Italian flugelhornist Enrico Rava blows remarkably hot and cold. His recordings are either hair-raising events or exercises in tedium. Good news: Edizione Speciale, recorded live in Antwerp with a sextet, is one of Rava’s best in the former category. There’s not a moment when every member of the band isn’t on fire.
Indeed, it crackles from the moment it begins: with Rava’s “Infant,” whose beboppish head gives way to careening dialogue between Rava and electric guitarist Francesco Diodati (channeling his best Sonny Sharrock), who dominates the track and also has a wild interaction with pianist Giovanni Guidi. It’s wilder, in fact, than “Wild Dance,” a dark and largely freeform odyssey that proceeds at ballad tempo with Diodati taking a dominant role. Tenor saxophonist Francesco Bearzatti has a moment in the sun as well with the snappy closer “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás,” taking two solos that burst with flavor and bracketing them with growls on the tune’s bridge. On “The Fearless Five,” everyone fires on all thrusters—though the forceful swing of bassist Gabriele Evangelista and drummer Enrico Morello is its defining feature.
The energy even suffuses “Once Upon a Summertime,” the album’s sole ballad. Granted, it’s less than two minutes long and part of a medley with Rava’s “Theme for Jessica Tatum,” but within that small bracket it features some of the band’s finest interplay. Rava plays languidly, thoughtfully, while first Evangelista, then Bearzatti, play laments in response. Morello shivers both cymbal and bells, and Guidi provides a beautiful coda that stretches to connect to “Tatum.” It’s an extraordinary ride.