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Sunday, September 29, 2019

CD Review: Enrico Rava, Joe Lovano - Roma

Enrico Rava (trumpet); Joe Lovano (tenor saxtarogato); Giovanni Guidi (piano); 
Dezron Douglas (bass); Gerald Cleaver (drums) 
(Review by Chris K)

The second of two outstanding ECM releases this month led by trumpeters (third if you count Tom Harrell with Ethan Iverson reviewed by Lance here). This time it’s Italian superstar Enrico Rava, powers undimmed aged 80 on the evidence of this live album recorded in Rome at the end of last year.  Rava shares the lead and compositions here with Joe Lovano,  another veteran of Italian ancestry via Berklee. The two cook up a lively hour’s worth of trading high energy lines, with a major, and calmer, contribution from another Italian – the rapidly emerging Giovanni Guidi. All driven along by a first-rate high-powered young US rhythm section of Dezron Douglas and Gerald Cleaver, particularly effective on some long jam sections reminiscent of 70s' Miles or Ian Carr’s Nucleus.  


Inevitably I find myself comparing this album with Avishai Cohen’s simultaneous release Playing the RoomWhile both trumpeters vault and soar through the registers, and navigate gorgeous lyrical waters, this offering loosens up and reaches higher energy levels than the cool and precise Israeli chamber jazz, and of course can draw on the much wider palette provided by the full band.  I sense Rava and Lovano revelling in setting classic, lyrical lines against more modern and oblique influences from the rest of the band – a heady mix which must have made for some concert!

The first two tracks are by Rava, with Interiors opening pensively with interleaving horns, then building and subsiding over several climactic peaks lasting a full 15 minutes. Full attention is held by characterful solos in conversation between horns, interspersed by ingenious contrasting piano.  Secrets opens with a beautiful and lively meandering melody from Rava, a Kenny Wheeler style work out over a pulsating, relaxed Latin groove, again ebbing and flowing over 10 smouldering minutes. 
  
The third track runs seamlessly from the second, via a febrile, free interlude of drum and bass continuo, reminiscent of Miles’ Shhh /Peaceful, but emerging here into Lovano’s outstanding Fort Worth. This funky tune from 1992 is well worth a new outing – and I venture would sound great in the hands of one of our region’s great big bands.   Lovano’s Divine Timing follows - much freer and experimental. 

The final piece is a continuous medley of three songs. Firstly Drum Song features what I assume is Lovano on tarogato (an E European “conical clarinet”?) over fragmented and uneasy percussion. Coltrane’s driven and moody Spiritual emerges from the fog, before giving way to a restful and gorgeous piano re-working of Over the Rainbow. 

The full and sumptuous tones of both horns is the hallmark of this concert for me: Lovano, rightly revered for his lower register power, and my guess here (and house trumpet boy) is that despite ECM’s billing, Rava is actually playing flugel throughout (third opinion welcome!)

Altogether an inspiring and varied listen, matching two old masters up with the new wave. First three tracks are my favourites, the highlight being Fort Worth – what a tune! 
Chris Kilsby

Release date: 06.09.2019 ECM 2654.  Recorded November 2018. 

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