ENRICO RAVA AND NEW YORK DAYS: The trumpet calls the faithful

 |   |  2 min read

Enrico Rava: Outsider
ENRICO RAVA AND NEW YORK DAYS: The trumpet calls the faithful

It’s disappointing and embarrassing that one encounter may put you off a musician for such a long time. Then, shame-faced, you crawl your way back later and have to concede everybody else was right.

When I first heard The Band I was into loud rock’n’roll and these country music guys just seemed exceptionally dull and -- the worst crime in rock -- worthy.

Well, everybody else was right . . . and I came late to that particular party.

I can’t remember the album that put me off trumpeter Enrico Rava -- but it would have been 20 years ago and was probably among the albums I bought at some fire-sale. I played all the others and loved them, then Rava came through.

Can’t remember what made me reject him: the attenuated tone, the overtly romantic playing, too much like Miles Davis, lack of a hit single? Who knows?

What I do know is that in subsequent years I would hear Rava albums and think “Hmm, that ain’t bad” but never pursue the thought.

More fool me, because since the release of his The Third Man two years ago, a superb duet album with pianist Stefano Bollani, I’ve listened back to this Italian-born player (who has worked with Steve Lacy, Carla Bley, Roswell Rudd, Cecil Taylor and other heavy-hitters in jazz) and realised the awful: I was wrong.

That duet release was such an ethereal, austere, deep and dark paring that Rava’s latest album New York Days -- with a group which includes Bollani -- commanded immediate attention. And it rewards from the first few bars. rava

The line-up here is impressive: in addition to Bollani, Rava calls on the great drummer Paul Motian (a man renown for his angular approach to rhythmic sub-structure), bassist Larry Grenadier who has played on saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s recent albums, and tenor player Mark Turner who knows his jazz history but also has an incisive and analytical side which acts as an excellent counterpoint to Rava’s more lyrical personality.

I guess it’s the difference between the Italian and American temperament, and it’s heard at its most obvious in the bouncy Outside here: while pianist Bollani skitters across the keys setting up a swirling and unsettling undercurrent, Rava peels off fluttering ripples of notes which threaten to get lost in themselves, then Turner enters with a staccato, Morse Code run of notes which segue into some weaving melodic lines. He pulls the tune back to its centre before allowing himself space to fly free in the manner of Coltrane. Rava obligingly follows and a piece which had the potential to fall apart becomes whole again.

Bollani picks up the echoes of Rava in his brisk solo, then sax and trumpet come together for a final rapid flourish with all the geometric melodicism of Ornette Coleman. It’s quite some six minutes.

Elsewhere there are introspective moods: Certi Angoli Segreti is like a bent and melancholy Broadway ballad from the Fifties; the wonderful Interiors is the soundtrack to an imaginary film-noir set in the same period and suggest emotional places as much as lonely rooms in downtown.

The overall impression is that New York Days -- presumably named for where the sessions took place last year -- is an evocation of the city itself: Thank You Come Again could have spiralled up the stairs of the Village Vanguard in 1959; and Count Dracula conjures up taxis at night on the dark streets (and perhaps Tom Scott’s eerie alto in Bernard Herrmann’s music for the Scorsese’s Taxi Driver ).

This may be reading too much into it, but New York Days is an album of mature depth and complexity, while also offering some of the finest contemporary jazz around right now.

And would anyone who admits to preferring Steppenwolf to The Band lie to you?   


Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

David Friesen Trio: Another Time Another Place (Rattle)

David Friesen Trio: Another Time Another Place (Rattle)

The release of this album recorded live in Auckland in late 2015 could not be more timely because American bassist Friesen is about to tour again (dates below) with guitarist Dixon Nacey and... > Read more

AMIRI BARAKA/LE ROI JONES: A black critic in the black arts

AMIRI BARAKA/LE ROI JONES: A black critic in the black arts

Nobody talks about Amiri Baraka these days, despite the fact he’s still alive*, still writing and still irritating the hell out of people. That’s called doing God’s work. The... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Steve Hillage: Hurdy Gurdy Man (1979)

Steve Hillage: Hurdy Gurdy Man (1979)

True story of my first experience with this track off Steve Hillage's double live album Live Herald which appeared at the peak of punk/New Wave era when men with long hair, beards, bell bottoms and... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE BEVIS FROND: Scuz me while we kiss this guy

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE BEVIS FROND: Scuz me while we kiss this guy

For a man with his name on almost 30 albums in the past three decades, you'd think the name Nick Saloman would be pretty well known. Okay, the albums all come under his band's name, but even... > Read more