Stefano Bollani / Paul Motian / Enrico Rava


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Enrico Rava's restrained trumpet playing has been regarded in modern times as perfectly reflective of the ECM sound. It is wrapped in European classical music while displaying a lyricism that goes beyond strict tonality, reaching for a soulful arena that only he can claim in the post-Miles Davis era. The emerging pianist Stefano Bollani joins Rava and veteran drummer Paul Motian for this contrabass-less trio that uses a downplayed sonic footprint, at times ethereal, but mostly calmed, collected, and serenely furnished. The compositions are mainly Rava's in hushed tones, but occasionally a modern progressive, bop-influenced, or energetic presence creeps in. Bollani's style is romantically based and postmodern in derivation, while Motian is simply one of the most sensitive drummers ever, with ears that pick up on every shading or nuance, translating it into artful percussive brush strokes of light color. The title track with its pensive, requiem mood; the tranquil, languid, and reflective "Mirrors"; the equally ruminative and pensive "Golden Eyes" (in no time and much slower than the others); and the straightforward, wistful version of "The Man I Love" -- all firmly establish Rava's sense of melancholia in a parsed and low-level manner. Then there's the bouncy and dancing "Jessica Too," a standout not only for its increased energy, but also for its fine collective thematic concept. Motian's experience with Ornette Coleman crops up on his boppish "Fantasm," as his rhythmic stance hints at forward movement without pushing the improvised motifs. Clearly dedicated to Coleman, "Cornettology" features suggested melodic notation pitting piano and brass versus drums in a small battle for dominance, while a loose association during "Overboard" also implies Ornette's approximate note theory, with improvisations buoyed by Motian's march style and quirky rhythmic zigzags. The drummer also contributes the stairstep melody of the pretty, gentle waltz "Birdsong," featuring Bollani with Rava mostly laying out, and the hollowed-out, haunting, ultimately peaceful coda "Gang of Five" showcases the trumpeter's liquid sound almost exclusively. The trio does a fascinating version of Giacomo Puccini's E Lucevan le Stelle, taking the Italian opera ballet concept past where the author intended in removing symbolism and replacing it with a more active musical nomenclature, especially via Motian's active drumming. On what is certainly a late-night offering for most listeners, Rava and friends have provided a beautiful organic dream of a recording, appropriate for various dining, resting, or romantic activities when the sun goes down and the breeze is nil.

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