Since his return to ECM in 2003, Enrico Rava, grand master of Italian jazz, has made a number of recordings exceptional by any standards, with groups both national and international. “Tribe” belongs to the former category and follows “Easy Living”, “The Words and the Days”, and “The Third Man”. As England’s Jazzwise magazine wrote of “The Words and the Days”: “Enrico Rava, one of the most charismatic of jazz musicians, has truly hit a purple patch in his career – he’s got a great band, he’s with the best label in the world and he’s making the finest music of a long, distinguished career.”
Rava is indeed playing at a peak of lyrical invention, and his newest quintet, with Gianluca Petrella retained from “Words” line-up, is amongst his strongest yet. Voted Rising Star Trombonist in the Down Beat Critics Poll of a few years back, Petrella has a front-line relationship with Rava which recalls Enrico’s affinity with Roswell Rudd back in the heyday of the New Thing. Fast-moving, quick-witted exchanges abound, as the two of them delight in the whole history of jazz. Reviewing “The Words And The Days”, Down Beat said “The album’s core sound rests with the two-horn lead: Rava and trombonist Gianluca Petrella. They’re a marvellous pair.” Meanwhile, the range of unique voices in the Rava group is expanding.
Enrico has always encouraged younger musicians, and pianist Giovanni Guidi (born 1985) is another real find, a player of great energy and imagination, also capable of an almost Bley-like sensitivity in his approach to ballads. “When I notice the gifts of a young musician, I immediately involve him in my groups. This is not motivated by altruism,” Rava insists. “I simply love playing with young musicians. As I continue to develop, I need to be surprised, and Giovanni Guidi is like Bollani and Petrella: he astounds me every time.”
Bassist Gabriele Evangelista (b. 1988), another young player of promise, works splendidly alongside widely-experienced drummer Fabrizio Sferra, whose resumé includes work with Chet Baker, Paul Bley and Kenny Wheeler. The quintet is augmented on several tracks by guitarist Giacomo Ancillotto, an up-and-coming player best known in Italy for his work with the Caterina Pallazzi Quartet.
Recorded at Arte Suono Studio in Udine in October 2010, with Manfred Eicher producing, “Tribe” encompasses both new compositions and tunes penned over a thirty year period.
“F. Express”, for instance, is a piece that goes back to the 1970s: Enrico introduced it in his Italian quartet with Franco D’Andrea, and then recorded it for the ECM album “Opening Night” in 1981. “Cornetteology”, meanwhile, celebrating Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry while also referencing Charlie Parker’s ”Ornithology”, was previously heard on “Tati”, Rava’s 2004 ECM recording with Stefano Bollani and Paul Motian. Enrico also transforms pieces documented elsewhere, like “Amnesia” and “Garbage Can Blues” first heard on “Noir” (Label Bleu) and “Planet Earth”, originally recorded on “Secrets” (Soul Note): like the melodies of many of his heroes in jazz, Rava’s themes give the soloists the information they need to make the music new.
The quintet continues to tour actively. In November, major appearances include the Enjoy Jazz Festival in Mannheim, Germany, and 2012 dates already in place include a special performance in Lisbon as part of a new series of ECM events.
In Italy, Rava recently published his autobiography “Incontri con musicisti straordinari. La storia del mio jazz” (Encounters with extraordinary musicians. The story of my jazz), which recounts his adventures with a wide range of international musicians including Steve Lacy, Carla Bley, Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Gato Barbieri and many others, and charts the development of his own work, up to and including the recording of “Tribe”.