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February 2 , 2004

Enrico Rava is back

“Contemporary Italian jazz can be said to have begun with Enrico Rava”, writer Mike Zwerin observed in the International Herald Tribune. And now the history-making trumpeter returns to ECM, with his first album for the label since 1986’s “Volver”.
     Featuring his regular Italian quintet with trombonist Gianluca Petrella, pianist Stefano Bollani, bassist Rosario Bonaccorso and drummer Roberto Gatto, “Easy Living” (ECM 1760) was recorded in Udine, near Rava’s Genovan home. It finds Enrico, in his 65th year, playing with unforced inspiration. Working ‘in the tradition’, he is characteristically disinclined to be limited by it. And his trumpet sings, perhaps more eloquently than ever. “I’m extremely happy about this record”, Rava told American web journal All About Jazz. “I think it’s by far the best record I ever made. Everybody on the record sounds beautiful. The session was so easy, so relaxed… Everybody was very much into the music.” Producer Manfred Eicher also stresses that the recording felt like a very natural continuation of the ECM collaborations with Enrico of the 1970s and 1980s, as if there had been no 17-year hiatus.
     In general, the disc bears out the judgement of the Jazzpar Prize jury who elected Rava Musician of the Year in 2002. “Rava has proven himself adept at many styles… His bittersweet music does not fit neatly into any one genre. He can play fiery and lyrical lines and he can generate romantic atmospheres. Enrico Rava may shift between abstraction and structure but he mostly plays the trumpet with a warm, mellow sound – smooth and intoxicating. Sometimes his slow, spiralling, bop-like lines glide into free terrain. His phrases often close with a slur and he may employ half valves and other means to obtain a lyrical and adventuresome voice.” He may indeed, and on “Easy Living”, that lyricism is much in evidence.
     Apart from the venerable jazz standard that gives the album its title, Rava’s new disc is comprised of original compositions, including a new look at “Blancasow” the yearning ballad that originally concluded his ECM debut album, “The Pilgrim And The Stars” back in 1975.
     Right now, Rava seems to be at the top of his game. His quintet has just returned from a successful residency at New York’s famed Blue Note club and continues to find itself much in-demand – despite the various cutbacks that currently plague the touring circuit. In Italy he continues to be lionized and a Rava biography-in-interviews, “Note Necessarie”, is scheduled for March publication (by noted Italian publishing house Minimum Fax ) – concurrently with the release of “Easy Living” and a major Rome auditorium concert on March 11th.