There’s a lonesome ache to Enrico Rava’s latest studio album. A sense of past and the flickering present captured and held.
Original tunes feature the Italian trumpeter’s quartet augmented by the addition of long time playing partner trombonist Gianluca Petrella. Guitar-flavoured crucially quite often throughout, on ‘Diva’, that’s Francesco Diodati, the opener is a tune that goes back to 1980s Rava album Opening Night.
Wild Dance (double bassist Gabriele Evangelista and drummer Enrico Morello complete the line-up) was recorded in Udine earlier this year, the other older material of Rava’s featured involves the scrabbling bebop burner ‘Infant’ again from the 1980s (from a lesser known Gala Records release called Animals), while the beautiful ‘Overboard’, an aria of the abstracted imagination, although featuring on noughties album Tati goes back to the 1990s and a Soul Note album called Electric Five an album that featured the presence of another Italian jazz great, Gianluigi Trovesi.
Much newer piece ‘Happy Shades’, drummer Morello going into a classic bebop jam sesssion routine, as he darts along, matches the exuberant mood of ‘Infant’, but really it’s the nocturnal ballads rendered unsentimental via avant freebop that really makes this album a must.
More Stańko-like than I’ve ever heard Rava, the two in a way are opposite sides of the same coin etched however distinctly via individual sensibilities there’s always poetry and a sense of nihilism and random abstraction to both. “Wild” in the title is deceptive, maybe the wildness is the simple letting go rather than excess or mayhem because there’s none of that here although sometimes there is a stark brutality to some of the silences and the way Rava draws out little intimacies that linger long in the air.
Elegant and absorbing the guitar developmental sections on ‘Space Girl’ seek out brooding qualities that you scarcely knew were there at all but lurk somehow, Morello sounding inescapably like Daniel Humair a drummer Rava worked with way back alongside Miroslav Vitous and Franco D’Andrea.
Trombone and trumpet together journey more into the lonelier depths, for instance at the beginning of ‘Don’t’ an enchantment somehow created well away from the stricter song-like forms that exist elsewhere.
Gabriele Evangelista opens ‘Sola’ the way Henri Texier might curl his fingers round the bass hinting and setting the mood that the distant guitar, almost lontano, responds to and then the most beautiful solo from Rava emerges. Later on the pun-tastic ‘Cornette’ it’s a sprightly off-kilter dance making you think of Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman flavoured unusually by Marc Ribot-like rock guitar for a change from Diodati.
The liner note photos show producer Manfred Eicher at a recording console with engineer Stefano Amerio and the band behind them in one snapshot. In another Rava looks amazing for 75 the age he was when the album was recorded, leaning in to listen to playback.
Full of twists and turns there’s a blaze of question and answer interplay between trombone and trumpet on ‘Not Funny’ that again moves the album into a different area, maybe far back to somehow draw out a sense of the baroque or just sink deep into the rawness and mystery of spontaneity stepping between the two instruments in turn, a phrase lobbed in like a stick on a fire that moves the piece along and lights it all up.
The title track with a drone-like quality to begin again has that ache to it referred to at the beginning of this article that perhaps makes you think of Ornette Coleman a little again and certainly there is a skeletal sense of the essential here amid the raspy multiphonics, the brittle individualism of all the instruments gradually coming together in a rise of melody. Certainly it is one of the great achievements of this fine album.
Other highlights? Well, ‘Monkitos’ is a surprise, the cool trombone spaces here demanding a renewed listening session spent with George Russell’s Ezz-thetics perhaps or some Bob Brookmeyer record from the 1950s. ‘Frogs’ the longest track right at the end changes the musical furniture once again. It’s full of narrative drive, energetic leaps and bounds and the compositional freedom that Rava moulds so majestically within the overlapping circles and after-notes of brass, bass and guitar strings, that touch of drum skin, a zing of ever elusive cymbal.
Released on 28 August