Enrico Rava trumpet
Gianluca Petrella trombone
Stefano Bollani piano
Rosario Bonaccorso double-bass
Roberto Gatto drums
Recorded June 2003 at Artesuono Recording Studio, Udine
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Enrico Rava has singlehandedly defined Italian jazz as a technical wizard. More importantly, he has also enlivened its soundscape with a playbook that balances verve and thoughtfulness. After a 17-year hiatus, the trumpet champion returns to ECM among his trusted quintet with what might just be his finest album yet (an opinion shared by Rava at the time of its recording). Wherever it may rank in your mental charts, it is a comfortably burnished standout in his discography, due in no small part to the artful brilliance of engineer Stefano Amerio.
Not since Annette Peacock’s an acrobat’s heart has an ECM cover photograph so well captured the atmosphere of the music behind it. Indeed, the thoughtful sincerity of “Cromosomi” unfurls a palette befitting of Roberto Cifarelli’s warmly hued portrait. Rava’s interaction with the young trombonist Gianluca Petrella is close-eyed, intuitive, and lays the groundwork for some crystalline reverberations. The gorgeous pointillism of Stefano Bollani and coruscating accents of drummer Roberto Gatto paint the last rays of sunset. Make no mistake about the title’s significance: Rava’s approach is fiercely biological, so attuned is it to the mutual appreciation of his band mates. “Drops” follows with a handful of candy, turning the chromosomal into the chromatic at the touch of a keyboard and setting the stage for Rava’s soaring flights in “Sand.” Using a slack backdrop as trampoline, he devises lyrical acrobatics and microscopic exchanges galore. Rava continues in this vein throughout the title track, the only one not composed by him, backed by support that has the consistency of meringue and is just as sweet. “Blancasnow” is another brief exercise in pure intonation. Fans will recognize it as the concluding track of his ECM debut, The Pilgrim And The Stars, and here its austerity is even more heavily shaded.
Lest the listener think that Easy Living is all drift, “Algir Dalbughi” plots a hard swing at album center. From Petrella’s ebullient harmonizing comes a vast, big band sound and foils Rava’s extroverted heights with pale fire. Bassist Rosario Bonaccorso opens “Traveling Night” with a fluttering solo and leads the band into another flowing diary entry. Gatto communicates hyper-effectively with Bollani as Petrella fires off a round of humid motives. “Hornette And The Drums Thing” is the finest track of the set and an even finer vehicle for the drummer, who jumps, skips, and shuffles his way through the deck like a blindfolded magician—though he has some acutely observant spectators in Petrella and Bollani following his every move. Rava’s sweep is characteristically melodic and assured. His fingers stir up their own concert, notes singing by like arrows. Gatto’s full-on wizardry quiets into a lush carpet for the band’s legato breakdown, bringing us at last to “Rain,” which draws the curtains, breaks down the set, and bids farewell in style. Between Gatto’s cymbal-laden drizzle, Bonaccorso’s thick sags, and Bollani’s varietal drama, there is plenty to admire in this luxurious sendoff.
Easy Living is the perfect album for an afternoon drive or lethargic morning alike. Its verdant fields and canopied paths smell of a grandmother’s food: no matter how many times you eat it, it will always taste like home.