The Pilgrim And The Stars
Enrico Rava trumpet
John Abercrombie guitar
Palle Danielsson bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded June 1975 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
In today’s wealth of commercially visible jazz trumpeters, one pines for vintage brass at the lips of musicians for whom “creativity” is more than just a brand. And while I’m the first to admit to having a soft spot for the likes of Chris Botti, there’s nothing like an Enrico Rava experience to wipe your slate of appreciation clean and start you on a fresh path. From the striking cover to the synergistic musicianship, Rava’s ECM debut is an album to return to time and again. Joined by a dream team of John Abercrombie on guitar, Palle Danielsson on bass, and Jon Christensen on drums, Rava reaches for the sky with this one, and succeeds.
The title track brings the album to life in raspy exhalation. This whisper turns into full-blown speech as Abercrombie takes the rhythmic wheel. He steers us into “Parks,” in which we find Rava at his most incisive. In a lively duet with acoustic guitar, he lays down a smooth melody filled with a nostalgia you never knew you had. This is a fantastic track, and one of Rava’s brightest moments. Next is “Bella,” which lays down a gentle groove before Rava flexes his lungs like wings, setting every note to flight. Christensen brings on the frenzy, to which Rava adds his own, yet with a delicacy that never leaves him. An intense guitar solo of soaring and piercing clarity follows. A rare whoop from Christensen knocks things up a rung or two, and a very present Danielsson cuts to the quick before ending on a glorious reinstatement of the theme from Rava. The lead melody of “Pesce Naufrago” coalesces out of the slow-motion big bangs that birth much of the band’s gravity. “Surprise Hotel” is a wilder affair, with energetic runs all around in a confined space. “By The Sea” offers wonderful reinforcement in the bass as Abercrombie circles overhead with distant cries. We end with “Blancasnow,” in which Rava floats his trumpet in the murky waters of his rhythm section. After a free and easy introduction, he pulls us toward even greater melodic destinations.
What’s amazing about these musicians in that they conduct so much creative electricity from such quiet musical circuits. Rava is, as per usual, variously a raging fire and a delicate flicker, straying as far from the wick as possible while remaining tethered by the thinnest of flames. The band is miked in a nice full spread, drums and trumpet at center, bass in the mid-right channel, and guitar anchored hard left. This leaves plenty of room for us to walk among them and enjoy the sounds as if they were our own.