Enrico Rava / Joe Lovano - Roma

Label: ECM Records, 2019

Personnel - Enrico Rava: trumpet; Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone, tarogato; Giovanni Guidi: piano; Dezron Douglas: double bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

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Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava and American saxophonist Joe Lovano, two formidable improvisatory forces and master impressionists, have been determinant in the evolution of jazz as a style. However, their connection with the German-based record label ECM occurred in different time periods. Whereas the trumpeter made his debut in 1975 with the masterpiece The Pilgrim and the Stars, the saxophonist only recently brought his ample musical charms to the cited imprint with the co-led project Trio Tapestry.

They now record together for the first time, forming an implacable bond and co-leading a corkscrewing Italian-American quintet whose remaining members belong to a younger generation and come from distinct backgrounds - Italian pianist Giovanni Guidi has been Rava’s faithful collaborator for many years, bringing his modern creative style to the table; American bassist Dezron Douglas has demonstrated a voracious appetite for hybrid styles where he typically bridges the worlds of jazz, funk, and soul; and the well-versed Brooklyn-based drummer Gerald Cleaver is frequently spotted in avant-jazz settings.

The five tracks on this album were recorded live at the Auditorium Parco Della Musica, Rome, with the group kicking things off with two beautiful Rava compositions. The opener, “Interiors” (retrieved from the 2009 album New York Days), starts as a sluggish waltz guided by sparse piano, earth-toned bass notes, and brushed snare drum. The melody is first introduced by Lovano and the music becomes wondrously polyphonous after Rava steps in. The trumpeter takes it to an emotional peak, driving us through peaks and valleys while boasting his enormous pitch range and dauntless rhythmic acrobatics. Though, he never eschews that incredibly melodic quality that defines his style. An exquisite bolero ambiance takes form as Guidi begins to talk, smooth and reserved at first, and then confident and fluid. The second piece is the old “Secrets” (included in the 1987 album of the same name), a breezy 4/4 cruise where the two frontmen cut loose with sharp statements. Rava's balance between tension and relaxation draws instinctive reactions from Cleaver, while Lovano shows off his dazzling post-bop language with a preference for the lower and middle registers.

The quintet swings hard and true on Lovano’s “Fort Worth” (a funky 24-bar blues originally included in the 1992 album From The Soul), which gets underway with an anxious bass pedal in tandem with a ride cymbal continuum. The saxophonist simply knocks us out in his tradeoffs with Rava. The lancinating propulsion of his phrasing is what drives this high-flying blowing jam into a heated climax.

Lovano lends another two compositions to the project: the more abstract and bemused “Divine Timing”, a new composition, and the innocuous “Drum Song”, which opens an 18-minute medley that also comprises John Coltrane’s “Spiritual” and Harold Arlen’s ballad standard “Over The Rainbow”. This three-song aggregation induces an initial rubato feel processed with a conscientious bass proem, prayerful Hungarian tárogató lines, and the skittering motion of Cleaver, who builds tension around the toms and cymbals. It then changes to that Coltranean 3/4 modal aura filled with spiritual chants, before ending with Guidi’s benevolent solo rendering of the above-mentioned and million-times-played standard.

Rava and Lovano not only vouch for thrills that give you a good shake, but also search for spirituality with pathos and fervor.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Interiors ► 03 - Fort Worth ► 05 - Drum Song / Spiritual / Over The Rainbow