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Enrico Rava Quintet: Impressions Of Ornette Coleman

Enrico Rava's "Cornettology" slyly alludes to several of Ornette Coleman's compositions without quoting them outright.
Roberto Masotti
Enrico Rava's "Cornettology" slyly alludes to several of Ornette Coleman's compositions without quoting them outright.

As its knotty title suggests, "Cornettology" is an impressionistic homage to saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman, who helped open the gates for more explorative means of collective jazz improvisation upon his 1959 arrival in New York. Coleman's provocative "harmolodic" approach is wildly intimidating, because it requires a musician to completely adjust his or her approach to melody, harmony and rhythm. Once that's accomplished, it's virtually impossible to establish a distinct musical imprint.

Trumpeter Enrico Rava tussles with that challenge in the fascinating "Cornettology," a composition that first appeared on his 2005 album Tati, which he recorded with drummer Paul Motian and pianist Stefano Bollani. The newer version heightens the suspenseful interplay by adding trombone and bass. Honing an almost vibrato-free tone, Rava and trombonist Gianluca Petrella blow a fractured melodic motif at the beginning, where they evoke the ebullient lyricism of Coleman and former frontline partner Don Cherry, who played pocket cornet (hence the title).

Drummer Fabrizio Sferra and bassist Gabriele Evangelista infuse the composition with rubato momentum, while Giovanni Guidi performs a probing improvisation on piano — an instrument that makes a rare appearance in Coleman's own ensembles — before he slips underneath a glowing Rava solo that's marked by thrilling corkscrew turnabouts, passionate wheezes and Spanish-tinged lyricism.

"Cornettology" slyly alludes to several of Coleman's compositions without quoting them outright. Its ingenuity raises the song above pastiche and into the realm of the potential jazz standard.

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John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for BETJazz.com. He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.