Global Hit – Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani

The World

Our Global Hit today brings together two Italian improvisers. One has been a major force in jazz for longer than the other has been alive. But they come together as equal partners on a new CD. Ken Bader tells us about Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani.

Trumpeter Enrico Rava is one of Europe’s giants of jazz. He fell in love with the music when he was growing up in Italy in the 1940s.

�What turned me on to jazz when I was about eight or nine years old is that I understood how it works. It’s actually the only thing I really understood at that time, because I was very bad at school…mathematics and all that. This I understood.�

Rava understood it all — from the recordings of Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong to later albums by Miles Davis and Chet Baker. In the 1960s, he moved for a while to the country where all that jazz was born…the United States. He became the only Italian member of New York’s avant-garde jazz scene. Fast-forward to 2001. Rava had returned to Italy and formed a quintet that included 20-something pianist Stefano Bollani. The two have toured and recorded together frequently since then. But Bollani says they’ve never done anything like their new C-D, “The Third Man.”

�This record is very strange for us, because we never played that way during a live concert, and we never played that way in all the other records we recorded together.”

“We don’t say a jazz record, because we feel there is a kind of different atmosphere. We call it a record of contemporary improvised music. ”

If Enrico Rava’s spare trumpet style recalls that of Miles Davis, that’s no coincidence. He was inspired by Miles’s economical playing. Rava says he tries to play only the notes that matter.

�I wrote a book a few years ago, which is a kind of autobiography. Its title is ‘Note Necessarie.’ It means ‘the necessary notes.�

Even on this Brazilian song, “Felipe,” Stefano Bollani and Enrico Rava stay true to their sound. Bollani says there’s most likely something Italian about that sound…though he’s not certain that it’s UNIQUELY Italian.

�To me, it’s normal to have some kind of good humor in music. To me, it’s normal to have big attention to melodies. And, to me, it’s normal to have this kind of melancholic mood sometimes. But probably, it’s something that identifies the Italian musician all over the world, not only because of opera or whatever. I’m also talking about jazz musicians.�

The music of “The Third Man” is intimate…and complex. The album makes no commercial concessions…and it’s not about to push Jack Johnson or Alicia Keys off the charts. But don’t tell that to Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani.

SB: We made a lot of money. ER: Yeah, in fact, two Rolls Royces. KB: Number one on the Hit Parade? SB: Yeah. ER: Absolutely, yeah, yeah, yeah. SB: On the top charts in Italy. ER: And it’s a pity there is no juke box really any more, because if we still had a juke box, everybody’d be there all the time. KB: And they’d be dancin’ to it. ER: All the time.

Maybe not dancin’…but they’re listenin’.

For The World, I’m Ken Bader.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.