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Enrico Rava - Easy Living

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Artist: Enrico Rava

Album: Easy Living

Label: ECM

Review date: Jul. 6, 2004

On Easy Living, the venerable Enrico Rava returns to the ECM label for the first time since 1987, having spent the intervening years producing a number of concept records for other labels. Rava was originally a trombonist, but switched to trumpet after seeing Miles Davis perform. The debt is clear, but that doesn’t mean that Rava is simply imitating the master. He wasn’t named the Jazzpar Prize’s musician of the year in 2002 for nothing. His voicing is immaculate; the notes flow from his trumpet like liquid, whether following others or taking side trips all his own.

Joining Rava is trombonist Gianluca Petrella, pianist Stefano Bollani, drummer Roberto Gatto, and double-bassist Rosario Bonaccorso. Bollani’s piano and Gatto’s drums are both noteworthy. The former leads quite often, sometimes illustrating the song (such as the rain-like playing on “Drops”), at other times pushing into less charted territory (the nearly-discordant note clusters on “Sand”). Gatto’s drums, meanwhile, work in and around all of the players, maintaining momentum when necessary and backing off into quiet shimmering when it suits the pieces.

“Algir Dalbughi” contains some particularly impressive piano from Bollani, and the song brings a smile when the drums enter and we get an almost boogie-woogie rhythm from the trumpet and trombone. The beginning of “Traveling Night” allows Bonaccorso to display some imaginative double-bass playing, and “Hornette and the Drums Thing” once again shows Gatto and Bollani almost stealing the show with some splashy drums and stellar piano.

It's somewhat surprising, given Rava's wide-ranging experiences and exploratory pieces here, that the album's title comes from a jazz standard. Rava's take is nice, but it's a short, relatively minor item when compared to some of the album's other pieces. The long, journey-like "Sand" is certainly more of a standout, with several perceptible movements and some unusual piano and trumpet interaction.

I must admit that I was a little disappointed by Easy Living at first. It seemed too safe, like an album intended for the lounge, without risk of offending the patrons. But after further listening, the details begin to reveal themselves, and the players’ many talents shine through. Subtle, but not staid.

By Mason Jones

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