Enrico Rava Quartet w/Gianluca Petrella: Wild Dance (ECM 2456)

2456 X

Enrico Rava Quartet
w/Gianluca Petrella
Wild Dance

Enrico Rava trumpet
Francesco Diodati guitar
Gabriele Evangelista double bass
Enrico Morello drums
Gianluca Petrella trombone
Recorded January 2015, Artesuono Recording Studios, Udine
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
U.S. release date: August 28, 2015

Wild Dance documents yet another chapter in the career of Italian master trumpeter Enrico Rava, who for this outing has assembled one of his most exciting bands to date. Along with guitarist Francesco Diodati, bassist Gabriele Evangelista, and drummer Enrico Morello, he welcomes back into the fold trombonist Gianluca Petrella, whose darker brass has added memorable contrast to Rava’s quintet albums over the past 13 years. Just as many Rava originals, both new and old, populate the set list of this latest ECM collaboration, with a collective improvisation added in for good measure. The latter format, which falls penultimate in the set list, is a good litmus test for any jazz outfit, and in this respect the band succeeds beautifully. Overlapping just enough to yield thematic intimations while allowing each instrument to speak personal truth, it journeys with optimism on its sun-faded sleeve.

All of which makes “Diva” all the more alluring for noir-ish saunter. In keeping with that atmosphere, the band caresses every flutter of Rava’s hardboiled romanticism with austerity. Diodati and Evangelista are this opener’s heart and soul, stretching and tensing by turns as Rava walks the alleyways in search of connections. “Space Girl” continues the thread with similarly half-lit cinematography, by means of which Morello discloses the underlying bonfire of physiological activity required to pull this music off with such smoothness of intuition.

Rava and Eicher
Enrico Rava with producer Manfred Eicher (photo by Luca D’Agostino)

“Don’t” radically changes the album’s exposure, moving with that same swagger but opening up the aperture through Petrella’s delayed entrance. In his hands, the trombone becomes a fully vocal entity that is equal parts storyteller and troubadour. His notecraft bespeaks an itinerancy that never fears the unknown. Whether winding around Rava’s core melody at the end of this tune or jumping headfirst into the animations of the next (“Infant”), he plays with fire as a house cat might a mouse—batting it around just enough to stun without the need for a kill. Such restraint is required of all the musicians under the bandleader’s employ, for even at their most unleashed (as in the up-tempo gems “Cornette” and “Happy Shades”) they make sure to keep a sizable portion of their unity within frame. Further contributions from Petrella are studies in contrast, adding humor to “Not Funny,” liquidity to the title track, and bite to the otherwise smooth “Monkitos.”

Enigma is the name of the game in “F. Express,” which by electronic whispers opens a dialogue of swinging proportions. This also happens to be one of its composer’s finest throwbacks to hit the digital shelves in some time, and is an album highlight—not only for its atmospheric acuity, but also for the archaeological care with which it is unearthed. A lone bass introduces “Sola” at length before the core-tet fleshes its skeleton with dreamlike locomotion. As if talking in his sleep, Rava spills inner secrets with the offhandedness of a sigh. “Overboard,” for its part, recalls the album’s moodier beginnings and finds the band gliding over shifting waters. In tandem with the unmistakable trumpeting, Diodati surprises with a gritty solo that stands out in an album of many standouts.

All of this and more abounds in “Frogs,” which showcases the band’s vibrancy to its fullest. Every instrument sings in this roving gallery of impulses and rhythm changes, making for a fitting closer to one of Rava’s finest.

(To hear samples of Wild Dance, please click here.)

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