Enrico Rava: The Words and the Days (2007)
If you look into the eyes of Enrico Rava as pictured on the cover of Easy Living (ECM, 2004), you will see a man totally at ease with himself and his musical career. Rava's seemingly effortless trumpet tone in all ranges pervades the music on that album with the warmth of the setting sun in the same cover photo, without neglecting the necessary intensity of all good jazz.
The Words and the Days brings back the same quintet, with one change: Andrea Pozza takes over the piano seat from Stefano Bollani. The music still has the Italianate warm that emanates from Rava's trumpet, but now it has an undertone which infuses every track with a kind of concentrated lightness that can move at will in any direction. Rava does not waste a single note when he plays.
This feeling is perhaps most noticeable in the second track, "Secrets." On that tune, these ears kept hearing strong echoes of Tomasz Stanko and Krzysztof Komeda. While their career arcs have been compared, Rava and Stanko do not sound alike at all (the former is light and smooth as silk, the latter has a burr and is on the dark side). However, "Secrets" has many moments that could make one think of Komeda's "Kattorna" in both motive and construction. Also, Pozza's contributions sound very much like those of Wasilewski on Lontano, and without stretching too far, "The Words And The Days," with its endless feel of unresolving introduction, could also have appeared on the same record. Perhaps the two men, in honing their musical experiences down to the barest minimums, have crossed paths.
Bollani, who deeply acknowledges Rava's mentoring, left the band to pursue his own career as a leader and soloist. Pozza is not a mere replacement, and in many ways he fits the music better. The distinction is hard to describe, but Pozza has a bit more forward energy and a sharper, more angular touch, which contrasts nicely with the round, smooth sounds of Rava's trumpet and Gianluca Petrella's trombone.
The band is perhaps even tighter here than on Easy Living, which I attribute to Pozza and especially Petrella. His solos and of course the exposed duet on Don Cherry's "Art Deco" say a lot, but his counter-lines, which fill both a melodic and harmonic function, are just perfect. Petrella has so deeply internalized Rava's esthetic that his opening notes on "Doctor Ra And Mr. Va" could easily be mistaken for a lower-register Rava, who comes in later and surprises with each listen.
The Words and the Days is a truly gorgeous record that aspires to more than just beauty, combining the rose and the thorn. Rava and the other members of his band are masters in total control of their art, making outstanding music.
Track Listing: The Words and the Days; Secrets; The Wind; Echoes of Duke; Tutu; Sogni Proibiti; Todamor; Serpent; Art Deco; Traps; Bob the Cat; Doctor Ra and Mr. Va.
Personnel: Enrico Rava: trumpet; Gianluca Petrella: trombone; Andrea Pozza: piano; Rosario Bonaccorso: bass; Roberto Gatto: drums.