Online since August 2002

Revisiting the pianoless quartet

Reviewed October 2005

Full of Life
Full of Life
By Enrico Rava

CAM Jazz: 2005

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It seems there are two sides of a fence when it comes to the music of the pianoless quartet: either Ornette Coleman freedom or Gerry Mulligan West Coast Cool. Either way, the front lines – alto sax and trumpet or pocket trumpet with the Coleman/Don Cherry team; or baritone sax/trumpet in the Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker quartets – freed up from the need to chase chords around (no piano or guitar) have more flexibility, the music a nice looseness, a "stretchier" sound.

Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava put his quartet together with reedman Javier Girotto, bassist Ares Tavolazzi and drummer Fabrizio Sferra, a band that leans over toward the Mulligan/West Coast Cool side of the fence. Rava's trumpet tone is soft-edged and slightly breathy at times – much like Baker's – and reedman Girotto plays mostly baritone saxophone, which was Mulligan's axe.

The title tune has an upbeat, very Mulligan-esque mood – bright brass, grumbling reed over a bouncy rhythm, and a melody that sounds familiar, like a standard you can't quite put a name to. In addition, the group does three standards here – "Moonlight in Vermont," sounding very relaxed on a downtempo rumination; "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" in a cool mode, featuring some lovely flugelhorn/bari sax interplay over a rubbery rhythm; and "Nature Boy," which has a darker, edgier, more ominous mood, leaning back in the direction of Coleman.

A divergence from the Mulligan sound is Girotto's use of soprano saxophone on a few cuts (the Girotto-penned "Boston April 15th"; "Nature Boy"), adding some different colorations to the mix as he weaves the thinner lines around Rava's trumpet.

An outstanding revisitation of the West Coast Cool pianoless quartet sound, tinted with a bit of Old World rhythm.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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