As a result of Sunnyside Records inking a North American distribution deal with the Italian Cam Jazz label earlier this year, Sunnyside has been releasing not only new recordings, but also selected earlier titles. And that's good news, because based on the track record of recent discs like Kenny Wheeler's What Now?, Enrico Pieranunzi's Special Encounter, and Salvatore Bonafede's Journey to Donnafugata, this is a label worth checking out. The North American issue of '00's La Dolce Vita provides a strong argument for Sunnyside to issue more of Cam Jazz's back catalogue here.
Cam Jazz first came into being as an offshoot of the film soundtrack-oriented Cam Original Soundtracks imprint, and so its encouragement of Italian jazz artists to interpret the rich legacy of Italian film scores makes perfect sense. When bassist Giovanni Tommaso was approached with such a project in mind, he immediately thought of trumpeter Enrico Rava. Rava's North American profile has recently received a boost with his return to the ECM label for '04's Easy Living, and his rich tone, as well as his broad understanding of both traditional forms and more adventurous contemporary directions, made him the perfect choice. Pianist Stefano Bollani and drummer Roberto Gattotwo younger players who share the same wide purviewwere already working with Rava in '99, when this session was recorded, and so the Tommaso-Rava Quartet came into being quite naturally.
What gives La Dolce Vita its personality is the mix of the familiar with the new, and the blendoften within the same pieceof a more conventional jazz approach with excursions into modern, sometimes even free territory. The eleven-minute title track, which brings together many of composer Nina Rota's themes from the film of the same name, feels almost like a lesson in jazz history, blending form and freedom, abstraction and clearer definition, propulsive swing and more elastic time. But even when Rava carries a familiar theme, lending the piece a nostalgic tinge, Bollani's accompaniment is more openended, introducing an appealing hint of the unresolved.
The title track may be the most wide-reaching of the album's eleven compositions, which also include film music written by Tommaso and Rava, as well as an imaginary film theme by Rava, "œIl Sogno di Hitchcock," for legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. That piece in particular, a deeply lyrical ballad, demonstrates Rava's remarkable ability to look simultaneously backward and forward in time. Like Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, Rava's legendary reputation has been built over a forty-year career working in a variety of contexts. But, like Stanko, he seems to be leaning ever more towards the melodic and clearly thematic as he gets older.
Tommaso's own aptly titled "œCinema Moderno" is another perfect confluence of various traditions, with his firm bass anchoring the shifting feels while Rava and Bollani solo with a blend of compositional intent and periodic abandon. If, as Rava suggests in the liner notes, jazz and film rarely cross paths, La Dolce Vita is a strong argument that th
Personnel: Enrico Rava: trumpet, flugelhorn; Stefano Bollani: piano; Giovanni Tommaso: contrabass;
Roberto Gatto: drums.