Review by Brad Walseth
Combining a mesmerizing sense of space in his playing that recalls Miles Davis in his prime, with his own signature warm and burnished tone on his new release "The Words and the Days" - Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava enthralls. Some albums take time, while others hook you immediately - this one fell into the latter category for me and has been a near constant soundtrack/companion over the last several days of my life. Rava's strong compositions, Manfred Eicher's luscious production and the exceptional playing of this talented and sensitive quintet all contribute to an unforgettable sonic experience.
I became aware of Rava through the work of his protege - pianist Stefano Bollani, who recently left Rava's band to fly on his own as a band leader and soloist. In addition, the trumpeter's last release - "Easy Living" had garnered rave reviews that piqued my interest, and after hearing the current release may have to be my next purchase. The stellar band works together at a seemingly subconscious level and new pianist Andrea Pozza's style fits right into the directions the band is exploring. "The Words And The Days," "Secrets" and Russ Freeman's "The Wind" start off the album with a welcome mellow feeling akin to what one gets sitting in the grass on a sunny day. The rhythm section is integral: Gatto's drums move freely through time while Bonaccorso's lines provide strong rhythmic and harmonic support. Pozza's piano lines veer from a straight forward jazz approach into timeless motion in an appealing manner. Meanwhile, trombonist Gianluca provides most of the solo work with Rava, and their interplay is another wonderful facet. The playing styles of the two men is similar, and at times, the two instruments merge in such a manner that it is momentarily difficult to determine who is playing. And of Rava's trumpet work it can be described as clear and cool, yet melodic and warm; intellectual yet fiery and emotional, and always entrancing.
Rava's melodic strengths are on display as even when the music is at it's most free or rhythmic there is a current of melody always apparent. Nor are all these works locked into the flowing and crystalline: "Echoes of Duke" echoes the "jungle music" of Duke Ellington, while "Serpent" with it's unison horn lines brings Miles' 70's work to bear. Although Rava writes most of the tunes on this album, they also cover Don Cherry's "Art Deco," (as a duet between Rava and Petrella) and bandmembers provide two pieces: "Sogni proibiti" (a short Bonaccorso prelude) and "Traps" (by drummer/soloist Gatto) that fit right in with the sound Rava is striving for, while pegging the experienced artist as a most succesful teacher to these younger European musicians. But it is Rava's ability to write and play in the manner of early American jazz on such songs as "Art Deco," "Traps," "Echoes of Duke" and "Bob the Cat" that is maybe the most astonishing aspect. The musician began his career as a Dixieland trombonist, and he has obviously absorbed the nuances of New Orleans - in turn filtering them through his avant garde sensibility into a new and compelling sound of his own. From freewheeling soundscapes to Storyville, Enrico Rava plays all the right notes as well as all the right spaces.