They say Italy doesn’t matter

Martin Wind Quartet (me and Joe LaBarbera, drums, Martin, bass, and Scott Robinson, sax, with the Orchestra Philharmonie Marchegiana in the Teatro Pergolesi playing my arrangement of Bill Evans’ “Twelve Tone Tune Two.“

They  say Italy doesn’t matter. You know, low birth rate, economic woes, the corrupt politics of Berlusconi, the transfer of quality, niche manufacturing to China, etc.

But you go there and . . .

My friend, bassist Martin Wind, hooked up some symphony concerts featuring the music of Bill Evans with his quartet and the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Marche region. We stayed for six days in the small city of Jesi, near Ancona, an industrial city on the Adriatic halfway down the boot of Italy.

Joe and Gillian LaBarbera, with our chef and my girlfriend Wanda Lau.

The hotel was a small pension, fairly non-descript, but comfortable. Our first morning, we took a walk along the main street. Much small business, the usual coffee shops and small appliance stores,  nothing really special.  Lots of cute Italian Fiats  and Alfas, perhaps a bit more stylish and sturdy than I remember as a kid in the US. Passed a very grim 50’s style hospital, and then saw some lovely large homes, somewhat in need of a little tender loving care. Spacious parks, lawns needing a little care, and lots of funeral notices.

Wandering back to our hotel, we went up the ancient steps a few hundred feet in the other direction, and we saw something quite different. A lovely, walled medieval city, with 15th and 16th century churches and homes, beautifully maintained. Quaint little shops, pizzerias, stationery stores, fashion boutiques. Still very quiet. It was 3 p.m., the middle of the afternoon break. We grabbed a cappuccino at a little cafe, and had a seat.

Wanda in Jesi medieval section, middle of afternoon.

About an hour later, the shops all started to open, and the young people started to emerge. Then the parents, and grandparents, and the little children. All walking about, chatting, playing, shopping, eating, and drinking. The ancient rhythm of life, maintained here in the age of the internet and cellphone. Musicians set up to play, duos, trios. A violinist and guitarist actually made it through “I’ll Remember April,” with the right chords!

We had dinner at a delightful little restaurant, Vincanto. Great food, service, and four (count ‘em) desserts. The chef thanked us personally. You felt like you were dining at a friend’s house.  Most restaurants in the U.S. would like you to feel that way, but don’t quite do it . . .  but it really seemed true here.

Now the street was in full eruption, with bars, and young people drinking, laughing all around the  beautiful 17th century Teatro Pergolesi, renamed after the young Jesi composer who barely made it to 26, and inspired Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. The merriment continued until 2 a.m., when the bars closed and the young people made their way (perhaps staggering!) home.

Teatro Pergolesi

We did our first concert in the Teatro Pergolesi the next night with the Orchestra Philharmonie Marchegianna,  and their conductor, Massimo Morganti. They were a young group, and they played absolutely beautifully, and with great spirit and sense of fun.

So does Italy matter? I’ll talk about that more in my next blog. You can probably  guess some of the reasons why I think it does!!



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