Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Third Man

The Third Man
By Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani
ECM Records

Evidently, those feet in the bottom left hand corner are connected to ECM founder Manfred Eicher, producer of many Enrico Rava sessions and Stefano Bollani’s recent solo release. Titled as a tribute to Eicher and in homage to the classic Carol Reed film, Rava and Bollani’s The Third Man may at times summon impressions of film noir, but it is worlds away from Anton Karas’s Viennese zither theme.

Third Man is dramatic in its unadorned simplicity. Rava’s trumpet sounds ethereal throughout, and Bollani’s piano often sounds like scattered raindrops falling on water. Third Man’s late night vibe is consistently arresting, established from the start with “Estate.” Like several tracks on the CD, it shares a similar effect with Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, in that even though at times they quicken the tempo (most notably on the briefest track, “In Search of Titina”), with Rava rising to the upper register, the session as a whole still leaves an overall impression of quiet intimacy.

The title track conveys a strong sense of mystery and foreboding. It is the most diffuse of their duets on Third Man. Along with the rhythmically dense “Compari,” it definitely has a film noir feeling, containing the sessions few unsettling notes.

Though one really does not hear the sounds of Austria in Third Man, Brazil is represented with two variations of Jobim’s “Retrato Em Branco Y Preto,” given appropriately impressionistic treatments here. They also play a sensitive rendition of Moacir Santos’s lovely melody “Felipe”

Even though Rava is the senior partner on the session and his trumpet tends to dominate the aural landscape, Bollani offers effective support, and has lovely solos, as on “Birth of a Butterfly” and his original, “Santa Teresa,” for instance. Indeed, the two colleagues display a remarkable rapport, blending into each other seamlessly.

By turns stark and lyrical, Third Man is an elegant musical statement. It makes for richly rewarding listening to hear two great musicians at very different stages of their careers, come together for such a pure sounding session. It is also encouraging to hear Rava, the mentor, in such close collaboration with one of the succeeding generation of Italian jazz artists. After all, we should hope to see a healthy future for jazz everywhere.