Enrico Rava & Stefano Bollani; Toots Thielemans with Oscar Castro-Neves & Kenny Werner
January 1, 1970As I mentioned in last week's newsletter, I took the week off from Jazz Notes this week. But I did manage to get out and review the Italian duo of trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Stefano Bollani for Friday's paper. Toots Thielemans, Oscar Castro-Neves, and Kenny Werner was my Calendar pick. But the What Is Jazz extravaganza going on at Berklee tonight — which I'm reviewing — ranks right there beside it. And I didn't even know about Jason Moran and the Bandwagon performing at the Museum of Fine Arts tomorrow until I spotted an advertisement for it in the Phoenix. (That's what the MFA gets for hosting jazz so rarely and not having yours truly on its mailing list.)
Maybe you'll prefer this newsletter's lighter reading load.
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Duo's music is soulful, engaging
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | April 7, 2006
CAMBRIDGE — Trumpeter Enrico Rava and pianist Stefano Bollani played a captivating set of soulful, intelligent music at the Regattabar Wednesday, pausing only to inject flashes of humor into the breaks between songs.
The shtick began with the two of them pretending not to know each other's names, despite having worked together in various bands of Rava's for a decade. Rava later announced an original tune he'd written several years earlier for his wife, titled "Jessica's Theme," which he claimed had caused some friction at home as his wife's name is actually Lidia. Bollani kept the comedy rolling at the keyboard by introducing the tune with saccharine snippets of the theme from "Love Story" and other flowery familiarities, to Rava's feigned irritation.
Such high jinks somehow made the marvelous music all the warmer and more engaging. George Gershwin's "The Man I Love" was the only tune the duo played from "Tati," their new trio album with drummer Paul Motian. Other covers included "Nature Boy," "Cheek to Cheek," Jobim's "Retrato em Branco e Preto," and, as an encore, "Poinciana," performed as an audience sing-along. The handful of Rava originals also included a tango and the tongue-in-cheek "Happiness Is to Win a Big Prize in Cash."
The absence of bass and drums was no impediment for this duo; if anything, it helped focus attention on each man's exceptional talents. Rava, 62, is the better known; for years now he has been a leading figure on the Italian jazz scene. Rava's approach to the trumpet is akin to that of his idols Miles Davis and Chet Baker: smart, understated, concise, cool. He doesn't waste notes, aiming instead for emotional impact, and his aim is impressively true.
His protege Bollani, 33, was more prone to blizzards of notes, at other times slamming his right forearm and wrist on the keyboard for Cecil Taylor-ish effects. But no one could begrudge him his high-spiritedness. Bollani's technique was well worth showing off, especially on Rava's tune "Algir Dalbughi," which featured a great deal of boogie-woogie bass work from Bollani. Yet when it was time to get quiet and back Rava, Bollani was the epitome of tastefulness, empathy, and discretion.
Rava's young partner demonstrated that he has the various jazz idioms down cold, and his chops rival those of any of his peers here in the States. Rava may pretend not to remember Bollani's name, but odds are the people who caught him at the Regattabar will make it a point to.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Toots Thielemans with Oscar Castro-Neves & Kenny Werner Scullers, Doubletree Guest Suites Boston, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston. 617-562-4111. 8 & 10 p.m. $28, $68 with dinner. Repeats Fri & Sat, 8 & 10:30 p.m.
Jazz harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans (right) turns 84 at the end of this month, and for the past decade or so he's been making a habit of playing duo concerts with the underrated piano genius Kenny Werner. Last month, Werner served as music director for a star-studded celebration of Thielemans at Carnegie Hall, where the honored guest was joined by Herbie Hancock, Paquito D'Rivera, Joe Lovano, Ivan Lins, Eliane Elias, and his and Werner's sometime trio mate, Brazilian guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves. Castro-Neves, who has a new CD out called "All One," adds a welcome jolt of energy to the wistful meditations Thielemans and Werner tend to slip into when it's just the two of them. "I enjoy the intimacy" of playing duo, Werner told me earlier this year. "But it just kicks us both in the butt a little more to have Oscar play that rhythm guitar."
Sat 4-8 What is Jazz with the Christian McBride Band, the Charlie Hunter Trio, DJ Logic, and Bobby Previte. Four genre-blurring all-stars associated with the Ropeadope record label pool their talents for a night of adventurous music at Berklee. McBride and Hunter are brash, innovative virtuosi on their respective instruments (bass and guitar), Logic is the go-to disc jockey for jazzmen wanting to add a bit of hip-hop to their mix, and drummer Previte is a veteran of sessions with the cream of downtown New York's avant-garde. Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. 617-876-7777. 7:30 p.m. $20-$25.
Thurs 4-6 Monty Alexander Jamaican-born jazz pianist Alexander celebrates his new CD, "Concrete Jungle" The Music of Bob Marley," joined by Junior Jazz (a.k.a. Wendel Ferraro) on guitar and vocals, Hassan Shakur on bass, and Herlin Riley on drums. Regattabar, Charles Hotel, One Bennett St., Cambridge. 617-395-7757. 7:30 & 10 p.m. $28.