It takes a special kind of courage -- and confidence -- to name your first trio record after Duke Ellington's "Caravan," much less than to name your album after it, especially when the rest of the set is made up of originals. But Mario Rusca is a special kind of musician. He doesn't need to be courageous because he has the chops cold. And, along with Lucio Terzano on bass and Tony Arco on drums, he possesses such instrumental deftness and purposeful precision that he could have opened a record with three or four pieces from Art Tatum. The reading of "Caravan" is marvelous. Rusca inserts a couple of soft crescendos and even a cadenza and unless you were listening very closely you wouldn't be able to tell Ellington hadn't scored them in. The rhythm section colors in the arpeggios in the solo with understatement and grace. But it's his "Crystal Sea," with its cascading arpeggios and lilting bass notes that take the breath away. Here, the drift in cut time, as supplanted by 5/8 in the middle eight, is nearly overwhelming in its beauty as it strides, shimmers, and shakes through the complex harmonic changes to play a solo outside them. The way Rusca opens his compositions slowly, almost absently before beginning to pack the chords inside his melodic frame becomes the place where he gets off and can look around for timbres on which to change the harmony. The rhythm section is so tight, so inventive in the manner of swinging the blues, slipping in and out of beats and patters while filling out the considerable space Rusca leaves them with wonderful rolls, cymbal runs, and arco playing on the bass. This is a fine debut by a solid composer and pianist. Mario Rusca and his trio is a band to watch.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek