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At Umbria Jazz, home is where your friends are

Leo Sidran

Although the conditions that created jazz are distinctly American, without Europe it seems that it might not survive. Every summer hundreds of the greatest practitioners of the music and hundreds of thousands of fans gather across Europe at the major festivals to come together and celebrate it.

These gatherings provide a much needed opportunity for what the musicians refer to as “the hang”. Producer Matt Pierson explained it this way: “It is an American music and we love our homeland but in reality if you ignore the borders, the base of most jazz adjacent music is in Europe… You get to do a lot of hanging.”

I spent a day at Umbria, hanging and exploring. Conversations with Matt Pierson, artistic consultant Enzo Capua, drummer Terence Higgens, saxophonist Dave Koz, and singer Kurt Elling help to illuminate the situation.

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Leo Sidran is a Latin Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger and composer. Since 2014 he has hosted an influential podcast called The Third Story, featuring interviews with musicians, producers, songwriters and creators of all kinds.