The Italian Almanac

Francesco Bearzatti

Italian Music - July 10

Terni is about 90 minutes' drive from Rome. In picturesque Umbria, the town's main tourist attraction is the Marmore Waterfall built in 271BC, which provides the stunning backdrop for the jazz festival.

After the opening night, the festival spread out around town. Saxophonist Giancarlo Maurino, who has the distinction of having played with jazz icon Charles Mingus, played in duet with guitarist Roberto Taufic in the Abraco bar. This was not music of Mingus-like extremes, however. It spoke of precisely focused moods, where small musical gestures were patiently probed for meaning and beauty.

Meanwhile, the big names appeared on the main festival stage in the Roman amphitheatre, including a group with saxophonists Sam Rivers and Roscoe Mitchell and hard bop trumpet chameleon Wallace Roney. They all made the right moves, but faltered on the threshold of creating anything memorable. America's overpowering jazz's legacy seems to be freezing current practice and, unexpectedly, it was the Italian musicians, mostly unknown outside their country, who stole the show.

Francesco Bearzatti is a saxophonist with a tone like a heavy metal guitar; I Tangheri played a suave mix of Italian folkloric themes and jazz and proved an impossible act to follow; while the brilliant composer and bandleader Ettore Fioravanti Belcanto created mood swings that left temperate fans dazed. This was colourful jazz, full of Mediterranean flourishes, that could only come from Italy.

With the rival Umbria Jazz Festival now so big it features musicians not noted for their jazz credentials, such as Elton John, Diana Ross and Craig David, Terni's time has come. Good things, as the saying goes, come in small packages.