A “Wonder” at Umbria Jazz – PerugiaThe hit of Umbria Jazz 2004 (see www.Umbriajazz.com) in Perugia this July was the 15-year-old Sicilian sax player Francesco “Wonder Boy” Cafiso (so baptized when he played Carnegie Hall last May with Wynton Marsalis). He certainly couldn’t compete with the big names at Umbria Jazz this year, which ranged from Keith Jarret to Alicia Keys, from B. B. King to Burt Bacharach, from Geoge Clinton to The Manhatten Transfer, from Herbie Hancock to The Count Basie Orchestra and Charlie Hayden, all of whom played the big stage at the outdoor Arena.
I first saw Francesco play one afternoon in a small theater. Word got around. Like Cinderella, 15-year-old Francesco had to be back to his hotel by midnight but every evening, he’d appear as a surprise at one of the larger venues. Whenever he appeared, an uncontainable, enthusiastic response erupted from the audience, “an earthquake of applause which shook the theaters, sweeping along even the most skeptical… the public forgot the main band and carried in triumph only Francesco” (La Repubblica, July 25, 2004).
I heard Francesco play again when he appeared as surprise “guest” with Bobby Jones and The Nashville Super Choir. I was translator for that Gospel performance (which was being filmed for U.S. television) and Francesco, his charming parents, and I chatted beforehand “backstage”, i.e., the steps in front of the 14th century cathedral. The main stage at Umbria Jazz is set up in front of the cathedral and next to the 13th century sculptural masterpiece, the Fontana Grande (“Great Fountain”). Opposite the stage, the imposing 13th century civic palace, Palazzo dei Priori (a splendid example of Gothic urban architecture).
Imagine the scene: all the monuments lit up, the entire piazza reverberating with the Gospel music of the choir, the more famous refrains accompanied by the delirious crowds. Thunderous applause for the choir and for Francesco. The culminating moment: one of the Gospel singers, large of heart and of body, beloved of the audience, was belting out her solo. Francesco moved in, improvising along with her, and she wailed to that incendiary sax. There was no roof for the public to “take off” – or they would have.
Read about Umbria Jazz in Perugia in July
Read about why Umbria Jazz is not to be missed.
To read about Umbria Jazz Winter in Orvieto, click here.
Click here for more on the Italian passione for Umbria jazz
Read more about Umbria Jazz highlights.
Read about that hot jazz passion in Perugia
Read about a talented young Sicilian jazz musician
Read more on that Italian jazz enthusiasm
Click here to read about Umbria Jazz Winter in Orvieto
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