|Rava – Herbert – Guidi|
Enrico Rava, Matthew Herbert and Giovanni Guidi + Gavino Murgia and Filomena Campus
( Kings Place Hall One, 17th November 2016,. EFG London jazz Festival. Review by Alison Bentley)
An evening of (mostly) Italian improvising musicians, with an innovative new trio: leading Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava, with young pianist Giovanni Guidi– and British electronic musician Matthew Herbert.
Sardinian singers Filomena Campus and Gavino Murgia (also on soprano sax and flute) opened the gig. Murgia, a solitary figure in cap and loose shirt, looked as if he could have just come from the Sardinian mountainsides – improvising, as he put it, on ‘sounds of my land.’ His soprano sax was keening and sweet; breathy and melancholy. His supple open tone recalled a tougher Garbarek, but his ornamentation and minor phrases sounded traditionally Sardinian. Jazz phrasing was stirred in, with bluesy circular breathing- and occasional synth overtones, like a cloud around the melody.
He sang in the ancient Sardinian tradition of canto a tenore, deep and creaky-voiced, like Tibetan overtone chanting or Russian basso profondo/oktavist. His right hand played an imaginary slap bass as he clicked and droned rhythmically. Synth sounds cushioned his wooden flute, the trills and bent notes conjuring birdsong and Sardinian landscapes. (bootleg video here).
London-based Campus joined him, over looped grunts like Bobby McFerrin (with whom Murgia has worked.) Campus’s throaty trills harmonised with Murgia’s Shorter-esque, imperative soprano lines. The fearless improvisation created a mysterious atmosphere. Campus is also a theatre director, and her stage presence was strong and uninhibited. The traditional song No Potho Reposare filled the room with a nostalgic sense of longing for home, in an intriguing and highly musical trip to Sardinia.
Enrico Rava, Matthew Herbert and Giovanni Guidi played one long set with many varied moods in this, the fifth and final gig of a tour. Rava opened on breathy flugel (which he played throughout.) In the 60s, he was inspired by Miles Davis to take up the trumpet, and like Miles, he hasn’t rested on his laurels- at 77 he’s constantly trying new ventures. Herbert (and his mysterious, unnamed assistant) stood at their laptops on black-draped tables like magicians, summoning swathes of orchestral, electronic sounds. Rava’s resounding flugel cut through with passion, warmth and humanity; he had the charisma to ride the electronic storms. Guidi’s ECM recordings have a pensive, languid quality, but this gig brought out fire in his playing: cross-handed tremolos flared high on the piano, recurring like a leitmotiv throughout the gig. Each musician in turn took centre stage; Guidi leaned into the piano, with a singing tone that sounded very like the late John Taylor. Electronic thunder echoed the piano’s overtones, bringing a lump to the throat- a craving to hear more of their urgent explorations. A slow tango emerged; then free flugel over techno bass sounds; then Chopin-esque piano. Rava’s tone was like a hunting horn unleashing tense, grungy grooves. Some Armstrong-like phrases with boogie piano opened into spacious, sunny moments. (bootleg video here)
Herbert has described himself as a political musician. (‘Has music just become this big security blanket?’ he mused in an interview.) He dissected and distorted a sample of one of Trump’s more sexist comments in a topical musique concrète. Dinosaur roars and subterranean grooves threatened to overwhelm the piano (a little low in the mix) as Rava’s insistent tone recalled Miles in You’re Under Arrest. (David Attenborough fans may have found themselves picturing iguanas and racer snakes.) Just as the louring menace was beginning to pall, there was resolution: plangent flugel notes, distant synth whoops, high twinkling piano notes, as the monsters seemed to sleep. Herbert looped a few bars of piano and flugel as a backdrop to dreamy improvisation. The gig ended as it had begun, with the flugel’s breath.
This was serious and very original music. The effect was cathartic, expressing anger and tragedy, as well as beauty and profound musicality.