Picture this: Darkness among the audience, the sound of a jacket straightening on a chair, the relenting footsteps of the last arrival who gropingly reaches his seat before it’s too late. Many small impatient heads and before them a stage, lit up by a single spotlight pointed at the piano. The smell of velvet and stuccos in the air. The boards of the stage still emanating a layer of imperceptible dust, shaken upon the arrival of the piano. All of a sudden a series of formidable notes – a jolt. You didn’t even notice him enter. He has begun to play frenetically without prior warning.
And immediately it was jazz.
No, you are not at the Cotton Club in New York, nor in one of the bars in Rio where they play Bossa Nova. You are in Ancona and this is Ancona Jazz. The historic organisers of the festival like to remember having hosted, in almost forty years, practically all the greatest jazz artists: from Sonny Rollins to Stan Getz, from Keith Jarret to Billy Higgins to the mythical concert of Dizzie Gillespie in ’81. Who knows how many of those evenings can be described by that opening scene.
The fruit of great passion and expertise, Ancona Jazz is an initiative that was founded in 1974 and has never stopped revamping itself. In 1979 it gained stability and began to take place every year from January to February. Venues that hosted Ancona jazz back then included the Experimental Theatre, the Metropolitan Cinema and the Goldoni, but also many other smaller venues like osterias or hotels were used to recreate the typical atmosphere of a jazz club. In 1996 the festival became a three-day event taking place in November and it started to become well-known at a national level. With the re-opening of the Theatre of the Muses, the greatest theatre in the city, the real revolution took place: in 2004 the festival moved to July and the duration increased to ten days. The distinctive feature of this decision was the offer of a series of indoor summer concerts to the public, guaranteeing acoustic quality and confident performances. And so, the Ancona Jazz Summer Festival was born.
From 2009 onwards the festival has taken place in the courtyard of the Mole Vanvitelliana and is one of the most important events in the cultural calendar that is Amo la Mole. The programme also involves other beautiful places throughout the city, like Piazza del Plebiscito, Cardeto Park, the terrace at the Archaeological Museum and the Dorica Marina. Although its formula has changed the festival maintains its character, recognisable both in Italy and outside the national borders, and the African-American tradition remains a central point of interest alongside experimental projects and productions. Swing, interpreted through a new language, jazz vocals and many exclusives all contribute to make Ancona Summer Jazz Festival a rich and stimulating platform for the experts and for those who are simply curious. Ancona Jazz also participates in the organisation of summer events in Jesi, Offagna and Senigallia.
A creation of the forces behind the cultural organisation Spaziomusica, Ancona Jazz continues to spread its notes, even during the winter: the end-of-year gospel concert organised close to Christmas in collaboration with the Muse Foundation is now a classic. Linked to Ancona Jazz is also the event Le Strade del Jazz, a annual event that has been highly anticipated by all enthusiasts for more than ten years. The programme normally unravels over ten events scattered throughout the Ancona region during the first months of the year and aims to offer “a cross-section of contemporary jazz that looks at history as an unlimited fountain of ideas and emotions”. It offers visitors the possibility of listening to lesser-known musicians in Italy, but also to specific repertories of wider fame.
Ancona Jazz is not jazz solely because of the type of concerts that it puts on; it is jazz in its way of thinking, in the value attributed to openness to others, to comparison and to fusion: from 2007 it has been part of a network with two of the other most important jazz events in Marche – Fano Jazz and TAM’s Grottazzolina. And in 2010, Musicando, an event in the province of Macerata, was also added to that network. All of them together form the Marche Jazz Network.
Le Marche has such a diverse, rich culture of music and entertainment, and the Marche Jazz Network is a just one wonderful example…..