The Joyful Sounds of the Florence Jazz Festival

Concert on a raft (zattera sull’Arno)

The Florence Jazz Festival returns to Tuscany in September bringing the best of Italian and international jazz.  Jazz aficionados, spoiled for choice of more than 30 concerts and 100 artists, can revel in the music set in some of Florence’s most iconic locations.

Most of the events draw participants to the Oltrarno with the organizers’ goal of creating a “street event” during the days of fair autumn weather.  The main stage of the festival will be the large open space of Piazza Carmine, flanked by some of the city’s favorite bars and outdoor restaurants.  The Zattera Sul’ Arno, a floating stage in front of the Ponte Vecchio allows performers to pay homage to the River Arno and the City of the Renaissance at dusk.

It’s time to put on the dancing shoes, or not, and find an event from the many on the program to enjoy the finest jazz on offer.  Below are just some highlights.

September 9 at 7 p.m. Dario Cecchini and Francesco Zampini take the stage at Villa Bardini, with its sweeping view over the Arno and Florence, performing an original repertoire.  Following at 9:30 the American drummer Jeff Ballard performs a new project with a quartet of Tuscan musicians known throughout Italy and Europe.  During his career Ballard has performed and recorded with some the most imminent personalities in jazz, including Ray Charles, Pat Metheny and Chick Corea. (Villa Bardini, Costa San Giorgio 2-4. Tickets €8 to 13).

Then on Tuesday, September 12, the public is invited to the Santa Rosa Bistrot for an al fresco evening alongside the Arno enjoying the Matteo Addabbo Organ Trio.  The master of the Hammond organ presents his new album “’La’Asino che Vola” or The Donkey Who Flies.  (Santa Rosa Bistrot, Lungarno di Santa Rosa, 7 and 8:30 pm. Free entrance with limited seating).

The following evening La Limonaia di Villa Strozzi hosts the creative duo of Dudu Kouate’ and Massimiliano Milesi.  Kouate’, a native of Senegal now living in Italy for 30 years, could be called a multi-percussionist, utilizing his vast array of innovative and traditional rhythm makers alongside showmanship to enchant the audience.  Saxophone virtuoso Massimiliano Milesi joins from Bergamo to complete the sounds.  (La Limonaia di Villa Strozzi, Via Pisana, 77, 7:15 pm. Entrance €2).

Following at the same venue Nico Gori, renowned clarinet player, entertains with the Young Lions Quartet and special guest Fabrizio Bosso on trumpet. (La Limonaia di Villa Strozzi, 9:30 pm. Entrance €13).

Ponte Vecchio—Music on a Raft. Most locals and tourists to Florence have strolled over the ancient Ponte Vecchio, admiring the river below surrounded by jewelry shops above.  Now people can enjoy the unique experience of musical performances set on a raft floating in the Arno next to the bridge.

Thursday, September 14 sax player Tobia Bondesan performs on the Zattera Sul’ Arno at 8 pm.

The following evening, September 15, tenor sax player Dimitri Grechi Espinosa comes to the floating stage at 8 pm.

Next on Saturday, September 16 Emanuele Parrini, innovative multi-instrumentalist performs jazz and ethnic music at 9:15 pm (performances are free).

Just a few minutes stroll west along the Arno concertgoers can find The Circolo Rondinella del Torrino, a club set next to the river with tables and large trees providing shade.  The Circolo is a great al fresco spot to order drinks and a light meal while listening to the Wes or No Trio.  The performance, a tribute to guitar virtuoso Wes Montgomery, celebrates the centenary of his birth.  Montgomery, often considered the artist responsible for integrating the six-string guitar into contemporary jazz, inspired later jazz guitarists George Benson and Pat Martino (Lungarno Soderini, 7 pm. Entrance €2).

Piazza del Carmine  This iconic square hosts a wide array of music on the final three days of the festival.  The organizers of the Florence Jazz Festival created a ‘festival within a festival’ combining food, wine and talks with great music.  Thursday, beginning at 8:30 p.m, the group Roots Magic performs original sounds blending Delta blues historic roots with creative sounds and rhythms of African American jazz of the 60s and 70s. Later at 10:30 pm. Dinamitri Jazz Folklore comes on with their unique fusion of jazz and the roots of music brought to the new world by African slaves (day pass €3.50).

On Friday Insieme, a group of four artists who recreated, reworked and remixed pieces from the vibrant Florentine jazz music of the 70s take the stage at 8:30 pm.  Later at 10:30 pm, the Open Area Project take the stage with a repertoire also inspired by the jazz scene of the 70s. (Day pass €3.50).

On Thursday and Friday, the Ruffino wine estate, one of the patrons of the festival, sponsors ‘Wine Talks’.  Ruffino boasts 140 years of family produced award-winning wines which are exported around the world.  The firm produces wines from their six estates spread throughout the Chianti region. (Piazza del Carmine, 9:45 pm. Free entrance).

Saturday, Sept. 16,, Super Bad performs eclectic funk with influences of jazz and electronica beginning at 7:30 pm.  Then at 9:30 Catarina Palazzi and Sudoku Killer are on.  Led by double bass player Palazzi, the artists in the band come from backgrounds in jazz to rock to experimental music. (Day pass €3.50).

The final day of the festival, Sunday, September 17, offers the public several experiences and venues.  Ruffino Wineries, one of the sponsors of the festival, hosts the Matteo Castellan Trio at the vineyard’s Tenuta di Poggio Casciano. (Via Poggio al Mondorio, 1, Bagno a Ripoli, 12 noon. Reservations required by email: (rita kungel)