdoor arena, Santa Giuliana, is located at the bottom of the hill.

This is where the 10-day festival opened, celebrating the 85th birthday of the impresario Quincy Jones. His special guests and friends who have worked with him in the past included Dee Dee Bridgewater, Patti Austin, Noa with Gil Dor (one of Jones’ favorite performers of Brazilian music), Take 6, the Brazilian singer/composer Ivan Lins and from Cuba, the pianist Alfredo Rodriguez and percussionist Predrito Martinez. Italy’s most prominent trumpeter and composer, Paolo Fresuand, was also a guest. The Umbria Jazz Orchestra, conducted by John Clayton and Jones, with guitarist Nathan East and the always vibrant drummer Harvey Mason, played from the original arrangements of Jones.

The orchestra opened with Jones’ theme song from the popular television series “Sanford and Son” followed by the theme from the series “Ironside.” Jones’ music bought a new hipness to television, something that hadn’t existed since the theme to the “Peter Gunn” series (1950s).

The acappella sextet Take 6 performed “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” a reflection of Jones’ friendship with Ray Charles. Lins swung the bossa nova and Dor more than represented that Brazilian flavor. “Brazilian music is my favorite; it has a combination of Cuban, Brazilian and African roots,” said Jones. He sat onstage for the celebration, answering questions on his various musical stages and introducing his guests.

Jones revealed that Erroll Garner gave him the composition “Misty” at the airport in Paris in 1958. When he gave it to Sarah Vaughan to perform, it was the song’s debut outing. He introduced his goddaughter, Patti Austin, who sang “Misty” but not before her reputed “Razzmatazz” from Jones’ album “The Dude,” which put the audience in joyful bliss. Her rendition of “Misty” made it evident why she has never been placed in one of those confining genre categories. She swings jazz from up-tempo to ballads with the same essence as a pop or R&B tune.

Jones’ big band connection with Ella Fitzgerald and the Count Basie Orchestra was reflected in Dee Dee Bridgewater’s rendition of “Honey Suckle Rose,” singing and scatting high as the moon in the sky.