An American combo who have brought out the best in him for a long time.
Chris Jones 2009-03-27
Possibly Italy's most reknowned jazzer today, Enrico Rava and his trumpet owe a great deal, by his own admission, to Miles Davis. With this in mind his latest project sees him recoding in the Big Apple, paying homage to both Davis and Duke Ellington, not only with usual collaborator Stefano Bollani on keys, but with an American combo who have brought out the best in him for a long time.
That's not to say that just about everything Rava does isn't utterly tasteful, it's just that sometimes it errs on the wrong side of politeness. here however, the fusion of European (albeit heavily indebted to the Lower East Side) and the States makes for a far more substantial diet.
For starters, Mark Turner's tenor seems to key in to Rava's very DNA, making the two free pieces, Improvisation I and II, amazingly telepathic. His breathy Coltraneisms are always given enough room by Rava but never (as with all players) once straying outside a group dynamic.
At all times the almost microscopic ability of Paul Motian to hit things at exactly the right moment allows the whole thing to float as freely as something as lyrical and moody as this needs to. Those who long for the swinging abilities of him and bass player Larry Grenadier may feel a little short-changed, but it's at the perfectly acceptable price of producing something wonderfully evocative. And anyway, when it comes to the tango of Luna Urbana his rimshots and rattles are like buckshot against the sheen of Bollani's crystalline chords.
Meanwhile Rava blows with an effortless grace that can stretch from louche to dangerously dark when needed. All in all this may initially sound like a typically tasteful ECM album, but at its heart it holds some ingenious surprises. More please.