Review by Brad Walseth
The Third Man" presents two of Europe's best jazz improvisers recorded intimately playing together in the Auditorio Radio Svizzera in Lugano, Switzerland. Trumpeter Enrico Rava and his protege, pianist Stefano Bollani have been playing together for over ten years, and have developed a relationship that has grown beyond that of teacher and pupil to one of mutual musical respect. Coming off a year in which they both released stellar albums: Rava's "The Word and the Days" was in our Top-10 of 2007, while Bollani's "Piano Solo" was also highly regarded, the two come together here to create some beautiful, inventive and romantic music.
The album contains original compositions by both parties, along with a version of Bruno Martino's "Estate," Moacir Santos' "Felipe," as well as two takes of Jobim's "Retrato Em Branco Y Preto." The music is mostly contemplative and quiet, but there are bursts of activity, especially by the ever-creative Bollani. One good example is the end of the title track, where the pianist works himself into a mad frenzy, to which Rava responds with a piercing scream from the trumpet. A fitting tribute to Orson Welles and film noir, to whom the album was dedicated.
The paths these artists take on the songs will surprise those willing to take the time to listen closely, while the "soundtrack" would function just as well as peaceful (relaxing with turbulence) background music for a romantic evening. Some may complain that the music is too mellow, but that is part of the attraction of this unique recording. Some may find fault with some of Bollani's sometimes unusual choices, but I enjoy the fresh spontaneity and the way he prods his mentor into different directions.
Rava, who is considered the "Italian Miles Davis" by many, is one of the most lyrical trumpet players in the world today and I take the opportunity to hear his work whenever possible. Meanwhile, Bollani is a fast-rising young star who continually improves. It is a distinct pleasure to hear their work together. Although the title refers to producer Manfred Eicher (whose appearance can barely be seen in the cover photo), as well as to the famous Carol Reed film, starring Orson Welles (quite appropriate considering the moody, romantic and mysterious music), I like to think of the listener as the third man (or woman) in the final step of the creation of this music, listening and enjoying.