Trumpeter Enrico Rava has enjoyed a sustained late-career, creative high since returning to ECM with Easy Living
(ECM, 2004) after an absence of 20 years. With a largely new and exciting lineup, Tribe
balances new compositions with reworked older material, all imbued with Rava's trademark lyricism, embracing warmth and melodic strength. As the 2008 Touchstone Series
reissue of The Pilgrim and the Stars
(ECM 1975) demonstrated, Rava's music from nearly four decades ago still sounds remarkably fresh today, and this group excels in bringing new luster to the old, as well as youthful vitality to the new.
Trombonist Gianluca Petrella
a Rava old-handagain strikes up a relationship so wonderfully empathetic with the leader that the lines between counterpoint and unison playing blur. Repeatedly, they demonstrate an understanding on a par with that forged between Rava and longtime collaborator, pianist Stefano Bollani
, and they create the heart of the recording. Rava has the knack too of lifting a stone and uncovering rare talent; pianist Andrea Pozza made the piano chair his own on The Words and the Days
(ECM, 2007) following Bollani's departure and similarly, pianist Giovanni Guidi
weaves a potent spell here.
Though lighter in touch, sparer, and less unpredictable than Bollani, Guidi playsto borrow from the title of Rava's book Note necessaire
(Minimum Fax , 2004)the necessary notes, exemplified by his hypnotic play on the dream-like "Paris Baguette," where right and left hands meet seamlessly. On the piano trio piece, "Garbage Can Blues," his Mediterranean-tinged minimalism creates a restful, still-life portrait reverie.
Seemingly simple in construction, there's tremendous breadth and depth to the music and repeated listening unravels the layers. The nostalgic, slowly meandering melody of "Amnesia," carried by Rava and shadowed by Petrella, features busily chattering, yet unobtrusive drumming from Fabrizio Sferra
and, at the death, ghostly whispers from guitarist Giaccomo Ancillotto. Like the fainter hues of a rainbow, Ancillotto's shimmering intervention on "F. Express" lends contrasting texture and helps define the stronger colors of a plaintiff-sounding Rava and crisply elegant Guiddi. On this track, and throughout, bassist Gabriele Evangelista
provides an explorative, lyrical pulse. His comping is really quietly voiced soloing, fully revealed (though briefly) on the extended "Incognito."
The dramatic "Choctaw"spurred by Sferra's cymbals and Guiddi's repetitive, Nik Bartsch
-like riff sees Rava and Petrella alternate between noirish ambience and bolder soloing. Rava's revisited "Cornettology" begins at the same trotthough bop-flavoredbefore sliding into a freer, arrhythmic field. Slower fare like the gently melancholic "Tears for Neda," the pastoral "Song Tree" and the percussively lively "Planet Earth" showcase Rava's almost unmatched melodic sensibility and emotive depth. Rava and Petrella flirt and dance with each other on the hummable title track, and "Improvisation" rounds off an outstanding set of compositions in slumbering, fitful mood. Tribe
reveals a Rava who is still searching, still challenging his creative possibilities and, as ever, those around him. On trumpet, Rava has never sounded better or more focused. The scintillating playing from the new blood also confirms that change for Rava is indeed, as good as a rest. There's plenty of creative juice left in Rava's tank.