Good news! Five of Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava's Black Saint and Soul Note recordings have been reissued by CAM Jazz in one of those pretty white box sets with each LP reproduced as a separate CD tucked into a miniature record jacket. Born at Trieste in 1939, Rava later attributed his lifelong pursuit of modern jazz to the influence of Miles Davis. One might add Don Cherry and Freddie Hubbard to that equation, along with maybe Richard Williams and Lee Morgan. In order to fully comprehend what he was up to from the '70s onward, it is important to consider the artistic company that Rava kept during the ‘60s. Take a moment, for example, to ponder the blended influences of Chet Baker and Gato Barbieri. Collaboration with Steve Lacy and Johnny Dyani was almost immediately followed by intensive interactions with Cecil Taylor, Roswell Rudd, Carla Bley, and Marion Brown, among many other comparably brilliant artists. The Rava who emerged from the creative cauldron of those years was a seasoned and formidable improviser. A chance to revisit five of his albums generated during the next two-and-a-half decades is a treat that some people are sure to find irresistible. The first disc in this set is devoted to a hitherto hard-to-obtain album recorded at Turin in February 1972, fully three years before the establishment of the Black Saint record label. Anyone puzzled by its title and cover art will be happy to learn that Il Giro del Giorno in 80 Mondi translates as "Around the Day in 80 Worlds", a mischievous scrambling of the title of a novel published in 1873 by Jules Verne, and an award-winning all-star motion picture that came out in 1956. Backed by guitarist Bruce Johnson, bassist Marcello Melis, and drummer Chip White, Rava covers Carla Bley's "Olhos de Gato," conjures a tribute to Cecil Taylor in "C.T.'s Dance," and unleashes a turbulent acknowledgment of the violence that erupted at New York State's Attica Correctional Facility only five months before this recording was made.
The rest of the albums reissued in this set were originally released on Soul Note, producer Giacomo Pellicciotti's comparatively mainstream counterpart to the Black Saint label. Andanada (Spanish for "broadside") was recorded by Rava & His Quintet in 1983 with Pietro Tonolo blowing tenor sax. In addition to his customary spread of original compositions, Rava provided brief variations on George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and the music Nino Rota scored for Federico Fellini's film "Juliet of the Spirits" in 1965. Rava's "Bowery Dance" brings to mind the work of Nat Adderley. "String Band" is the title track from an album recorded in 1984 with Brazilian percussionist and Berimbau virtuoso Naná Vasconcelos. The rest of the ensemble consisted of electric guitarist Augusto Mancinelli, upright bassist Giovanni Tomasso, two violinists, a violist, and a cellist. In addition to a characteristically refreshing episode by Vasconcelos, the itinerary includes relaxed grooves and a couple of extended works which seem to resemble interior landscapes. Dating from 1986, Secrets is one of Rava's strongest offerings from this period. Its lengthy title track and the Thelonious-inspired "Monky-Tonk" are perfectly counterbalanced by the dizzying "Cornette," which lasts a little over one minute, and a delightfully unconventional reading of "Holiday for Strings." Rava's Soul Note saga closes with Electric Five, an exciting album recorded at the end of September 1994 with a group that included saxophonist-clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi and electric guitarists Roberto Cecchetto and Domenico Caliri, who generate a veritable Terje Rypdal-styled electrical storm during "Da Silva." Rava also honors his root strata by covering Miles Davis' "Milestones" and Cleo Henry's "Boplicity" (dating back to Miles' Birth of the Cool). There is also a short and properly wistful version of Nino Rota's theme song from Fellini's La Strada. Further examples of Rava's work as a Black Saint/Soul Note recording artist are Jimmy Lyons' Give It Up and Archie Shepp's Little Red Moon, which were both released in 1985.