(born on 1939)
This hugely popular trumpet player (born in Trieste, Italy in 1939) almost single-handedly brought Italian jazz to international attention. He began playing Dixieland trombone in Turin, but after hearing Miles Davis, switched instruments and embraced the modern style. Other key meetings were with Gato Barbieri, with whom he recorded movie soundtracks in 1962, and Chet Baker. He began to play with Steve Lacy; he also teamed up with South African expatriates Louis Moholo and John Dyani and recorded The Forest and the Zoo (ESP) live in Argentina. In 1967, he moved to New York, playing with Roswell Rudd, Marion Brown, Rashied Ali, Cecil Taylor, and Charlie Haden. In a brief return to Europe, Rava recorded with Lee Konitz (Stereokonitz, RCA) and Manfred Schoof (European Echoes, FMP). From 1969 to 1976, he was back in New York, recording Escalator Over the Hill with Carla Bley's Jazz Composers' Orchestra. After his first album as a leader, Il Giro del Giorno in 80 Mondi (Black Saint), he began to lead his own pianoless quartets and quintets. His recorded output numbers 100 records, 30 as a leader. ECM has reissued some of his essential recordings of the '70s, like The Pilgrim and the Stars, The Plot, and Enrico Rava Quartet, while Soul Note and Label Bleu published CDs by his innovative Electric Five (in reality a sextet, as he always excludes himself from the count), which includes two electric guitars. With keyboard master Franco D'Andrea and trumpeter Paolo Fresu, Rava recorded Bix and Pop (Philology) and Shades of Chet, tributes to Bix Beiderbecke and Armstrong, and to Chet Baker, respectively. Also of note are Rava, L'opera Va and Carmen, gorgeous readings of opera arias. In 2001, he created a new quintet with young talents Gianluca Petrella, Stefano Bollani, Rosario Bonaccorso, and Roberto Gatto, and toured with old friends Roswell Rudd and Gato Barbieri, releasing Easy Living with them in 2004 on ECM. Three years later, after Bollani, who had struck out as a solo player, was replaced by Andrea Pozza, The Words and the Days came out. In 2007, Rava and pianist Stefano Bollani released The Third Man on ECM. Rava followed the released in 2009 with New York Days, a collection of moody originals with a film noir tinge, backed by a band that included Bollani, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Paul Motian. Rava broke in a new all-Italian quintet for Tribe, which was issued by ECM in the fall of 2011. Its members included trombonist Gianluca Petrella, pianist Giovanni Guidi, bassist Gabriele Evangelista, and drummer Fabrizio Sferra. Guitarist Giacomo Ancillotto also guested on the set, expanding the lineup on various selections. Rava made a wide left turn for 2012's On the Dance Floor. Amazingly, the trumpeter only became aware of pop singer Michael Jackson's music after his death, and he became obsessed with it. The album, his tribute to what he considers the late singer's contribution to 20th century music, was recorded with Parco della Musica Jazz Lab at the Rome Auditorium; it is entirely comprised of Jackson's material. ~ Francesco Martinelli
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Jazz - Released February 26, 2016 | ECM
Enrico Rava isn't the first jazz musician to cover the music of Michael Jackson. Nor, at 70, is he the most likely. (Younger men like Nicholas Payton, Christian Scott, and Robert Glasper would seemingly be more obvious candidates.) That said, with On the Dance Floor, the Italian trumpet legend takes on an entire album of tunes associated with Jackson. According to Rava, he wasn't even really aware of Jackson's music until a few days after his death; his wife was watching a concert video, he haphazardly took a look and listen and was riveted to the point of obsession. On the Dance Floor is not the usual tribute then, because it's not wrapped in grief. Instead, it's the mark of one master musician celebrating another -- Rava rightfully considers Jackson to be among the most important musicians of the 20th century. Recorded live in Rome with the large ensemble, Parco della Musica Jazz Lab, under the direction of trombonist Mauro Ottolini, Rava takes on some of Jackson's biggest hits and some of his less familiar numbers. The set opens with a ponderous, laid-back reading of "Speechless," on which Rava uses his trademark spacing and lyricism to find room for improvisation that reflects the Italian jazz tradition, theatrical and cinematic music, and the source material. While the orchestra isn't up to playing at the communicative level of the trumpeter's smaller groups, they don't need to be. They understand how to bring the funk and make it bubble and boil on the medley of "I Just Can't Stop Loving You"/"Smooth Criminal," "Thriller," and "Blood on the Dance Floor." That said, they also color ballads with enough emotion and sensitivity to allow Rava's own sense of exploratory admiration to come through as on the hinge piece, a beautiful cover of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" that reflects much of the tenderness Jackson imbued it with. The reading of "Little Susie" wonderfully balances drama and melody. On the Dance Floor doesn't come off as one of Rava's more disciplined recordings -- it may indeed be his loosest -- but that's by design. It's a laid-back, accessible tribute recording that celebrates Jackson's music as an achievement, and offers jazz fans of all stripes a way into it. ~ Thom Jurek
Jazz - Released January 19, 2018 | ECM
The neo-noir textures of Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava's fine ECM release, NEW YORK DAYS, recall evocative, jazz-based film scores such as Gato Barbieri's LAST TANGO IN PARIS or Miles Davis's ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS. Joined by a stellar cast, including the fine pianist Stefano Bollani, contemporary tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, and the apparently ageless Paul Motian on drums, Rava conjures a rain-soaked, black-and-white urban fantasia on a finely produced, 77-minute set of moody originals. Rava, Turner, and Bollani are all strong stylists, however, so there is little danger of their being fully submerged in the impressionistic dark waters. At times, the sound resembles the post-bop chamber jazz of Miles's celebrated '60s quintet, at others, the upscale European strains of film composer Nino Rota or tango master Astor Piazzolla. Either way, NEW YORK DAYS is one of the outstanding jazz releases of 2009.
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