Enrico Rava/Joe Lovano: Roma (ECM)

A review of the live album featuring the two horn men

Enrico Rava/Joe Lovano, Roma
The cover of Roma by Enrico Rava and Joe Lovano

Although they’d played a handful of gigs together decades ago, Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava and American saxophonist Joe Lovano hadn’t undergone a proper co-leader tour until the 2018 outing that found them stopping in Rome to make this live recording. Accompanied by pianist Giovanni Guidi, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, the two horn men find inspiration in each other’s ideas consistently in their hour-long set. They traverse through original compositions by both Rava and Lovano and an outstanding 19-minute closing medley that manages to neatly tie together Lovano’s “Drum Song” with Coltrane’s “Spiritual” and the ever-reliable “Over the Rainbow.”

That finale is where it all comes together most profoundly. Douglas’ brief solo intro gives way quickly to Rava (who plays flugelhorn throughout the album) and Lovano tossing off free licks and drawing circles around each other with abandon, Cleaver flailing madly at first before settling into a powerhouse groove. Guidi doesn’t truly make his presence known until midway, when he reshapes the melody, which has up to that point been fleeting. Neither the intensity nor the looseness flag until Guidi decides it’s time that it does, and the rest is all his, as Lovano, Rava, and the others leave the stage to the pianist for the last third of the jam.

It’s not all quite so dramatic. “Interiors,” a Rava tune that he’d recorded previously in 2008, leads things off in a more controlled manner, everyone (particularly, again, Guidi) having their say. And Lovano’s quick-paced “Fort Worth” provides a reimagining of Texas blues while openly acknowledging the saxophonist’s debt to that city’s gift to jazz, Ornette Coleman.

Roma suggests that, with Rava now 80 and Lovano coming up on 67, a followup studio session sooner than later sure would be welcomed.

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Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.