The Duke is Alive in Bagni di Lucca!

Bagni di Lucca’s Spring Jazz concert organised by Marcello Cherubini and the Montaigne Foundation is, now in its fifth year, a much-looked-forwards-to event. I admit to great ignorance in matters of jazz but have always enjoyed it when played by such a group of artists as we heard last Sunday.

The line-up was Piero Frassi piano (one of the finest jazz pianists I’ve heard in Italia , Nino Pellegrini double bass and Vladimiro Carboni,  percussion with singer, Greta Mirall It was, indeed, Greta’s quartet and they supported her brilliantly. She has an admirably subtle voice, impeccable English accent and it surely tells that Greta is one of the great Michela Lombardi’s students.

The programme was a homage to that supreme of big band leaders Duke Ellington and many of his greatest numbers were included in it like’ It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got a swing’ etc. In addition there was a  ravishing little-known piece which the Duke apparently tossed off in twenty minutes called ‘Solitude’. A hushed silence spread over the audience after this number was sung – it was so truly moving.Here is a version sung by the great Ella:

Jazz is truly thriving and swinging in Italy. I wish it were more so in the UK where my listening highlight was hearing Bill Evans live at Ronnie Scott’s.

Bagni’s Chiesa inglese was packed and we were glad we’d pre-booked. The event was free with a contribution of five euros for the restoration of the English cemetery. What with the extraordinary playing and singing of the evening I almost felt the dead there would have been raised and dancing and swinging to the Duke’s immortal melodies. This jazz spring concert at Bagni di Lucca is surely here to stay as a permanent fixture so if you’ve missed it this year watch out for it in the next!




This October Lucca Jazz Donna returns. It’s a festival dedicated to female jazz talents organized by the Circolo Lucca Jazz with the City of Lucca, Capannori, Lucca province, the sponsorship of Tuscany Region, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca, the Fondazione Banca del Monte di Lucca and the patronage of Tuscany’s Equal Opportunities centre.
The festival’s twelfth year programme, under the artistic direction of Circolo Lucca Jazz, includes six free concerts, including five with two sets of performers and a final conversation and concert with jazz leader Dee Dee Bridgewater.  There’s also a new collaboration with three Italian record companies: Filibusta Records, Philology Records and Alfa Music Records.

On Saturday, October 1 at 9.15 pm at Palazzo Ducale (Cortile Carrara, Lucca), there’s the opening of the festival’s 12th year entitled “Heartfelt music on Filibusta Records from Something There & Isk” with two sets made with Filibusta Records.

In the first set, there’s ‘Trioness’ with Federica Michisanti on bass, Sebastiano Ragusa on tenor sax and Simone Maggio on piano.
In the second set there’s the Milena Angelè quintet with Milena Angelè, tenor sax , Edoardo Ravaglia, piano, Enrico Bracco, guitar, Riccardo Gola on bass and Fabio Sasso, drums.
Free admission.

The “La Luna” association, which works against violence on women, will be present.
For information and the complete and updated programme see:
Additional information points: Equal Opportunities Centre of Lucca Province, Cortile degli Svizzeri, 2 (0583.417.489, and the City of Lucca, public relations Office, via Del Moro, 17 (0583.44 .24.44,


On Friday, October 7 at 9.15 pm in Artè room (via Carlo Piaggia, Capannori), there’s an evening presented by Philology Records.
The first set is with the Cettina Donato trio: Cettina Donato, , Nino Pellegrini, bass, Vladimiro Carboni, drums, guest Michela Lombardi, vocals.
Second set with Michela Lombardi & Pietro Frassi trio who present “Solitary Moon – The Music of Johnny Mandel”: Michela Lombardi, vocals , Piero Frassi piano, Gabriele Evangelista on bass, Andrea Melani on drums.
Free admission. The ‘Emergency association’ that works in bringing free medical care and quality to the victims of war and poverty will be present.


On Saturday, October 8 at 9.15 pm at the Artè room (via Carlo Piaggia, Capannori), an evening presented by Philology Records.
First set with the Daniela Troilo trio who present the album “Wait and See”: Daniela Troilo, vocals, Piero Frassi, piano, Massimo Moriconi, bass / electric bass, Lucrezio De Seta, drums.
Second set with Emilia Zamuner trio: Emilia Zamuner, vocals, Lewis Saccocci on piano, Massimo Moriconi on bass, Massimo Manzi on drums.
Free admission. The Don Franco Baroni Onlus Association that deals with preventive health care Will


Friday, October 14 at 9.15 pm at the Teatro San Girolamo (via San Girolamo, Lucca), an evening presented by the Alfa Music Records.
First set with the Daniela Spalletta & Donatello D’Attoma duo, who present the “Shema” album: Daniela Spalletta on vocals and Donatello D’Attoma on piano?
Second set with the Federica Colangelo Quartet presenting the “Chiaroscuro”: album Federica Colangelo at the piano, the Simone Alessandrini on saxophone, Mihail Ivanov on bass, Riccardo Gambatesa on drums.
Free admission. The Anffas Onlus association that works in helping the families of people with disabilities will be present.


On Saturday, October 15 at 9.15 pm at the Teatro San Girolamo (via San Girolamo, Lucca), an evening presented by Alfa Music Records.
First set with the Gaia Mighty U-Man Trio featuring the “Infant Speech” album: Gaia Possenti piano, Luca Pirozzi on bass, Massimo Carrano on drums.
Second set with the Patty Lomuscio quartet presenting the album “Further to Fly”: Patty Lomuscio on vocals, Mirko Signorile, piano, Giorgio Vendola on bass, Pierluigi Villani on drums.
Free admission. The UNICEF Onlus association which protects and promotes the rights of children and adolescents will attend.


On Sunday, November 6 at 9.15 pm in the Church of San Francesco (Piazza San Francesco, Lucca) there’s an evening with Dee Dee on the subject of Lucca women’s jazz world.
Conversation with Dee Dee Bridgewater and Simona Burattini, TG2 Rai journalist. Presentation of the “Pino Massara” first prize ” to four young jazz and modern music performers, by MAP, Authors Federation, UNESCO Club of Lucca and Lucca Jazz Club.
A concert follows with Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, Theo Croker on trumpet, Anthony Ware on saxophone, Michael King on piano, Eric Wheeler on bass, Kassa Overall on drums.
Free admission. Funds for Italy’s earthquake victims will be collected.

(Michela Lombardi – born in Viareggio and regarded as one of Italy’s top ten Jazz singers)

PS For more in Michela see my post at

Ponte a Moriano’s Sant’Ansano Festival

There was quite a lot going on at Ponte a Moriano last week-end.

First, it was the festival of the town’s patron saint, Sant ‘Ansano, whose statue graces the bridge after which the town is named. (For more on the bridge, which celebrates its 900th anniversary this year and the town itself see my post at

Second, there was an attractive Christmas market which included my first sighting of Babbo Natale this year.

Third, there was a small but very select display of vintage cars calculated to delight anyone who remembers motoring as it once was. Spot the Lancia Fulvia here?

Fourth, there was a blues festival organised by the Croce Verde, the other voluntary ambulance and emergency body (the main one is the Croce Rossa) which saved my elbow when I skidded off my scooter earlier this year. Here’s the ambulance which transported me to Lucca hospital for stitching up:

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The Blues festival was a fun jam session with the band bringing out some classic numbers including ‘Got my Mojo working’ written by Preston Foster and popularised by Muddy Waters’. (PS A mojo is a good luck charm in case you’re wondering.)

The festival was accompanied by a scrumptious lunch which included the best-filled neccio (chestnut pancake) I’ve had for ages (ricotta cheese and Nutella). It was a wonderfully relaxing way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Fifthly, there were three exhibitions on the top floor of the Nieri Theatre which dominates the town’s square:

  1. An exhibition on the Mille Miglia car race which, this year went through Ponte a Moriano (and also Ponte a Serraglio). The photographs were quite stunning and some were on sale. I think a book should be made of them.

2. An exhibition by the children from the local primary school – most inventive. Recognize the Klimt?

(Incidentally the ‘winterval’ curse has fallen upon Italy this year as it did in the UK some years ago. Some head teachers said that Christmas discriminated (!) against those children who were born into a different culture and religion. When the principal decided against having a Christmas tree in the foyer of the FE College I worked at in the UK the first person to object was the Hindu receptionist. He quickly backtracked on his ridiculous decision. Fortunately, none of the schools in our area have been put into such a stupid situation and I hope they never will.)

3. An exhibition of war memorabilia (if war could ever be described as memorable) from the Gothic Line committee. (See my post at to find out about the gothic line).

The shop run by older citizens and displaying some of their wares was also open. One of the staff showed me a pass, dating from before Italy was unified, allowing a person to travel from the Estensi kingdom to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany:

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The person lived in Nieri’s house close by. I was curious for I’d seen the plaque on the façade:

and its inscription which reads:


(My translation:


















ON 26TH NOVEMBER 26, 1939)


Who was this Nieri who had Ponte a Moriano’s theatre named after him?


Idelfonso Nieri was born in Ponte a Moriano in 1853 and died in Lucca in 1920. He was a philologist and writer and worked as a secondary school teacher in the area. Nieri is important for two main literary works: his dictionary of the Lucchese dialect, which is obtainable at

and his works on Lucchese folklore.

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Nieri’s ‘Cento Racconti Popolari Lucchesi’ (one hundred popular lucchesi tales) is downloadable at


Nieri also translated Theophrastus’ ‘Characters’ from the Greek.

Live and learn… I can now put a face and a biography on that previously unknown name!


More Music Events for September in Lucca


The “Laboratory Brunier” Artistic Cultural Association presents “Questione di… Stili 2015” for the Lucchese September. It’s about musical genres and styles by the musicologist Renzo Cresti. This is its fifth year and there are three events highlighting the artistic excellence of Lucca’s musical history.


The concert on Friday September 18 at 9 pm, in the Ademollo Hall, Palazzo Ducale, will be dedicated to Gaetano Luporini, an important composer and musical director of Lucca from 1902 to 1936, with his music together with Giovanni Pacini, founder in 1842, of Lucca’s famous music school which bore his name until it was changed in 1943 to “Luigi Boccherini”. The evening’s program ends with another great Luccan musician: Alfredo Catalani. The concert will be presented by Renzo Cresti and will be attended by Gaetano Giani Luporini, grandson of Gaetano Luporini. Soprano Roberta Ceccotti, mezzo-soprano Maria Bruno and bass Graziano Polidori perform arias from the opera and chamber music repertoire of the three composers accompanied by pianist Loredana Bruno. The event is organized in collaboration with the City and the Province of Lucca and Lucca’s CRL and BML Foundations.


On Sunday 20th in the Ademollo Hall, at 5.30 pm there’s the first event of the day (the second is at 9 pm). It is a round table entitled “Preservatione Viva”. The event, organized in collaboration with the Archimedes Association, will focus on the conservation of musical archives and is introduced by Renzo Cresti. After greetings of City of Lucca representatives, the Head of the Maria Pia Mencacci Music School and representatives from CRL and BML foundations of Lucca, there will be papers by Benedetto Benedetti, Antonio Romiti, Walter Rinaldi and Giorgio Belluardo and a  delegation composed from Modica with Loredana Vernuccio, Fabio Bruno, Orazio and Giacomo Di Giorgio Belluardo, who will talk about the relationship between Lucca and Modica, the music of the two city high schools and the re-emergence of Gaetano Luporini and Pietro Floridia. At the round table’s conclusion there’s a buffet for all participants. In honour of the Modica delegation piano pieces from “In the Country” by Pietro Floridia will be performed. The event is organized in collaboration with the City and the Province of Lucca and Foundations CRL and BML of Lucca


On Sunday 20th in the Ademollo Hall, at 9 pm there’s the second event of the day (the first is at 5.30 pm) with an unusual presentation of theatrical costumes from Laboratorio Brunier made by costume designer Franco Nieri, who, over the years, has created around a thousand costumes for Lucca which will be exhibited in the Palazzo Ducale hall. Loredana Bruno interviews Franco Nieri on the secrets of the costume designer’s work, a craft that has produced important designs that deserve to be in a permanent exhibition. The costumes will be worn by the students, by Maria Bruno’s singing class students and by Lucca’s “M. Civitali ” fashion industry Institute students, coordinated by Professor Antonella Malagnino. The instrumental ensemble music class ensemble led by Professor Guido Masini and the singing class of the High School Musical will delight the audience with “At the end of the day” from the “Les Miserables”. The event is organized in collaboration with the City and the Province of Lucca and the CRL and BML Foundations of Lucca


Five dates, nine concerts, including a special closing event, and five side events, from 10th September to 17th October, for the eleventh year of Lucca Jazz Donna. Thirty-two women in the festival (21 musicians and 11 guests) from Italy, Europe and the United States and five charitable organizations involved in the first completely free entry event. These are the statistics for Lucca Jazz Donna 2015, the festival dedicated to female jazz talents organized since 2005 by the Lucca Jazz Club with the City and Province of Lucca, support from Tuscany Region, Lucca’s CRL and BML Foundations and the collaboration of many individuals and associations. This year Capannori is included which hosts a concert and panel discussion.

Thursday, September 10th at 5 pm at the Palazzo Ducale (Maria Luisa room), it’s the second year of “Quando la passione diventa professione “. The Round Table guests are Emiliana Martinelli (designer), Talitha Ciancarella (librarian), Federica Gennai (jazz singer) and Cristina Puccinelli (actress and director). Chair is Anna Benedetto (journalist).

In the dining room there’s a preview of Cynthia Guidetti’s photographic exhibition and a musical interlude by Gaia Mattiuzzi vocals and Francesco Cusa drums, with the “Skinshout” project. At the event there’s entertainment for children aged 3 to 12, by the Province of Lucca with the financing of the Tuscany Region.

Information and reservations: +390583417489 (; +390583442444 (; +393297084432;


On Saturday, September 12th at 5.30 pm at Palazzo Ducale (Mario Tobini Room) there’s the inauguration of Cynthia Guidetti’s exhibition with 18 photos depicting 18 women in music, which will be on display until September 30th. These are portraits of singers and instrumentalists who have participated in some of the most prestigious jazz festivals in Tuscany and Italy.

At the inauguration there’s a concert by the Settemeno Acoustic Duo formed by Elena Carrossa vocals and Leonardo Landini guitar.


On Tuesday, September 15th at 4 pm in Capannori (sala Atena, Via Carlo Piaggia), there’s a workshop Dalla carta al web: evoluzioni per la creatività nella comunicazione.  The workshop, held by Ilaria Ferrari (art director) and Chiara Cinelli (webmaster & wordpress developer), will focus on the evolution of communication tools and the working methods that characterize the fast evolving field of graphic communication. Chair is Anna Benedetto (journalist). From Tuesday, September 15th, at the Palazzo Ducale, and during all the Lucca Jazz Donna concerts, there’s a photography workshop by Laura Casotti.


On Monday, 12th October at 9.15 pm in San Micheletto there’s a film in collaboration with the Lucca Cinema Club.


On Saturday, September 19th at 9.15 pm at Palazzo Ducale (Ademollo Room) it’s the 11th year of the Lucca Jazz Donna Festival with two sets. In the first there’s the Flores Ensemble with Anastasia Ossipova and Ilaria Gigli violins, Marta Degli’Innocenti viola, and Chandra Ughi cello and Gioia Giusti piano.

In the second set there’s Ladies in Mercedes, with Francesca Fattori guitar, Giulia Facco piano, Camilla Missio bass and Serena Davini on drums.

It’s an evening in collaboration with the “La Luna” association.


On Saturday, September 26th at 9.15 pm in the Sala Artè (Capannori, Via Carlo Piaggia) there’s a jazz concert divided in two sets. In the first set there’s  “Circle Time” – Cecilia Sanchietti jazz project with Davide Grottelli sax, David Boato trumpet, Gaia Possenti, piano, Stefano Napoli bass, Cecilia Sanchietti drums, with guest artiste Federica Zammarchi.

The second set is the Betta Blues Society: Elisabetta Maulo vocals, Lorenzo Marianelli guitar, Filippo Ceccarini trumpet, Beppe Scardino baritone sax and bass Fabrizio Balest.

Evening in collaboration with the Emergency association.


Friday, October 9th at 9.15 pm at Teatro di San Girolamo there’s an evening with international guests. In the first set, there’s Jazz Women! Allison Adams Tucker vocals, Emmanuel Massarotti piano, Marco Panascia bass and Enzo Zirilli drums.

In the second set the Francesca Tandoi European Quartet with Francesca Tandoi piano, Frits Landesbergen vibraphone, Frans van Geest bass and Giovanni Campanella on drums.

Free admission by reservation. Evening in collaboration with UNICEF.


Saturday, October 10th at 9.15 pm there’s a jazz concert divided in two sets. the first will host Elisabetta Antonini – women next door with Elisabetta Antonini on vocals, Silvia Manco piano, Federica Michisanti bass and Danielle Di Majo on alto sax.

In the second set there’s Rosa Brunello y los fermentos “brasserie” with Francesca Viaro vocals, David Boato on trumpet, flugelhorn and composition, Dan Kinzelman on tenor sax and clarinet, Filippo Vignato trombone and compositions, Enzo Carniel piano, Rosa Brunello bass and composition and Luca Colussi drums.

Free admission by booking. Evening in collaboration with the Archimedes Association.


Saturday, 17th October at 9.15 pm in the church of San Francesco the 2015 Lucca Jazz Donna Festival closes with a special event from Lucca Jazz Club along with the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca.

During the evening there’s a selection of photos from the Festival’s photography workshop.

Evening in collaboration with the Anffas association.


As per tradition, the evening of September 13th at approximately 10 pm at the Cathedral of St. Martin there’s the mottettone. This year it’s Annunziate A Tutte Le Genti by Marino Pratali from Lucca (1915-1997) marking the centenary of his birth.

Performed for the first time in 1976, and then again in 1981 and in 1997, the text of mottettone Annunziate A Tutte Le Genti was composed by Pratali citing various antiphons of the Liturgy of the Cross. The structure of the piece is in the tripartite classic form: Mosso Andante, Adagio, Andante Mosso (with fugal finale).

The mottettone will be performed by the “Santa Cecilia” choir directed by Luca Bacci and accompanied on the organ by Giulia Biagetti. Free admission.
















A Great Finale to a Great Arts Festival

So it’ all over for another year. Our Bagni di Lucca’s Arts festival’s third year ended in a gentle, almost melancholic way, after a day filled with unpredictable rain storms, at the cantina by the river with a party and a jazz concert given by the FM (Francesco Massagli) jazz quartet consisting of Francesco Massagli, piano, Tommaso Iacoviello, trumpet and flugelhorn, Francesco Sarrini, double bass and Duccio Bonciani, drums.

The Francesco Massagli Quartet started up in 2014 at la Fondazione Siena Jazz where Francesco studied. Last May they issued their first album. ‘Journey of hope’ and were finalists in Barga’s 2014 jazz festival.

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FM’s jazz is very cool, heats up with some Latin American rhythm, pays homage to greats like McCoy Tyner and Mile Davis and always keep us guessing at the group’s subtle interplay which gives ample time for each of the superb musicians to show off their improvisational skills

FM’s web site at will give you some flavour of their unique style.

To describe it as the journey of a river from source to mouth could not be more appropriate. It’s fluid, divides, joins and rises to great waterfalls of sound – an appropriate music to one recurring theme in the festival which was water in all its permutations and associations: water as a graveyard in Darlington’s ever more poignant and evolving tableau of what the Mediterranean has become for so many fleeing the horror of events in so much of the world; water in the haunting fish of Pieroni which were now inhabiting the wall and ceiling of La cantina almost converted into a giant aquarium;  water in the amazing conference; water, depicted in poems in the camera oscura space, new for this year; water with Mr Kepler himself in the river Lima.

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The fluidity of the painters, Mirta Vignatti, Andrea Perelli, David Finkbeiner, Zhu Ye, Filippelli, and Magoni, the textures of sculptors Lorenzo Vignoni and Anna Cordiviola, the video film and installation by Paolo Fiorellini, Glauco Disacco and Sergio Talenti the photograph of Peter Dematté all seemed to merge, for all their differences, into the great theme of our planet, its resources and that precious water, liquid light, which so welcomingly came yesterday to refresh not only the landscape around us but our minds too.

There is always a feeling of nostalgia when an event on this scale which, like the element of water so much of it celebrated, brings life to Ponte a Serraglio, is over.

I can’t stand it when books have to end, cannot abide those goodbyes at railway stations, those adieus at airport check-ins, those closing parties until I realise that every ending means a new beginning, every goodbye a different hello and every door closed on this year’s wonderful arts festival, so adeptly organised by Jaqueline and Jake, opened into innovative portals onto a new year in which art in all its highest and most humane qualities will disseminate hope in the future, faith within our lives and love towards our planet.

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Last night celebrated a truly a big thank-you for all those who contributed in every possible way towards a festival which is ever going to re-create itself. I was so glad to be a part of it all.


Where have we come from?

Where are we?

Where are we going to?

In this trilogy of creation all I know is that within the speck of time that circumscribes our lives we have touched our bodies and minds, reaching out one for another across two parallel tracks in the cosmic space, coming from unknown regions, going to unwritten countries.

Where are we?

This anniversary is the anniversary of our decision to look at the same scenery for awhile, listen to the same music, feel each other’s breathing, share a life in two, live through fire and water, love one other.

Where are we going to?

Will there be other meetings beyond this breath, other journeys, other meetings, other worlds? Who will take us then for themselves?

The eternal questions

The temporal answers


A Jazz Triumph At Chifenti

First, the setting: the triumphal arch flanking one side of Nottolini’ masterpiece, il Ponte delle Catene at Chifenti, dating from 1840 and Italy’s first iron-chained suspension bridge.


Second, the spectacular ever-changing lighting before the neo-classical arch.

Third, and most important, a jazz quartet of superlative quality: the Michela Lombardi Organ quartet.

The Hammond organ player virtuoso, Alberto Gurrisi, drew from this highly temperamental instrument all the fluidity, staccati and expressive tones it is capable of. Every break from Gurrisi was amply and deservedly well-applauded. Luca Giovacchini on guitar made his instrument sound in parts as if it were rhythm, bass and lead all wrapped up in one. The miraculous use of controlled feedback shows that Giovacchini is well on the way to becoming one of the finest jazz guitarists on a European scale.

Pacho Rossi, percussionist, wearing a suitably red siren suit showed his amazing range of sound production from standard drum kit, through bongo to chimes.

A band needs someone to tie it together and the utterly magical voice of Michela Lombardi brought everything into an astonishing unity. Her songs were sung with perfect English diction: every word felt and every expression communicated. Her scatting was outstanding and, particularly in the softer numbers, her ability to sustain a sotto-voce was quite seductive.

Born in Viareggio in 1973 Michela did her first live performance at just the age of fourteen. She graduated in philosophy at Pisa University and studied theatre technique. Her vocal training was in Milan conservatoire and her jazz singing teacher was Tiziana Ghiglioni at Bologna.

Michela’s first CD Gently Hard was issued in in 1999. From then on it’s been a great success story with such hits as By your side and Reach out.

Michela is also a teacher and among her pupils there’s even been Andrea Bocelli.

The main theme of the evening was the blues and the programme started off with a driving example of Chicago urban blues. There was a particularly poignant song where blue skies were transmuted by disappointed love into the blue devils which haunt the blues. There were classic numbers like near to you, some great songs from some of her and the quartet’s album and a tribute to Joni Mitchell (happily now recovering) in Dreamland.

All songs were sung in English, Michela’s main singing language, which she knows perfectly.

We were all so lucky to be there! I cannot pretend to know too much about jazz but I know when I hear good music and last night, before the spectacular backdrop of the ponte delle catene, was brilliant and fully demonstrated the stratospheric excellence of Italian jazz at its best.

And there’s more to come! This concert was just a taster of that now mythical event, Barga Jazz, in whose programme, starting on the 18th of August, we are promised two more concerts by the outstanding Michela Lombardi and the Barga Jazz Orchestra.


Unfortunately I only had a poor mobile phone to take pictures with but there’ll be plenty more to see at Barga news at  since fine photographer and editor Keane was also present at this memorable evening.


Jazzed Up in Bagni di Lucca

In August of 1960, Chet Baker, the great jazz trumpet and fluegelhorn player on the run from the US for drug problems, was stopped in the toilet of a petrol station on the road leading from Lucca to Viareggio. Chet was in the toilet for well over an hour and the attendant decided to call the police who broke down the door. They found a trail of blood, a syringe, vials of palfium (a powerful opioid analgesic approximately three times more potent than morphine and subject to drug prohibition regimes internationally through UN treaties) and an American who claimed to be “Chesney Henry Baker.” Following the investigation, the trial, conviction, and appeal at the end of 1961, Baker was sentenced to sixteen months in Lucca’s prison.

13th April 1961:  American jazz trumpeter Chet Baker (1929 - 1988) during his trial in Lucca, near Florence, Italy, on charges of the illegal use of narcotics for which he was subsequently imprisoned.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

(Chet Baker Being Arrested at Lucca on charges of Drugs Possession)

Later during his imprisonment Chet was allowed to practice in the cell, for five minutes, twice a day, and the sound of his trumpet spreads through the city like the voice of a true jail bird stuck like a nightingale in a cage. People would gather on the walls which surround Lucca’s prison on one side to hear the incredible sounds coming from a barred window.


This sound was superbly captured by the B. B. Jazz Quintet in their concert dedicated to the immortal Chet and to jazz interpretations of Broadway musicals at Bagni di Lucca’s Anglican church yesterday.

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Marco Bartalini was “Chet”; a member of the audience who remembered those heady, tragic days when Chet was detained at Lucca’s Town council’s pleasure commented on Bartalini’s amazing re-evocation of the trumpeter’s smoky, sparse and melancholic sound.

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Andrea Pellegrini has to be one of the most superb Italian jazz pianists I’ve heard. Already scoring a great hit at Siena Jazz and venues throughout the world he showed complete mastery of the idiom required to accompany Chet numbers, especially those composed in Italy like “So Che Ti Perderò” (“I Know I Will Lose You”), “Il Mio Domani” (“My Tomorrow”), “Motivo Su Raggio Di Luna” (“Tune on a Moon Beam”), “The Route”. Pellegrino’s solos were superb, truly studied improvisations in the manner of the highest jazz expressions.

Nino Pellegrini, a noted teacher of double bass, showed his immense dexterity on the instrument, sometimes using a bow and moving the bass line with baroque ingenuity.

Drummer Marco Simoncini combined a subtle approach to his art with understated emotional undertones using both padded and unpadded stick and fully exploiting the expressive capacity of his instrument. It was a just a pity that he was allotted only one break during the evening.

Singer Bianca Barsanti showed herself at home both in musical and classical numbers. Her rendering of “Summertime” was especially convincing with a second verse in which she discarded mike and launched into a stratospheric soprano line worthy of the finest classical singers.

An added surprise was that half way through the concert Bianca exquisitely sang a fin-de-siècle song by Paolo Tosti, Queen Victoria’s own singing teacher , dedicated to the beauties of Bagni di Lucca and re-discovered by local historian Bruno Micheletti.

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I would also add the exhibition,in the same venue, of band instruments from the now sadly defunct Benabbio Philharmonic band:

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A group is only as good as its ensemble playing. Pellegrini’s band was absolutely together, fully understanding through that universal language of music what each member was expressing. It was a delight to follow the intricacies of variation in the numbers and, especially with the Cole Porter songs in the second half of the (interval-less) concert, the audience was completely bewitched by the musicians.

What is the history of Italian Jazz? Surely it must have suffered under fascism? Surely not! Unlike the Hitlerian regime Italy had no particular condemnation of “decadent negroid” music. Indeed, Mussolini’s own son Romano Mussolini developed into one of the country’s greatest musicians in this genre.

And what is the significance of Chet Baker, described by jazz historian David Gelly as “James Dean, Bix and Sinatra rolled into one” and whose life, pock-marked by violence and heroin, was not exactly conducive to developing into a great musician. (But then why does jazz always have to have so much support from the darker side of humanity – is that side so necessary to the development of this barely hundred year old musical genre?) Chet was able to crystallise and see into the essence of jazz avoiding the too-many-notedness of Bebop and aiming towards an inner beauty, a coolness (by which is meant the use of fewer notes to express more things) which opened the door to the consummation of style that Miles Davis brought to unsurpassed fruition.

At the end of the concert flowers were presented to the singer by Bagni di Lucca’s library supremo Angela Amadei on behalf of the Montaigne foundation who so generously organised the concert under its’ chair Marcello Cherubini, and we all felt that we had contributed at least one petal of those flowers that paid such a magnificent tribute to the great Chet and gave so much enjoyment.

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Truly, when I next pass Lucca Jail on my walk on the walls I shall cast my eyes upon the sombre building with a different look and perhaps, half-hallucinating (though not on palfium I hasten to add!), hear the inimitable sound of Chet’s flugelhorn.