Recorded live for ECM in 2018 at Rome's Auditorium Parco Della Musica, Roma is the engaging debut collaboration between trumpeter Enrico Rava and saxophonist Joe Lovano. Although both artists are masterful improvisers known for their lithe approaches to modern jazz, their intense compatibility displayed throughout Roma might seem from the outside an unlikely event. While Rava made his ECM debut with 1975's classic The Pilgrim and the Stars, it wasn't until 2019 that Lovano joined the label with his textural, atmospheric Trio Tapestry. In the intervening years between those two albums, the two initially disparate artists have seemingly moved ever closer. Rava, who started his career playing free jazz, further embraced his love of Chet Baker-esque lyricism. Conversely, Lovano, a pillar of the acoustic post-bop tradition, continued to expand his approach, moving into ever more impressionistic tonal landscapes. They bring all of this varied experience to bear on Roma, playing alongside an intuitive Trans-Atlantic rhythm section featuring regular Rava associate pianist Giovanni Guidi, longtime Cyrus Chestnut trio member bassist Dezron Douglas, and the engaging Detroit-born drummer Gerald Cleaver. Together, they commune with a relaxed intensity on a handful of original compositions culled from past projects. The album opens enigmatically with Rava's noir-ish "Interiors" from 2009's New York Days. A sultry, late-afternoon slow burner, it captures Rava and Lovano in a drunken conversational swoon, sparring through blue contemplation. In contrast, "Secrets," off Rava's 1986 album of the same name, has an undulating Latin groove that swells like an ocean tide and ends in birdlike trumpet and saxophone squeals. From there, they dive into the propulsive "Fort Worth" off Lovano's 1992 album From the Soul, straddling the line between Miles Davis' late-'60s modalism and Ornette Coleman's Eastern-tinged harmolodic work-outs. Splitting the difference is Lovano's "Divine Timing," which begins with a kinetic, rubato intro from Cleaver that sets up an angular, paint-splattered group improv. In-the-moment interplay is also the focus of the closing "Drum Song," which builds from a yearning, minor-key bass intro into an angular back-and-forth between Lovano and Rava before ending in a rhapsodic evocation of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It's that back-and-forth communication between these two jazz masters that makes Roma such a riveting experience.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar