In the midst of today's often high paced and rapidly changing world it's always comforting to come across an artist whose music is capable of slowing the pace by transporting the listener back in time to a period where music and jazz in particular, was treated as something more than just another commodity. On his latest release for ECM Records entitled New York Days veteran Italian trumpet player Enrico Rava has assembled a stellar support cast of musicians to help him deliver a truly magical and hypnotic collection of songs. The players accompanying him on this session include tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Paul Motian and longtime pianist Stefano Bollani.
Like many aspiring young trumpet players Rava's life changed when he heard the sounds of the legendary Miles Davis for the first time in the late 50's. At the time Rava had been playing the trombone but it was the sounds of the trumpet that would end up making the most impression on him as an eighteen year old, thus propelling him headlong into a successful career that has spanned almost six decades.
On New York Days Rava revisits the jazz capital of the world where he lived for six years in the late 60's and early 70's. Although this quintet is playing together for the first time on this session you would never know it after absorbing these eleven, densely layered compositions. There are no stars or inflated egos on display here; each individual's unique musical personality is given ample opportunity to shine through a collective approach. You would also never know it from his playing that Rava is a man who recently celebrated his seventieth birthday, as while he does play with a distinct 'less is more' methodology, with carefully selected notes full of his trademark sustain and tone , he is also capable of unleashing intense flurries that will put players half his age to shame. Make no mistake about it though because although Rava is the bandleader, his at times unobtrusive presence finds him stepping back from the spotlight just enough to give the other players the space they need. His timing is impeccable as he weaves in and out of these compositions with such grace, it is a truly is a remarkable thing to behold.
It's difficult to pick a single highlight on a disc that is full to the brim with the spectacular all-round performances you'll encounter on New York Days. In Mark Turner it's as if Rava has found himself a kindred spirit as the subtle, dynamic interplay and gorgeous melodies employed by the duo on tracks like "Outsider", "Lulų" and "Thank You, Come Again" sound like the two have been playing together forever. Likewise pianist Stefano Bollani's wonderfully articulate and thought provoking excursions act as a link between the two, while Grenadier and Motian play more than just a supporting role with their colorful and rock solid rhythmic foundations. The overall feeling of cohesiveness is never more apparent though than on the one two combination of "Certi Angoli Segreti" and "Interiors". Both of these tracks, which clock in at almost eleven minutes each, unfold in such a way to clearly underline the melodic sensibilities of each musician.
Clocking in at a whopping seventy seven minutes one could easily forgive Rava if he had decided to fill this disc out with a bit of filler, but the sobering reality is there isn't a note wasted or a second of filler to be found anywhere on New York Days. As cliché as it may sound Enrico Rava is like a fine wine that has matured and gotten better with age. Simply put this recording is yet another example of why ECM records have been at the forefront of releasing superior quality jazz recordings for the past forty years. Although New York Days was released at the beginning of 2009 and only came to me towards the end of the year, I have to say this music connected with me immediately and even after repeated listens it never ceases to come across as fresh and vibrant. I'm amazed that I can come back to this disc and still be surprised at the subtle nuances I missed on previous listens. For this reviewer New York Days has all the markings of a nothing less than a five star recording.
2) Improvisation I
4) Certi Angoli Segreti
6) Thank You, Come Again
7) Count Dracula
8) Luna Urbana
9) Improvisation II
10) Lady Orlando