Thursday, February 7, 2013

Reuben Jackson Reviews Enrico Rava's Latest

2013 is still getting comfortable in the batter's box, but we've already been graced with a recording worthy of attention.

Batting first (watch this space for more) - trumpeter Enrico Rava.  His lyrical and artistically curious work for the German-based ECM label both conform to and play hooky from the label's penchant for introspection.

But even longtime Rava fans might find themselves surprised with the newly released Rava On The Dance Floor, a recording culled from a 2011 concert of compositions written by, or associated with Michael Jackson.  Rava confesses to only having a "superficial acquaintance" with Jackson's work, but when he happened upon his wife watching a concert DVD after the singer's death, he "couldn't live without this music."

The aforementioned passion abounds throughout "Dance Floor". Trombonist Mauro Ottolini's
ensemble arrangements of "Thriller", "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" and "They Don't Care About Us" provide the 12-piece aggregation substantive solo and ensemble passages, and sublime but rhythmically infectious foundations, while maintaining the integrity of the originals.

The alternately rocking and reflective "They Don't Care About Us" is unquestionably one of the collection's highlights. This performance successfully fuses deliciously raucous guitar work by Marcello Gianini, and defiant, preaching solos by Rava, tenor saxophonist Dan Kinzelman and trombonist Daniele Tittarelli.  The opening moments of "Thriller" fill the air like menacing yet seductive shadows.

By contrast, the band's reading of the Charlie Chaplin ballad "Smile" (one of Michael Jackson's many idols) is tender, but never mawkish. Rava's trumpet beautifully caresses and personalizes the melody, while the ensemble offers wistful yet hopeful sighs.

Rava On The Dance Floor is a noteworthy addition to the Italian-born trumpeter’s body of recordings. Michael Jackson would be glad to know that musicians such as Enrico Rava are honoring and interpreting the music he cared so much about.

Listen Friday, February 8 beginning at 8 p.m. for my favorite picks from this CD.

- Reuben Jackson
Host of Friday Night Jazz, 8-11 on VPR

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