Jazz Review: Rava's air and grace

As most jazz fans know, there is something singular about the sound and ambiance of any recording ECM puts out.

kenny barron disk 88 209 (photo credit: )
kenny barron disk 88 209
(photo credit: )
ENRICO RAVA TATI (ECM/ MCI) As most jazz fans know, there is something singular about the sound and ambiance of any recording ECM puts out. Over the past three and a half decades the German label has specialized in "atmospheric" jazz, putting the accent on tonal aesthetics as much as on the musicianship of the artists in question. TATI, released by a trio led by veteran Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava, is no exception. In fact TATI is not just a showcase for Rava. His colleagues, particularly Italian pianist Stefano Bollani who played in Tel Aviv last month, as well as septuagenarian American drummer Paul Motian, make their own generous declarations of intent. The 12-track CD opens with a delicately rendered version of Gershwin's "The Man I Love". Rava's trumpet soars high above his comrades-in-arms, hovering and gliding, as if defying the laws of gravity. Taken at face value the first cut doesn't add much to the original but there is a sense of weight and spatial largesse that embellishes and enriches the output. That pervading sense of suspended animation is maintained through most of the album, with Bollani adding color and substance to Rava's glancing gossamer lines, and Motian largely making do with spider-like cymbal contributions. All three provide scores, and one can see why they decided to team up. There is obvious unison between the compositions, in terms of structure and keenness of spirit, although Rava appears to be slightly more melodic than the other two. At the end of the day TATI is as much about refined artistry and subtle exploration as melodic content. If you're into that mindset, TATI is a trip. THE KENNY BARRON TRIO Live At Bradley's II: The Perfect Set Universal Music/Helicon Kenny Barron is one of the most venerable pianists around. He never does anything by halves, and you always get a sense of breeding and pedigree whenever he tickles the ivories. Live At Bradley's II: The Perfect Set, just released although recorded in 1996, was as the title suggests recorded at the now - lamentably - defunct New York jazz venue. For the gig, Barron had a heavyweight threesome on hand, with Bill Drummond on bass and Ben Riley behind the drum set. Barron kicks off the set with a standard, "You Don't Know What Love Is", which immediately places him front and center, both as an instrumentalist and as a wily conjuror. You have to have paid your dues to be able to kick around such an oft-played number, ignite it with fresh ideas and infuse it with daring departures while remaining steadfastly loyal to the source. Barron manages this with aplomb, stroking out gentle arpeggios and softly applied chords, but also unleashing some cutting edge stuff that makes you sit up take notice. All the while, Drummond and Riley not only keep the anchor firmly in place, they season the leader's efforts while making their own statement in an unobtrusive way. Although this is a classic piano trio - in more ways than one - there is nothing sedentary about the performance. Barron buzzes energetically throughout, and his sidemen are always there for him. There is a palpable feeling of empathy and camaraderie between the three players.