Sunday, February 19, 2012
Review: Enrico Rava at the Portland Jazz Festival
"I think jazz is the most beautiful music when it's good," Enrico Rava said in an interview before his concert Saturday at the Portland Jazz Festival. "When it's not good, it's the most horrible thing in the world."
Sometimes I wonder why I allow jazz to be such a major component of my life. There's not much money in it. My passion for the music isolates me from most of my friends and family. And I love other genres, so I don't really "need" jazz.
Yet it's not true. That's why this Kansan traveled 1,800 miles to attend Rava's concert. Hearing Rava didn't just affirm my commitment to jazz- the experience overwhelmed me with gratitude for having the good fortune to take in such insightful brilliance.
I laughed out loud throughout Rava's 95-minute performance. Rava- like European ECM-affiliated artists Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal- is someone I never thought I'd get a chance to see. (I was devastated when Dave Holland canceled his appearance in Kansas City last year.) So aside from concerts by Pat Metheny, I rarely get an opportunity to discover how the ECM sound works in a live environment. It turns out that the translation from a Manfred Eicher studio production to the stage isn't insurmountable.
The dramatic dynamics of Rava's band Tribe were hilarious. Rava frequently deferred to young trombonist Gianluca Petrella. The bandleader clearly believes Petrella can do no wrong. He's right. The aggressive trombonist is redefining the instrument. Pianist Giovanni Guidi, on the other hand, seemed regularly incur Rava's wrath. Unlike Rava, I liked almost every one of his ideas. Bassist Gabriele Evangelista is just a kid, but drummer Fabrizio Sferra managed to keep everyone together. He's fantastic. And Rava? He plays like the logical extension of Bix Beiderbecke and Miles Davis. Genius.
The sheer audacity of the concert gave me another reason to keep smiling. Rava and his band felt no obligation to swing. While the quintet frequently referenced Dixieland, the Count Basie Orchestra of the '30s and early bop, these acknowledgements served to offer context for the sound of 2012. Nothing- not Die Antwoord, Crystal Castles or the Weeknd- is more relevant than the music Rava played Saturday. Incredibly, only about ten people in the capacity audience of 300 at the gorgeous and acoustically perfect Dolores Winningstad Theatre walked out during Rava's performance.
I had a feeling I wasn't in Kansas (City) any more.
(Oregon Music News took proper photos. The site also offers a podcast of the pictured pre-concert interview conducted by Tim Duroche. Original image of Rava and Duroche by Plastic Sax.)