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April 2008

Enrico Rava/Stefano Bollani
The Third Man
ECM Records

The first duo collection by Italian soulmates Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani boasts two familiar themes: Bruno Martino’s evocative “Estate,” which became a staple in Shirley Horn’s repertoire; and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Retrato Em Branco Y Preto,” which inspires two performances here, each a spacious showcase for piano and trumpet. Save for Moacyr Santos’ ruminative ballad “Felipe,” the album’s remaining pieces were composed by Rava and Bollani, alone or together, and comprise, for the most part, a series of dreamy, slowly unfurling soundscapes. Some of the original melodies, however, stand out amid all the moody atmospherics and languid tempos. Certainly Rava’s “Birth of a Butterfly” is haunting enough to warrant the reprise it receives on the album, and his rhythmically skittish “In Search of Titina” triggers some cat-and-mouse tension as the players head into the final lap. Similarly dynamic interplay surfaces early on when the duo unveils the album’s title track before moving onto the radiant ballad “Sun Bay.”

Though trumpeter Rava and pianist Bollani were once mentor and protégé, a decade of collaboration has put them on equal footing, so much so that they now communicate with intuitive ease, anticipating each other’s moves and, at times, seamlessly extending each other’s phrases. Still, there are moments when one wishes drummer Paul Motian, who previously recorded with Rava and Bollani in a trio setting, would turn up for a track or two, or at least long enough to add some additional sparks and drive.

Originally published in April 2008
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