Enrico Rava: To Be Free or Not To Be Free
ER: When I play with somebody, I look for a deep connection, and I had a very deep connection with [alto saxophonist] Steve Lacy at the end of the '60s when I was playing in his band. We had a very strong musical understanding when we played together. I also had that a lot with an alto saxophonist from Italy, who died many years ago, called Massimo Urbani. I brought him to New York when he was 18. Then I had a fantastic thing with [saxophonist] Joe Henderson when we did a long tour together in Europe, which was fantastic. I also really love to play with [saxophonist] Mark Turner; he's a tremendous player, though we play together rarely.
AAJ: You played trombone prior to taking up the trumpet. Do you feel you have a special affinity with trombonists?
ER: Yeah, I do, though my experience as a trombone player was almost nothing. I played in a Dixieland band as an amateur when I was 16, and we were playing [Louis] Armstrong Hot Five tunes, "At the Jazz Band Ball" and "Jammin' the Blues," but I was a very rudimentary player. It lasted a very, very short time. Two years later, I bought a trumpet. But I love the trombone. I like the tone and the register of the trombone, which is the same register as the male voice. If you talk and, while you're talking, you start playing the trombone, it's the same tone and register, while the trumpet is always high pitched-I feel like someone is always hanging me [laughs]. The trumpet and trombone is exactly the same instrument except that one is higher pitched. That's why they sound so good together. I learned that playing with Roswell [Rudd], because he was showing me certain intervals that we were playing together- the two notes we played could generate all the overtones and the harmonics. Sometimes you can play a chord of two notes, but you can hear four or five notes. You can't do that with flugelhorn and trombone because flugelhorn is a different instrument- it's a cornet instrument-but a trumpet is exactly like a trombone except for the higher register.
I like very much that sound. There are a couple of records of the quintet of [trumpeter] Clark Terry and [trombonist] Bob Brookmeyer, and the sound is so beautiful. There are also recordings by trumpeter Conte Candoli and [trombonist] Frank Rosolino; I am a fan of that sound [laughs]. I know all of them.
AAJ On Tribe, drummer Fabrizio Sferra brings a beautiful touch and at the same time great propulsion to the music, particularly on "Planet Earth" and "Choctaw." You've recorded with him before on Full of Life (Cam Jazz, 2005). What do you like about his playing?
ER: I like Fabrizio because he's ready for everything. He's very open, so he can play beautifully in, but he can play very well out. He's open to anything that can happen. He's a very good musician, too. He plays piano, he's a leader of his own band, and he's a composer of very nice tunes, too. He's a very musical drummer. He's not just a rhythmic drummer. All the great drummers-I think of Billy Higgins-are complete musicians.
AAJ: A drummer who lit up couple of your ECM recordings, TATI (ECM, 2005) and New York Days (ECM, 2008), sadly passed away recently. What will be your abiding memories of Paul Motian?
ER: Paul was a master musician, one of the great drummers. He was a very good friend of mine because when I moved to New York, in 1967, I would go his apartment on Central Park West. He was the only person I know who stayed in the same apartment all his life [laughs]. He was there for, I don't know, almost 50 years. It's incredible, because in New York everything changes every two seconds; if you go away one week, when you come back, your friend doesn't live there anymore, the fruit vendor isn't there anymore, your friend who was a taxi driver isn't there anymore. The only thing that didn't change was Paul Motian in Central Park West; everything and everybody else moved.
He was a very good friend, and we played in many different situations; we played in some bands with Roswell [Rudd] and in the Jazz Composers Orchestra with [pianist/composer/arranger] Carla Bley, and we toured together with Joe Henderson, and later with [Stefano] Bollani. He was a fantastic guy, and he was a teenager; he was a young old guy. He was 18 years old in his head. I'm going to miss him. Everybody is going to miss him. He was a different musician, a very unique drummer. He had his own technique, his own sound, and he was very, very creative. You didn't have to ask him to do this and do that. Anyway, he wouldn't do it [laughs], so you didn't ask him to do it; you let him do what he wanted. It was always better than what you would have asked him to do.