Review by Brad Walseth
Anyone who has followed any of my reviews for the last few years will not need to be reminded of my enduring appreciation of Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava. I am also an unabashed fan of his protegee, pianist Stefano Bollani and will take any opportunity to hear these two masters of space and melody work. When I learned that these two would be recording an album with up and coming young tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, veteran bassist Larry Grenadier and iconic drummer Paul Motian on a new ECM release entitled New York Days, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm, and I happy to report that this grouping, which looks so promising in concept, succeeds in creating a beautiful recording that starts 2009 off magnificently.
Consisting mostly of variations on the slow-to-mid-tempo musings that Rava is noted for, "New York Days" is filled with brilliant playing. The trumpeter has perhaps never sounded better — he truly is playing at the top of his game, after a lifetime in music. Bollani has nearly equaled his mentor, and has become one of the finest pianists in Europe and the world. Grenadier has impressed with his work with pianist Brad Mehldau and guitarists John Scofield and Pat Metheny, and he continues to prove why he is so in demand with his stellar supporting work here. The bassist is no stranger to Turner as both are members of the FLY trio, and the saxophonist's sweet lyrical tone meshes well with Rava's Miles-like ventures. Drummer Paul Motian is no stranger to working with Rava and Bollani (he also appeared on 2005's "Tati") and here his luscious sounding cymbals help engender a mysterious and dreamlike atmosphere. Cooly expressive, I do sometimes feel Motian relies too much on his cymbals, at times somewhat interfering with the harmonics of the upper register. There are also moments, such as in "Outside" when the bass and piano go off on a tear and one wonders what a more active drummer using more of the snare and toms might have done in the circumstances to heat the music up even more.
That said, the interplay between the members is exceptional. Original compositions like the opening ballad "Lulu," the haughty "Count Dracula" and the Latin-flavored "Luna Urbana" (nice to hear Motian heat up a bit here) are joined by two fine improvisations. The lengthy, but rewarding "Certi Angoli Segreti" features Rava and Turner exchanging delicious lines, while Bollani plays some of the most amazing and inventive piano you will ever hear. While "Thank You, Come Again" is jaunty and humorous, the glimmering "Interiors" is Rava and crew at their romantic best (as is "Lady Orlando"). This recording concludes with a new shorter version of "Blancasnow," one of Rava's best loved compositions, which also recently appeared on the rerelease of Rava's The Pilgrim and the Stars. It is a fitting end to an exceptional release from this European/NYC configuration.