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Enrico Rava: New York Days

Within this cross-generational Italian-American all-star band there are deep established relationships and provocative new ones. Trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Stefano Bollani are colleagues of long standing. Drummer Paul Motian joined Rava and Bollani to make the 2005 ECM trio album Tati. Bassist Larry Grenadier has rarely played with anyone here except Motian. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, in his ECM debut, is the wild card.

Turner is the wild card because, even though he moderates his intensity to fit within the chamber jazz aesthetic of a Rava album, tonally and conceptually he is a stark contrast. His lines are austere and vertical whereas Rava plays sensuous, free, floating forms. Their dissociative counterpoint is intriguing for its subtle tensions.

Most ECM recording sessions, for all their openness, have a finished quality. New York Days feels tenuous and experimental. Still, with players on this level, the process of searching for a group identity is fascinating to follow. Their moment-to-moment adventures contain intermittent flashes of revelation.

Nine of the 11 tracks are Rava originals. They are a few chords and minimal, ambivalent melodic gestures veering into space. Pieces like “Lulú” and “Interiors” are cinematic: noir atmospheres waiting for a film.

The album could have benefited by giving Bollani more space for startling, spilling solos like the one on “Certi Angoli Segreti.” Throughout, Turner practices caution, but Rava does not know how. Approaching his seventieth year, Rava is the most fearless and impulsive and creative player here. Yet even his unexpected outbursts and wildest flights fit within the curve of a governing rapt lyricism.

Originally Published