Enrico Rava

Live at Birdland Neuberg

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In his liner notes, Reinhard Kochl depicts this band as "four hungry German lions and a grey Italian wolf," an "animal experiment" if you will. There's hardly anything to sort out as the brilliant Italian trumpeter Rava is as on top of his modern mainstream game as ever, while pianist Michael Flugel, alto saxophonist Frank Lauber, bassist Dietmar Fuhr, and drummer Dejan Terzic prove to be inspired sharing the stage in this live, one-night, one-shot club date. The program starts off with Rava's original "Diva," a 6/8 ostinato and Horace Silver-like repeated chords buoy a lilting, yet urgent melody, with Terzic getting an extended solo workout. The ever poignant "My Funny Valentine" starts with piano, trumpet, and bass only, brushes on drums in late. Rava is a master at romanticism, while Flugel evokes utter beauty on his lovely solo. A change-up occurs on "You Don't Know What Love Is," tossing a reggae-ish feel into this famous tune. The arrangement is also different, as Rava, occasionally growling, and an inquisitive Lauber swap snippets of the melody line throughout the whole piece. A light, lengthy bossa line of Rava's well known composition "Secrets" fully exposes the bright, yearning Charlie Parker-ish alto of Lauber and Rava's rambling, buzzing original style, and it's Rava that turns the intensity of the band up a notch in the mid-point of near 14 minutes. Unison trumpet and alto lines flash on and off, informing the heavy melody of Sonny Rollins' "East Broadway Rundown," with less direct, more implied freely swung funk, whereas the bridge does walk and bop, out and out. A slow waltz for Rava sans Lauber "Certi Angoli Secreti" has the saxophonist tardy to conclude this satisfying set. As Rava is out of the general public's consciousness, this disc is a reminder of why he remains one of the finest trumpeters in all of modern jazz, while his bandmates assert themselves quite well on this excellent date. Highly recommended.

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