(ECM 774 2428. Review by Peter Bacon)
Such is the quality of live recordings these days that it can come as a surprise to hear applause at the end of a sonically perfect set of music. This album, recorded in the Sala Sinopoli, part of the Parco Della Musica in Rome, captures the rich tones of Enrico Rava’s flugelhorn, Joe Lovano’s tenor saxophone and tarogato, as well as Giovanni Guidi’s piano, Dezron Douglas’s double bass and Gerald Cleaver’s drums, but it has much more: it has real ambience, too. The hall as the sixth member of the band, one might say.
This means that the listener can sometimes feel that Lovano, for example, has stood aside on the stage to give room to the other soloists, and that he re-entered the five-way conversation while still a little way from the microphone. Bass and drums are further forward in the mix than is often the case, though this does not mean they dominate; it’s a lovely example of five players of equal voice rather than a horns and backing scenario.
The album fades in, after the customary four seconds of ECM silence, with applause, under which Guidi introduces Rava’s tune Interiors. Lovano, Douglas and Cleaver quickly join him, the tenor round and fruity and already giving us a taste of the space around the band. Rava weaves a line in the air above before the two horns drop into the theme, suggesting both the mood of a particularly dark and damp ‘Round Midnight but also a distinctly Roman one, the ancient monuments there looming golden somewhere in the darkness.
And so it flows, through Rava’s Secrets, Lovano’s Fort Worth and Divine Timing, and on to a closing medley of Lovano’s Drum Song, Coltrane’s Spiritual and Harold Arlen’s Over The Rainbow, with Guidi left alone to take us to the evening’s end.
Band members drop out and come back in with acute sensitivity to the music’s direction and dynamics. I don’t know how regularly this band plays, perhaps these five are on stage for the first time together… I don’t really care; what I do know is that this is a remarkably organic band, and on this night (it was 18 November 2018) the stars have truly aligned, resulting in a performance which sounds to me nearer to sublime with every listen.
If Interiors feels like a whole concert’s worth of music within its 15 minutes, Secrets is the lighter palate-cleanser, with all involved rolling and rocking through the changes. A pedal from Douglas and Cleaver segues the band through a free-ish chat and on into the pacy, boppish Fort Worth, with Lovano, Rava and Guidi all taking turns against the cooking rhythm team.
The final medley takes us back to the panoramic scope of the opener, with Cleaver, naturally, fairly featured in Drum Song. There is whole-group interplay on Spiritual with Lovano exploring a similar range to Rava’s on his tarogato (a sort of wooden soprano saxophone). Guidi is in that long line of brilliant young pianists whom Rava has nurtured over the years and he shines all through this album, as does Douglas, alongside his older musical partners. That the album closes with Guidi alone in reflective mood rather than a humdinger of a whole-band grand finish is just one more reason why this is not your usual concert recording.
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