Enrico Rava’s new ECM release, The Words and the Days, is a showcase for his mature, warm trumpet sound that takes up where his most recent releases, 2004’s Easy Living and the trio date Tati, left off. The personnel here is the same as that on Easy Living with the exception of new pianist Andrea Pozza, who replaces Stefano Bollani. Bollani left Rava’s group in order to concentrate on his own career as a leader (his disc Solo Piano also releases this month on ECM), and Pozza does more than step into the piano chair; he arrives as a full-fledged collaborator.
The opening title track moves glacially along for four minutes, a vehicle for Rava’s full, round tone. There’s nothing surprising to the ear, but the beautiful, contemplative tune whets the listener’s appetite. The next track, “Secrets” is a track that builds and falls in small crests, and is very free in spite of its melodic beauty. It is reminiscent of some of the recent work of Tomasz Stanko’s quartet recordings, though the similarity here is definitely one of concept rather than actual sound, since Rava and Stanko’s trumpet sound is very different, one from the other.
Especially important on The Words and the Days is the relationship between front line players Rava and trombonist Bianluca Petrella. Their contrapuntal work on Don Cherry’s “Art Deco” explicitly reference early jazz’s New Orleans roots, and their tones are very complementary. On Russell Freeman’s composition “The Wind” Petrella’s harmonies bolster Rava’s trumpet statement, while on the Miles Davis-esque “Serpent” he plays unison with Rava. On all these and other tracks he also delivers strong solo statements. Petrella steps forward a bit more than on Easy Living, becoming a more full-fledged featured member of the quintet here.
The first half of the disc is heavy on lyricism, with a very impressionistic feel, while in the latter half, the consecutive pieces “Art Deco,” “Traps,” and “Bob the Cat” make reference to the American jazz tradition, as does the earlier “Echoes of Duke.” These juxtapose nicely next to the more European-influenced tracks, and make the argument that the two jazz traditions can co-exist not only peacefully, but very fruitfully from a musical standpoint.
Rava made his name early on in his career in the jazz avant-garde, playing with Gato Barbieri, and then various avant composers groups in New York City. His more recent recordings show a quieter, more minimalist aesthetic that has developed over the years. Enrico Rava has made a string of fine recordings for ECM and the European CAM Jazz label over the past few years—Easy Living and Tati for ECM and La Dolce Vita and Full of Life for CAM Jazz. The Words and the Days adds to his legend as one of the most important European jazz trumpeters to emerge over the past thirty years or so. It’s an excellent recording by a group of musicians who play beautifully together.