London Jazz Festival – Stefano Bollani & Enrico Rava / Tord Gustavsen Trio

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Stefano Bollani (piano) & Enrico Rava (trumpet)

Tord Gustavsen (piano), Harald Johnsen (double bass) & Jarle Vespestad (drums)


Reviewed by: Julian Maynard-Smith

Reviewed: 21 November, 2007
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Enrico RavaEnrico Rava, one of Italy’s most acclaimed jazz musicians with a career spanning four decades, is equally fluent in bebop and free jazz, as well as the European jazz typified by the ECM record label. Stefano Bollani is a pianist of phenomenal technique, who took London by storm earlier this year with an exhilarating solo performance at the Purcell Room. They’ve been playing together for a number of years, and this concert showcased pieces from their recent duo recording, “The Third Man”.

Bollani combines a fierce musical intelligence with gestural clowning and cleverly wrought musical jokes. His playing ranged from raindrop delicacy, to percussive note clusters pounded out by fingers that flinched as if scalded, to hurrying-down-a-staircase runs, to inside-the-piano plunks and plinks. He showed a mastery of playing ‘out’, ostinatos drifting to ever-more remote tonalities before rippling home. At times he sounded like Keith Jarrett, complete with Jarrett’s head swaying and out-of-the-seat physicality. Rava spun endless golden threads of bop-style runs, blues and scattered phrases, constantly frolicking with whatever craziness Bollani was throwing out. His burnished tone and phrasing occasionally hinted at Miles Davis and – especially on the Jobim ballad “Retrato Em Branco y Preto” – the softness of Chet Baker. The mutual clowning peaked, appropriately, on “In Search Of Titina”, a tribute to Charlie Chaplin, Bollani even managing to slip in a quote from “The Pink Panther” theme.

Like Bollani, Tord Gustavsen is a pianist and ECM recording artist, but dramatically different in style; his trio’s performance was all hushed reverence and introspection. Gustavsen favours simple, hymn-like melodies driven by a lilting pulse and developed through rich voicings rather than elaborate solos. Jarle Vespestad is like a minimalist Paul Motian, using the drums to insert occasional punctuation marks and ripples of colour rather than lay down a beat. Harald Johnsen is equally minimalist on bass, leaving huge spaces between notes. There were echoes of the quiet end of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, filtered through a distinctly European lineage harking back to Satie. The contrast with the boisterousness of the first set was reflected in the audience, a church-like calm settling over the entire concert hall.

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