BargaJazz Festival Brings Experimental Music to Medieval Setting

Dave Douglas

August 8 — 31: BargaJazz Festival

Every August, the medieval town of Barga transforms into a haven for jazz musicians and enthusiasts, unifying the setting’s resilient history with a musical genre defined by original experimentation. The BargaJazz Festival, which began as a competition for original work in 1986, is today a crucial stepping stone for artists looking to break into the European jazz scene. 

The festival features more than 20 events in total, most of them evening concerts taking place across the city, though the foundation of BargaJazz remains the competition. Entrants use this edition’s theme — the work of American trumpeter Dave Douglas — as inspiration and submit their work to one of the two categories, arrangements (section A) and compositions (section B). The best submissions are performed by the festival’s own BargaJazz Orchestra and special guest Douglas himself on August 23 (B) and 24 (A).

The BargaJazz Contest on August 19 & 20, designed to highlight young, emerging ensembles from Italy and abroad, returns to the schedule this year after a two-year hiatus. With strong emphasis placed on originality, a panel of expert judges selects finalists from a wide field of applicants to compete for the contest’s two awards: Best New Group and Best Soloist, given in honor of former BargaJazz pianist Luca Flores.

Barga IN Jazz, one of the most anticipated days in the festival calendar when jazz truly takes over the city, has been scheduled for August 18 this year. Beginning at 5 pm, Large Street Band leads the public through the streets of the historical center, while jazz performers using a variety of styles perform in every piazza. Young performers are again given a platform, as many of the piazza concerts will be by students from the Siena Jazz University and other conservatories across the country. A concert in the Duomo di S. Cristoforo begins at 6 pm, and a big jam session in Piazza del Teatro wraps up the event later that evening.

Performances by important figures in the Italian jazz scene fill up the rest of the schedule, along with collaborations with non-profit ALDES and art gallery OXO Collection on August 11 and 17, respectively. Tickets normally run from 10-15€, but the Barga IN Jazz event is completely free of charge. (alex harrison)