The Talents of the 2021 ‘Firenze Jazz Festival’

Musician Rita Marcotulli

Thursday 9 – Sun. 12:  FIRENZE JAZZ FESTIVAL.  Sala Vanni, Piazza del Carmine, Villa Strozzi, Villa Bardini.  Performances scheduled between 7:30 and 9:30 pm.

The fifth annual Firenze Jazz Festival, kicking off Thursday, September 9, showcases 30 events featuring 100 artists in 10 locations.  Among this year’s starring performers are American saxophonists James Brandon Lewis and Grammy award winner David Murray.  Considered as cutting-edge musicians of the African American music scene, they will both perform new original works.  American drummers Jim Black and Hamid Drake are also headlining at the festival.

The billboard includes big established artists and emerging talent, with two Italian pianists, Rita Marcotulli and Franco D’Andrea as well as double bass player Ferdinando Romano, winner of “Best New Italian Talent” from Top Jazz 2020.  Romano plays with the Totems, together with special guest Ralph Alessi, one of the best trumpet players in the US jazz scene.

Also gracing the stage, Nexus, a Toronto based percussion ensemble who recently celebrated 40 years together, will perform for their wide-ranging repertoire.

Listed below are some of the festival’s highlights.

Thursday, September 9: NEXUS performs at the Sala Vanni in Piazza del Carmine beginning at 9:30pm.  Also on the 9, DANILO GALLO, eclectic and creative bassist, performs with DARK DRY TEARS, promising a program of malinco, punk, retrorock, grunge and melodic sounds using the universal language of jazz.  (Villa Strozzi Amphitheatre, 9:30 pm).

On Friday, September 10 JAMES BRANDON LEWIS, THOMAS SAYER ELLIS & ALEXIS MARCELO present “The Dead Lectures: Dedicated to Jean Michel Basqiat”.  Lewis, now considered one of the spearheads of new American jazz and heir to the sound of masters John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman, made his recording debut in 2014 and has recorded a dozen albums.   In “The Dead Lecturers” he performs alongside his friend Thomas Sayers Ellis, a gifted poet, intellectual, writer and photographer.  The performance blends poetry, jazz and spoken hip-hop with a dedication to art and beauty by Jean-Michel Basquiat.  (Sala Vanni – Piazza del Carmine 14, Florence 7.30 pm).

Later on Friday, September 10 the BRAVE NEW WORLD TRIO with DAVID MURRAY, BRAD JONES and HAMID DRAKE, present a performance of world music and fusion, keeping close ties with Africa and South America.   Hailing from Oakland, California, Murray has collaborated with such diverse artists as McCoy Tyner, Gregory Porter and Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead with more than 100 albums.  Joining him are double bassist Brad Jones, formerly with Ornette Coleman, and Hamid Drake, for years one of the best drummers in the world, a musician who puts his heart into every stroke of his wand.  (Villa Strozzi Amphitheatre, via Pisana 77 at 9:30 pm).

Also, on Friday FRANCO D’ANDREA and the NEW THINGS TRIO perform at the Villa Bardini.  One of the most prestigious names in Italian jazz D’Andrea now is considered one of the best contemporary pianists.  In his 80th year, he has recorded 200 albums and worked with Gato Barbieri as well as numerous international jazz musicians.  (Villa Bardini, Costa San Giorgio 2-4, 9:30 pm).

On Saturday, September 11 jazz lovers can hear FERDINANDO ROMANO and TOTEM with RALPH ALESSI.  Romano with Totem, whose album together was rated as one of the top Italian recordings of 2020, take the stage with renowned American trumpeter Ralph Alessi.  (Villa Bardini, 7 pm).

Also, on Saturday the TELL NO LIES QUINTET performs at the Sala Vanni and Piazza del Carmine at 7:30 pm.  This Italian group, known for its improvisational works, promises to entertain long-time jazz aficionados as well as those new to the scene.

More jazz can be enjoyed on September 11 with TRI(O)KALA, an original project bringing together pianist and composer RITA MARCOTULLI, ARES TAVOLAZZI on double bass and international world star drummer ALFREDO GOLINO.  The evening begins with pop and transcends into jazz, a feat that only artists of this caliber and connection can achieve.  (Villa Strozzi Amphitheatre at 9:30 pm).

Even more music happens on September 11 with MACK, described as a beating heart of hip hop, funk, jazz, neo-soul and electronics.  (Villa Strozzi Amphiteatre, 9:30 pm).

The festival concludes on Sunday, September 12 with a finale featuring SAVANA FUNK and DON KARATE.  Savana Funk with Aldo, Blake and Youssef (respectively from Italy, England and Morocco) first met in Bologna, Italy in 2015.  It became immediately apparent to them that they shared a special bond on an emotional and musical level.  Their program, a mixture of African music, funk, blues and psychedelic rock, takes the listener back to the jazz influences running throughout their repertoire.  Don Karate, a project of multi-instrumentalist Stefano Tamborrino, includes Pasquale Mirra on vibes and bassist Francesco Ponticelli, playing an upbeat and innovative set.  (Cascine Park, Ernesto De Pascale Amphitheatre, 9 pm).  (rita kungel)

Tickets for the main concerts are sale and concert goers are urged to purchase in advance.  Ticket prices from €5-12 in advance, €8-15 at venue.  For the complete schedule, info and ticket purchase, please visit the festival website: