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Enrico Rava: To Be Free or Not To Be Free

By Published: January 16, 2012
AAJ: That's an interesting observation. Returning to Tribe, guitarist Giacomo Ancillotto leaves the faintest imprint on several tracks, but really shines on "F. Express" with a beautiful contribution. Were you not tempted to use him more?

ER: The thing with Giacomo is, he's totally unknown. I met him at my workshop in Siena the summer before last. I wanted to have the sound of a guitar-that electric sound, on a few tunes-so I called him. I love his solo on "F. Express." It was his first experience in a recording situation, with ECM and Manfred Eicher, and we only had two days to record, so I had to get what I could get. I didn't want that sound on all the record. He could have been more present, but that's the way it happened.

AAJ: His solo on "F. Express" is one of the most arresting solos on Tribe, and maybe it's a case of less is more. Hopefully we'll hear more from him in the near future.

ER: His solo is very kind of [guitarist] Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
, no? I like his solo because there are very few notes. Guitar players have the tendency to play a lot of notes.

AAJ: In 2011 you released another book called Incontri Con Musicisti Extraordinari (Feltrinelli, 2011), and in the preface Stefano Bollani says that you have the memory of an elephant. What are your memories of the gig in Argentina that resulted in The Forest and the Zoo (ESP, 1966) with Steve Lacy, bassist Johnny Dyani
Johnny Dyani
and drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo?

ER: Before that, the band was Aldo Romano and [bassist] Ken Carter
Ken Carter
Ken Carter
, but Aldo left and went with Don Cherry, and Ken had to go back to the States, so Steve and I went to London to look for Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo because we knew both of them. We had some gigs in Italy, and then we went to Argentina, where we had 15 days in a theater. We had a lot of people the first nights, but the music we were playing was not very friendly [laughs]. It was very radical, and so every day there were fewer and fewer people. The very last day, there was no one. We finished the gig, and we had no money, and we didn't know what we wanted to do. We didn't want to go back to Italy. We wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro, but we had to pay the ticket in dollars-because we were foreigners-which we had to buy on the black market, so it was very complicated. So we stayed one year in Buenos Aires. We played a lot, but we weren't making any money.

Then eventually, Alberto Ginastera-who was one of the greatest contemporary composers of Argentina and Director of the "Institute Di Tella-asked us to do a concert there and to record it. It was really our last concert in Buenos Aires, because Steve and I were going to New York-we asked money of friends and relatives for the ticket-and Johnny and Louis were going back to London. We did the concert and the record came out. For me, it was very good because there was a certain reaction to this record in Europe and Japan. All of a sudden, when I went to Europe I was known by the jazz community because of this record. I think it is a very good record and music of a historical moment.

AAJ: Where did you first come across Dyani and Moholo?

ER: I saw them perform in Antibes [1964] when they came to Europe with the Blue Notes and [pianist] Chris McGregor. Steve [Lacy] and I were very interested in them because they were very much into the free thing but with a different kind of accent. It was funny because Johnny's tribe was Xhosa, whilst Louis was a Zulu; they were like brothers, but every day they would kind of argue about their tribal shit [laughs], teasing each other. We were really together, and I was the third brother. We were always trying to bring the music somewhere else, towards a more improvised jazz kind of idea, whereas Steve was going more and more into a form of contemporary music. There were two different tendencies, and somehow it didn't gather.

AAJ: The Blue Notes were very influential on the London jazz scene in the mid-'60s, but strangely, all those guys died really young-trumpeter Mongezi Feza (32), tenor player Nikele Moyake (36), Johnny Dyani (41), Chris McGregor (54), and alto player Dudu Pukwana
Dudu Pukwana
Dudu Pukwana
(52). Only Louis Moholo is still alive and playing-do you ever come across him?

ER: I haven't seen Louis in a long time. Sometimes we say hello to each other through someone. The last time I saw him was maybe 20 years ago when I was in Milan and Louis was playing in Turin, about 120 kilometers away, and Louis had a heart attack. Somebody called me, so I got in my car and I drove to Turin. It was funny because I arrived outside visiting hours and they wouldn't let me in. I said, "Listen, I came from Milan; my African friend is alone and he asked for me. Please."

And they said, "Who is this guy?"

I said, "He's Louis Moholo."

"Ah, Louis! You are a friend of Louis! OK, come in!"

Louis was the king of the fucking hospital [laughs]. His wife, who was a professional nurse in London, was there, and she was telling everybody, "Don't do this" and "don't do that." He had his record player, and he was listening to records very loud [laughs], with all the heart-attack people in the ward dying.

The director of the hospital came and he was, like, "Hey Louis! How are you? I'm so glad to see you." He was really the true sensation of the hospital. I thought he was dying, but he was very good and never had any problems after that.

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