Saturday, 22 September 2007

Enrico Rava...

Although I'm probably responsible for at least 2000 hits, I've just noticed that my visitor counter has passed 2500. A good excuse to post something special - or at least a review of a CD that is special.

As with other ECM discs I've reviewed, a snippet of my text has been included in the press reaction section of their web-site. This really is beautiful music that needs no hyperbole. If you don't know it yet, just listen...

The Words And The Days
ECM (1709773)

The Words And The Days; Secrets; The Wind; Echoes Of Duke; Tutu; Sogni Proibiti; Todamor; Serpent; Art Deco; Traps; Bob The Cat; Dr. Ra And Mr. Va

Enrico Rava (t); Gianluca Petrella (tb); Andrea Pozzi (p); Rosario Bonaccorso (b); Roberto Gatto (d), Recorded December 2005.

This is Enrico Rava’s second career with ECM. His first began over three decades ago and included the classic album The Pilgrim And The Stars (1975), one of my all time favourite works of ‘Euro-jazz’. Post-Miles-ian trumpet stylings seamlessly melded with Italian rusticism in a music as evocative of that nation’s vibrant culture as any Fellini classic.

Rava’s long and distinguished career has followed a similar trajectory to that of label-mate Tomasz Stanko, whose recent all-Polish quartet Rava’s new group so closely mirrors. Each leader brings an authoritative voice, vast experience and a similar range of influences, all of which are distilled and magnificently realised by a highly in-tune set of musicians. Save for pianist Andrea Pozzi, replacing Stefano Bollani, the quintet is the same as that found on 2004’s Easy Living (ECM). A little known fact is that Rava actually started out playing trombone, and whilst the frontline of trumpet and trombone may seem unusual, the brassy reed-less sound gives Rava’s plaintive cry an even deeper burnish. Petrella blends so closely with Rava that it’s often hard to know who is playing which part.

I’d say that the selection of material on The Words And The Days offers a broader stylistic sweep than the previous disc. As well as the homage to Don Cherry on ‘Art Deco’, where Petrella plays convincing New Orleans ‘gutbucket’, Gatto’s swinging ‘Traps’ and Rava’s playfully cartoon-ish ‘Bob The Cat’ combine to form a curious triptych of Americana. A re-working of ‘Dr Ra And Mr Va’ from The Plot (ECM, 1976) reveals much of the progress of both Rava and the ECM aesthetic in general. As with ’Blancasnow’ (The Pilgrim And The Stars) from the last album, an amount of raw immediacy has given way to a more relaxed and luxurious air, many common elements of style remaining but now refined to near perfection.

The title-track is an archetypally spacious European free-ballad, carefully steering between simple melody, classical restraint and pure expressionism, whilst ‘Secrets’ is a ten-minute journey of fascinating ebb and flow. Russ Freeman’s 'The Wind’, immortalised by Chet Baker, is a Rava tour de force, whilst the stunning ‘Echoes Of Duke’, a lovingly constructed and evocative piece, has Petrella impressing again an earthy soloist. Pozza’s solo is succinct and daring, and Rava moves from low growls to piercing notes of almost Cat Anderson-esque altitude to really rip it up.

A release of great warmth and uplifting beauty, this is every bit as essential as any of Stanko’s recent highs, and Manfred Eicher can be very proud of both.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, May 2007)

1 comment:

Gregg Brennan said...

Well put as always, Fred. I love this album and 'Easy Living' too. Gatto is a favourite of mine. Like you, I have a strong attachment to Rava's first tenure with ECM and count them among my favourites of all his stuff. That said, he did a couple on Label Bleu that were good too, including the live Montreal stuff, which I think you have. Rava and ECM are always a good match.