VICENZA, Italy -- Vicenza comes alive with jazz every year in May and has done so for the last 22 years.

When it started, Vicenza was not a town with a tradition of jazz like some others in the Veneto area, so it had a slow but significant start.

The first to put down the foundation of jazz in Vicenza was "Perigeo," a progressive jazz group of the '80s. The jazz lover had to wait until 1983 when Italian musicians like Enrico Rava, Roberto Gatto, Dado Moroni and Paolo Fresu started performing at the Astra Theater. Then, in 1989, came Herbie Hancock at the Palasport.

Later, at the Totem Club, there were guests such as Joe Lovano, The Oregon, and Michel Petrucciani. With the help of the club's owner, Bill Evans and Steve Coleman were brought into the square. Jazz came to Vicenza through the official main door to the oldest indoor theater in the world, Teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theater), with "Rava L'Opera Va" with Rava and his band with the orchestra of L'Olimpico. One year later, in 1995, Michel Petrucciani performed with the orchestra to enormous success. Now Vicenza was mature for jazz.

For the city to host a real jazz festival, help was still needed. Francesca Lazzari of the department of culture, with Riccardo Brazzale as a collaborator, and a young entrepreneur by the name of Luca Trivellato started to make things happen with the "New Conversation." Inspiration for the title came from a Bill Evans recording called "Conversations with Myself." The idea was born that musicians like Paul Bley could come to the Olympic Theater and, with other musicians and their instruments, they could converse. It started as a weekend festival in 1997 but, little by little, it started to grow. The following year, the festival started on Monday and finished on Sunday.

Jazz flourished in Vicenza, and the music started to be played in bars, in the square, and just about on every corner in the city center, and jazz establishments started to open in the city. Today, visitors hear jazz not only during festival time, but also year-round.

This year's festival, Vicenza Jazz 2017, starts today, May 12, and runs through May 21.
A few highlights of the festival are as follows: a free concert of "La Notte della Taranta" will take place in Piazza dei Signori May 13. The Black Art Jazz Collective will be on stage May 14 at the Community Theater, Teatro Comunale. The Chris Potter Quartet performs at that same location May 15, and American jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater of Memphis will sing the blues there on May 17. On May 19, Jacob Collier, a pupil of Quincy Jones, will perform.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba will be at the Olympic Theater May 16. These are just a few of many performances. To get the full schedule, check out the website; www.vicenzajazz.it.

See you there!