This Wild Dance is a transgenerational undertaking, initiated by the grand master of Italian Jazz. Energized by joyous experiences on the road, the ever youthful Enrico Rava took his new working quartet of the last two years into Arte Suono Studio in Udine. Here they were joined by trombonist Gianluca Petrella, an internationally noted player through his contributions to Rava’s three acclaimed post-millennium quintet albums Tribe (2011), The Words & The Days (2005) and Easy Living (2003), as well as a string of albums under his own name.
“I love the sound of trumpet and trombone together. The trombone is, more or less, almost the same instrument as the trumpet anyway, just in a different register, and what you can do with them in unison is very special,“ Rava points out, adding, “in that respect Roswell Rudd, with whom I played in the early 1970s, was a very important influence on me. And both Roswell and Gianluca are very modern players but with firm roots in New Orleans dance bands.”
As on his 1970s ECM small group recordings The Plot and The Pilgrim And The Stars with John Abercrombie, Rava has once again assembled a band with a guitarist instead of a pianist providing the harmonic centre. “I often prefer to hear a guitarist playing behind a soloist – not least because guitarists can’t play chords with 10 fingers”, Rava smiles, praising the way Francesco Diodati’s playing opens up more spaces than it fills with what Rava calls “delicate clouds of sounds”.
With Manfred Eicher producing, the five Italians recorded a program of Rava originals which cover a broad range of moods – from brooding ballad playing to fiery uptempo post-bop. Almost half of the tracks were written by Rava specially for this albums while others, much to his delight, were proposed by the members of the band and stem back to the 1980s and 1990s (“Diva”, “Infant” and “Overboard”). The program on Wild Dance is rounded off with a group improvisation.
Once again Rava’s playing makes it clear that lightness and intensity, elegant cool and emotional warmth are no opposites. “Still one of the world’s greatest jazz trumpet players”, leading German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung confirmed in an article earlier this year.
Rava and Petrella form a peerless two-horn frontline, whether playing in unison, engaging in dialogue or taking their turns in extensive soloing. The rhythm section of Gabriele Evangelista, Enrico Morello, (“in my opinion the number one drummer in Italy today”, says Rava) and guitarist Francesco Diodati give them assured support and a diverse shimmering background.
“I am very fond of this record,“ Rava says. “It was one of the easiest records to make in my career, simply because we were all in such a positive and productive mood. Almost all of the tracks were first takes.”
Enrico Rava was born in Trieste in 1939. Self-taught, he started out playing Dixieland trombone but switched to trumpet at 18 after hearing Miles Davis. In 1962, he began a collaboration with Gato Barbieri, which brought him into contact with Don Cherry, Mal Waldron and Steve Lacy. He joined Lacy’s group in 1965, subsequently travelling with him through Europe, South America and the US. In New York, Rava worked with Cecil Taylor, the Jazz Composers Orchestra, and Roswell Rudd; back in Europe he lent his energies to the European avant-garde and the free players of the Globe Unity Orchestra. Even in experimental periods Rava remained firstly a melodic player, a tendency refined and developed through a career which has touched on all aspects of the jazz tradition. His first ECM album The Pilgrim and the Stars in 1975 already set high standards. He has won many national and international awards, including, in 2002, the ‘JazzPar Prize’, Europe’s biggest award for jazz players.
Enrico Rava’s band has meanwhile become a kind of finishing school for Italian jazz musicians, and many of his sidemen have gone on to become bandleaders in their own right, recent examples being Stefano Bollani, Giovanni Guidi and Gianluca Petrella. Petrella and Guidi recently recorded a collaborative album for ECM, on which they were joined by drummer Gerald Cleaver and clarinettist Louis Sclavis; the album will be issued in 2016.