Enrico Rava’s debut for ECM, 1975′s The Pilgrim and the Stars, is a stellar progressive jazz effort from the Italian trumpeter who was then just coming into his own. Previously, Rava had spent his formative years working with such artists as saxophonist Steve Lacy, trombonist Roswell Rudd, and pianist Carla Bley, and obviously took much to heart when approaching his own music. This is cerebral, atmospheric, often groove-oriented music that rests nicely in between such touchstones as late-’60s Miles Davis and Brown Rice-era Don Cherry with some obvious nods to the melodic jazz of ex-pat Chet Baker. To these ends, such tunes as the expansive title track and the reflective “Bella” begin with lyrical melodic statements from Rava and slowly build to more serpentine, post-bop segments that push toward free jazz but never quite go atonal. Buoying Rava is an adroit ensemble of guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Palle Danielsson, and drummer Jon Christensen. A ceaselessy inventive guitarist, Abercrombie’s knotty, fractured, and sometimes distorted playing is a perfect match for Rava and the two often intertwine their lines. Similarly, the moody slow funk of “By the Sea” finds Rava floating in a minor mode over Abercrombie’s delay-laden guitar in a kind of dusky twilight raga. This is just the kind of contemplative and experimental Euro-jazz that ECM made its name on, but with some seriously cinematic post-bop guts. In that sense, The Pilgrim and the Stars sounds something akin to a soundtrack to a ’70s neo-noir film — albeit a deliciously avant-garde one. – Matt Collarmore »
The Pilgrim and the Stars
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