What you see is not necessarily the only thing you get. The track titles here, including Gershwin's "The Man I Love" and Puccini's "E Lucevan Le Stelle," together with Enrico Rava's celebrated melodic genius, might suggest an album of lush and legato music, comfortably at peace with the world. And indeed, TATI is glowingly lyrical from start to finish. But this lyricism comes with a bite. Like Easy Living, the ECM album which preceded it, this set is multi-levelled: underneath its steady and apparently undisturbed riverlike surface lie darker currents and uncharted depths.
Like his near-contemporary Tomasz Stanko, Rava began his career with both feet planted in free jazz, and he has not forgotten his roots. Age may have tempered his experimentalism and directed it increasingly towards a rapprochement with melodicism, but it has not obscured it.
Rava shares this aesthetic with his two supremely compatible partners. Paul Motian is a uniquely melodic drummer, and like Rava an adagio player par excellence. The relatively young, at thirty-something, Stefano Bollani, a frequent collaborator, is blessed with a melodicism as unquenchable as Rava's, and he's as likely to dart down unexpected, half-hidden passageways.
Whether by design or accident, the edgy qualities in Rava's music become more pronounced as TATI progresses, from track five, "Mirrors," onwards. "Cornettology," at 6:36 the longest track on the album, is a salute to Ornette Coleman's early experiments, with lightning-fast interplay among all three musicians, and Motian's asymmetrical dialoging with Rava especially remarkable. More than Gershwin or Puccini, it defines what TATI is about.
Most of the material here is original, including six tracks by Rava, three by Motian, and one by Bollani, and the three voices mesh seamlessly. Only two tracks are entirely free of dark corners: Motian's Satie-esque "Birdsong" and Rava's rapturous "Golden Eyes." For the rest you can enjoy a spicy and occasionally urgent lyricism which is hugely more-ish, and likely to induce serial hitting of the repeat button.
Personnel: Enrico Rava: trumpet, french horn; Stefano Bollani: piano; Paul Motian: drums.