Music

Enrico Rava: New York Days

The lyrical, Miles-ian Italian trumpeter weaves a spell with his partner Stefano Bollani and three US luminaries.


Enrico Rava

New York Days

Label: ECM
US Release Date: 2009-01-27
UK Release Date: 2009-01-26
Artist website
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

The collaboration between trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Stefano Bollani is a joy to behold. Both are Italian, but Rava was born in Trieste 33 years before the pianist. Together they sew together classicism and whimsy, lyricism and the mad dash to freedom. In 2006, ECM released the record of a concert demonstrating the pair alone, perfectly balanced between Rava's Miles Davis lyricism/punch and Bollani's Keith Jarrett rhapsody/bop. They are one of the more intimate and entertaining jazz duos playing in 2009.

New York Days places Rava and Bollani in the context of a quintet, with three sensitive and exemplary New York greats around them. Paul Motian on drums is terminally wonderful, providing just the kind of slippery timekeeping the duo needs. Larry Grenadier anchors on bass, and the tenor saxophone probing is handled by Mark Turner, who provides a useful contrast to Rava. Turner plays with a steely sound and seems to think through each composition, plucking it apart with the care of a skillful dissection.

The heat of the record, the feeling of it, is mainly in the hands of Rava and Bollani. Rava's sound is informal and human. His most intense solos have a casual feeling to them: a man with his collar loose and his eyes just a bit sleepy. There is no escaping the fact that Rava played in New York in the 1960s and modeled his sound on Miles Davis, but he has developed a distinctive sound by now: a fluid impressionism that blends modal beauty with a kind of atonal romanticism. Rava likes to play softly phrased long tones that may sit a smidge outside the conventional harmony, and there are frequent repeated, rhythmic phrases that also point toward his history playing in more avant-garde settings. The total impression of his playing is certainly a hugely relaxed freedom, a lyricism that sits beyond the mainstream, but not by much.

Bollani is the wildcard of the disc, the lesser-known quantity that ultimately returns a listener's attention. The desire to hear the various influences in his playing (Jarrett, Oscar Peterson, perhaps some of the modern stride playing of Jaki Byard) is strong, but he consolidates these elements gamely. He is masterful, for example, on the first of the recording's two purely improvised pieces. "Improvisation I" begins in impressionism but develops an insistent rhythm under Bollani's careful hands. "Lulu" gives the pianist ample space to stretch out, but the overall tone is calming and safe. And "Thank You, Come Again" brings out the playful side of Bollani—his lighter touch, and his ability to color an ensemble passage with conversation, countermelody, and bits of wit.

Mark Turner continues to be a young tenor saxophone player who refuses to comply with conventions. He plays the muscular horn the way a horn-rimmed reader treats Portrait of the Artist. He moves deliberately and thoughtfully around his horn; probing, stretching, investigating but almost never galloping. On songs like "Improvisation II", this makes him the leading voice of the group, the calmest hand among a group of explorers in unknown territory. Even when he does heat up ("Outsider"), the feeling is clean and precise, giving the listener the plain impression that he is fully control and aware of where he's headed.

If New York Days has a drawback, it is that old saw: it is another ECM record that could use a good bit more bite. There is no reason why Rava and Co. could not dig into the rhythms a bit harder or why the tunes chosen could not cook here or there. Of course, Rava is ultimately a melodist and impressionist, so the fit here is good. And having Motian and Grenadier beneath the band assures a buoyancy even when (particularly because?) tempos are slow and reflective. But for a listener popping on an album for a complete listen, this program is more monochromatic than is ideal.

However, for listeners wanting to get a bead on Enrico Rava or Stefano Bollani, this is a place to find a generous example of their partnership in art. Here's hoping that, next time out, they focus less on pretty and more on daring—of which they have no shortage.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.