Tribe is another lovely, atmospheric ECM album by Enrico Rava, who has enjoyed a strong comeback since returning to the label in 2003 after a long absence. Once again, the trumpeter draws us with consummate control into his comfort zone of slow, languid tunes, several of them drawn from previous recordings. His topnotch quintet, including trombonist Gianluca Petrella and pianist Giovanni Guidi, puts a highly personal stamp on established styles ranging from Miles-era impressionism to free jazz, its spare notes brimming with poetic expression.
For all of the album’s stately beauty, though, you can’t help but flash back to Full of Life, the excellent, aptly titled 2005 quartet outing Rava, still in his 60s then, recorded for CAM Jazz, and miss the charged solos he delivered opposite freewheeling Argentine baritone saxophonist Javier Girotto. In Petrella, the cross-generational Tribe quintet has an edgy young upstart who is every bit as capable of pushing Rava the same way. (The band also features Full of Life drummer Fabrizio Sferra, bassist Gabriele Evangelista and, on four tracks, textural guitarist Giacomo Ancillotto.)
But even when Petrella loosens up on “Cornettology” or Guidi mixes funk and bop on the title track, the music is controlled and reined-in, the better to resonate in the ECM sound chamber. There’s nothing wrong with recording an album with a unifying mood, or pursuing a unified sound in the studio. But when you’ve got the kind of young horses Rava has in his stable, it’s a shame not to let them gallop a bit—and let them take you along for the ride.